Last night was my first true Tauck experience. We departed the hotel, heading to Lobkowicz Palace for our welcome reception and private gallery viewing. Our drivers had a very precarious road to navigate – it reminded me of some of the roads in Tuscany. Upon our arrival, we witnessed a spectacular view of Prague
and then we were learned about about the history of the Lobkowicz family. The Lobkowicz Palace, the only privately owned building in the Prague Castle complex, is home to the highly acclaimed Lobkowicz collections. Through 22 galleries, we were able to explore the history of Europe through the perspective of the Lobkowicz family and their significant private art collection. Highlights from the Museum include works by masters such as Canaletto, Brueghel the Elder, Cranach, and Velázquez; an impressive display of family and royal portraits; fine porcelain, ceramics and rare decorative arts dating from the 16th to 20th centuries; an extensive collection of military and sporting rifles from the 16th to 18th centuries; and musical instruments and original scores and manuscripts by Beethoven and Mozart, including Beethoven’s 4th and 5th symphonies and Mozart’s re-orchestration of Handel’s Messiah. Many of the pieces of art were stolen during the Nazis in WWII and were rescued by Americans – as told in the movie, Monuments Men. After our gallery viewing concluded, we enjoyed a 5-star “Master Chef” quality dinner of tomato soup with parmesan cheese and creme fraiche, followed by chicken supreme with pea purée, potato turrine with thyme, and forest mushroom sauce and concluding with ginger creme brûlée and strawberry espema. Oh, what a night!
This morning, we had the choice of one of three waking tours. I chose the Jewish Quarter and Art Nouveau tour. Our local guide, Alena, was absolutely wonderful! She was so full of knowledge and I learned so much! We walked for about 3 hours and saw SO much. One of my favorites was the Jewish cemetery.
The Old Jewish Cemetery is among the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the world and along with the Old-New Synagogue, it is the most important site in the Prague Jewish Town. The National Geographic magazine lists it among the top ten cemeteries to visit around the world. It was founded in the first half of the 15th century. The earliest tombstone dates back to 1439 and the last burial took place 348 years later. Although the cemetery was expanded several times over the centuries, it was still not big enough to meet the needs of the Jewish Town. As space was scarce, bodies were buried on top of each other, with graves layered up to 10 deep. There are about 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery. Therefore, the cemetery stands well above street level. A short walk to the Old City for more spectacular views!
In the Middle Ages (first installed in 1410) it was considered one of the wonders of the world and for 600 years, it has been one of the greatest treasures of the city. Every hour on the hour, there is a fascinating mechanical performance with a procession of Apostles, moving statues and a golden bird. We then visited the Obecni Dom, Municipal House and learned about Art Nouveau.