Our first night in Prague began with a fabulous dinner at Hostinec U Kalicha: “The Chalice Inn.”The restaurant had been recommended by the bartender at our hotel, and we arrived later at night on Monday night. (My camera stamp says it was Sunday night, but I could have sworn it was Monday–you know, travel time exists in a fuzzy space–who can say exactly what day it was?) Anyhoo, the restaurant was busy enough to feel welcoming and cozy, but not too busy to be very relaxing. It had the atmosphere of an old European beer hall, in the best possible way.
Not long after we sat down, we had our first taste of the wandering accordion player and bassoonist. They would come through and play a song, then disappear back into the kitchen for a while, only to reappear in fifteen minutes or so and offer another song. (Perhaps they were also our chefs–running back to cook between songs? Perhaps they were just enjoying a tall Czech Pilsner between sets?) They were very good and added so much atmosphere to the dinner.
Another nice touch–the folksy art drawn on the walls. It relates to Svejk stories–soldier stories to come out of the First World War.
The owner was friendly and eager to talk to us about Czech food. Our waitress was a bit harried, but all was forgiven when she brought us the most delicious plates of food. What did everyone else order? Who knows! I was so enamoured of my dinner that everything else after that plate arrived is a blur. I had goose leg, dumplings, and cabbage–a perfect, crispy gooseleg, bread dumplings that are a Czech specialty, and cabbage that was fantastically tangy and sweet all at once.
So, the only thing I forgot to get a photo of? The gooseleg, dumplings, and cabbage! And there’s the testament to a good meal: you don’t think about taking photos of it, you don’t ruminate on blogposts to come, you just inhabit the moment.
It’s a season of political campaigns in the States, so the word “crooked” seems to pop up at every turn. It’s tiring, to say the least, so let’s turn this beast around. Today’s post is brought to you by the word “crooked,” as seen through the eyes of European town squares.
We have just returned from a long trip that was bookended by time in Prague and Dachau: Prague for the first couple of days, followed much later by Dachau on our last day. I have plenty to say about that–but I need some time and space to get my head around a place like Dachau, or even around the Jewish Quarter of Prague and the history there– so today’s offering is short and mostly visual.
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague rises above street level and offers over 10,000 gravestones crowded into a small space. But there’s more– much more– than meets the eye. There may be nearly 100,000 graves below this top layer.
These graves date from the 1400’s to the 1700’s, and the graveyard is overcrowded because of the Jewish Community’s enforced isolation in the ghetto here. There simply wasn’t more space for these graves, so they built up instead of out. (And this long before the atrocities of World War II.) While life here was replete with difficulties, it was also abundant with art, tradition, and literature. The legend of the Golem traces back to Prague, and Franz Kafka (in more recent times) was born in the Jewish Quarter.
The cemetery is haunting, but also beautiful. Here are a few photos from our visit.