Friday, November 14, 2008

Doing Stuff

Day 248
I was up early and managed to finish showering just as breakfast was starting. I had a lot of hand washing to do, but it didn’t take m
e as long as I had expected it would.

Trebic (Trebich) is known for its Jewish ghetto. This isn’t the WWII type ghetto, but rather a renaissance one. This is not only the best preserved Jewish neighborhood in the CR, but quite possibly also in Europe. At the height of the ghetto there were about 1,500 people living here. By WWII there were only 281 Jews left. Only ten of those survived the Holocaust and only one choose to return to Trebic. There were thoughts during the communist era to destroy the area, but there wasn’t any money for it and the buildings remained. After communism ended the mayor, who recognized the importance of the area, campaigned to have it restored and even managed to barrow about US $1 million from the States to help. As a testament to all this work the area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2003.

I wandered the streets and admired the buildings for a while before finding the lower Synagogue. This is different from the upper synagogue, which is now a protestant church. For just a dollar I got to take pictures and have a guided tour. The structure was built in 1669 in the renaissance style. Eventually a woman’s gallery was added. Several years later the separate entrance and staircase for this was incorporated into a house. The houses owner had to allow women to enter the synagogue through his house. In 1706 some fabulous prayer mosaics were painted on the walls. Paper was expensive so these were just the prayers that were important but not often recited and therefore not often committed to memory. Due to the small size of the Jewish community by WWII the structure was being used to hold leather goods. This may have been why it was not destroyed by the Nazi’s, they probably didn’t know what it was for. After the war, until restoration in the 1990’s it was used to store potatoes.

It was rather quiet and very peaceful, but I found it to be a bit sad that it no longer served its original purpose. Upstairs there were further details on the area and objects that had been left behind when the occupants were taken to Terizen (transport camp outside of Prague) in 1943.

After the museum it was time for me to find the round bastion, but I was thirsty, so I looked for a cafe first. As I was finishing my juice an older man, maybe in his 70’s, was carried out of the cafe. He had been drinking beer and fell sloppily asleep at his table. It was about eleven am.

Once I had rehydrated I headed up a massive hill in the direction I thought I was meant to go. I ended up way out of my way and after about an hour of wandering I had given up. When I got back down the hill I asked the first younger person (person under 30 who probably speaks English) for help. As luck would have it Suzanne did speak English and as she was off of uni for a few days she had nothing but time. The actual path to the bastion was about a foot wide between two houses. I would have never found it without her help. As she had extra time she came up there with me. After about a million steps we found a pile of rocks. I was super glad that I chanced a heart attack for that one.

Just a bit further down the trail and worth the possible coronary, was the Jewish Cemetery. This had also not been destroyed by the Nazis. Perhaps they didn’t want to walk up the hill either. However, prior to restoration time and neglect had not been kind. Today it is a very peaceful treed place, just kinda awkward as it is on the side of a big hill. The oldest grave dated back to the mid 17th century. Suzanna and I walked around all of it and chatted along the way. She put up with me taking a whole lot of pictures. Once we were finished we parted ways, she was headed to her parents, and I was headed to lunch.

I went to a place that Rick Steves had recommended. While there I ran into the guy who had given me a tour at the synagogue. We chatted for a bit, but he had to go back to work. It was a bit humorous because it took me a minute to recognize him. I couldn’t figure out why a random man was waving at me.

The next stop of the day was the Procopius Basilica. I had missed the last tour, but I would be allowed to go in for free in about an hour, just before a service. I decided to spend the next hour at the nearby West Moravian Museum. This could only be done by tour and I ended up lumped together with a group from the local retirement home. There were small English descriptions in about a third of the rooms. There were also two tour guides. One of them noticed that I was getting a bit pushed around by the geriatric set and she directed me off on my own. It was much better.

Most of the museum was really generic. Bits of medieval shoes, pipes and what have you. There was a section on nativity scenes though. These were made out of paper and were about 8 feet high and up to 12 feet wide. They were fabulous. It took me forever to check out all the different figures. One of them even had moving parts. Oddly, it showed a guy being pulled up a tree by his crotch and a crucifix.

When the museum was done I had a bit more time to kill and popped back into the onsite tourist office. The very nice girl there helped me figure out the bus times for my day trip the next day as well as how to get to my next destination. She even offered to find me a place to stay. I think she was bored. It didn’t matter; she was very kind, as most people in the CR have been to me.

When I finally got to look in the monastery it wasn’t that big of a deal and I was really glad that I hadn’t paid for the all Czech tour. Sometimes bad timing is actually good timing.

A few hours later I was really craving pizza and decided to go out. I picked a nice warm table away from the door and was promptly asked to move to a place closer to the door because it was just me. I wouldn’t have minded that much, I’m used to it, it’s just that no one ever came to sat in that place and I was cold for nothing.

After eating I tried to figure out what people do in this town on a Friday night. I came to the conclusion that they simply go home, and ended up doing that myself.

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