Monday, September 29, 2008

Prague. The Vltava River Runs Through It


Charles Bridge, over the Vltava River, Prague, Czech Republic

The Vltava River divides Prague's Old Town and Jewish Quarter, from the Little Quarter, and the Prague Castle-St.Vitus Cathedral sections. The Charles Bridge, with its saints on both sides, connects them again.

Petr describes the "pleasant murmur of the weir," weir being an area of an overflow spillway, to raise or lower water levels and make a river navigable, or suitable for millraces. See Here is Prague's old mill race area.

Prague, Vltava River, Old Mill Race area

Page 57: Petr says the Vltava is partly frozen. Here are the big ice breakers that protect the bulwarks of the Charles Bridge.

Vltava River, Prague, icebreakers at bulwarks, CZ

The Vltava floods often, and markers show the high water marks through the years.

Vltava River, Prague, flood high-water markers

When the levels are low enough, you can see them.

Petr writes: "*** The water in the river is far below the normal level, so from the embankment you can see the stairs to the lower river bank, from the lower bank to the edge of the bulwardm and five steps of the ladder below." Page 88. There is the flood marker now. In 2002, the floods were over the top.

Petr Ginz hears that loose ice is floating on the river. Page 92.

Ice breakers at bulwarks, Vltava River Charles Bridge, Prague

We used this photo before to show the saints.  Look this time at the ice breakers.

And, finally at one point the river is overflowing, but Petr sees a ferry crossing with 30 people on board. Page 95.

We enjoyed a short river cruise on a little roofed boat instead.  Did we mention that they gave a big cup of beer and a snack to all on board who wanted to celebrate the river?

Prague. The Jewish Quarter, Josefov, Dusni Synagogue

Places from the Jewish Quarter, FN 1, in the Diary:

1. Dusni Synagogue (Spanish Synagogue). Petr writes that at Dusni Synagogue, German vans were moving equipment out of the building, and Jews were in working clothes (doing the work?) Page 49.

This is a photo of the Spanish Synagogue on Dusni Street, built in 1868 in Moorish style. It is an "ornate Sephardi shul." See Read about synagogues, as a start, at

There has been a synagogue on this site since the 12th Century.  The Spanish Jews who worshipped here early on, moved to Holland and others altered it to meet their needs. In 1836, it became a  Reformed place of worship. See ://

2. Norimberska Street(?). The legal department of the Jewish community was at Norimberska Street. Page 16. We could not find the street.

3. Josefovka Street. Petr works in a typewriter repair shop at Josefovka Street. Page 17. Josefov is the Jewish Quarter, See Josefovka Street was named after the enlightened Joseph II who gave civil rights to the Jews in the 18th century. He also built the garrison at Terezin - Theresienstadt, that later, ironically, served as their step to the death camps.

3. Smichov Synagogue. Petr went with his grandmother to Smichov Synagogue. Page 29. In 1941, it was closed and the Nazis used it to house confiscated Jewish property. In the 1950's, it was a warehouse. It was returned to the Jewish Community after the fall of communism, 199-94. The building has been largely reconstructed now, and will house a study and bookstore, but will not serve as a synagogue. See

This was not an upscale neighborhood. Adjectives for it at the time include grimy, sordid, and factories smoke-belching. See

4. Lublanska Street. The Jewish hospital was at Lublanska Street. Page 85. We find no hospital there now. There was an Earth Day celebration on Lublanska Street, /, and violin-makers,; and hotelsgardensteashops.

FN 1
The Jewish Quarter has a long history. See; and more photos and comments at Czech Republic Road Ways, Jewish Quarter posts. There may be some 5000-6000 in the Jewish Community there now. See 

Prague - Charles Bridge. Meet the saints.

 Petr Ginz and the Charles Bridge, The Vltava River, The Saints

As would anyone in Prague, Petr crossed the Charles Bridge. Page 46.

Charles Bridge, Prague

This old bridge was begun in 1357, and finished in 1402. Floods had damaged the earlier Judith Bridge, in 1342.

See the history of the bridge at Scroll down to the Bridge section. Also see

On both sides of the bridge, you will meet the saints, including Wenceslas.

Saint, Charles Bridge, Prague

See them all at YouTube also has videos of the bridge and what happens there.

It is a pedestrian bridge now (was it then?) and that leads to creative use of space by musicians and artists and caricature sketchers.*

This fellow is a one-man-band with an umbrella over his head to keep his instrumentation dry, and may or may not be a saint.

Charles Bridge, Prague, musician

From the Charles Bridge, looking toward Petrin Hill. 

Petrin Hill, from Charles Bridge, Prague

Then, there is a view from one of the tourist boats that scoots around the bulwarks, and cruises down the river.

Charles Bridge, Prague, from river

The most spectacular views of the city, either side, are from the bridge.
* Panhandling. Some on the bridge creatively handle pans. See

I set some change in the pavement cap of an individual looking in particular misery crumpled on a dirty blanket. He suddenly revived, with a friendly grin and a distinctly American thank you. And, even more suddenly, the ragged, mittened stump at the end of his forearm showed distinct finger wriggling inside the mitten. Free enterprise worldwide. Gotta love it.

However, on another occasion, with a bona fide person in need elsewhere in the city, not a trafficked tourist area, his eyes and his gratitude and disbelief that anyone would actually offer to get him through the day, are with me still. Nobody's govt, that leaves healthcare up to the profit-makers, is doing the job broad-based.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sudetenland - Cheb, and Ostroh Castle, at the German border

 The Sudetenland

Petr writes that a Sudeten German, a railwayman, wanted an overcoat. Page 36. Clothing was being requisitioned for the Nazis, and individuals were left with little. This area is near the German border, and has been the site of conflict for centuries - and shifting borders. It is a gateway from the northwest into this area known as Sudetenland, annexed by Hitler in 1938.

Here is Cheb, about six miles from the German border. See more about the town and its castle at Czech Republic Road Ways, Cheb, our more complete site on the Czech Republic. 

Half-timbered houses, Cheb, Sudetenland, CZ

The half-timbered houses in Cheb date from the middle ages, and were those of German merchants from that time. There were centuries of ethnic group commingling between what is now Germany and the Czech Republic - boundaries were fluid.

See the walls leaning out, with the weight of the years.

The Savage Man fountain statue:

This is one of two apparent Rolands at the square, but it gets confusing.
  • This one, the Savage Man, with the club at fountain #1, is to the side, and 
  • The other, a Knight, is more in the center square, at a well-fountain. 
 It is not clear to us yet why such different representations, and if they are each "Roland."  See them side by side at ://  It gets confusing how the Savage Man relates to the very kinght-like Knight Roland at fountain #2. The knight stands for Cheb's freedom. Knight Roland apparently symbolized the market privileges that were given to some towns, see

See also the link to the Czech Republic for details.

It looks like the wild man represents the ferocious german tribes at the time of Charlemagne (800AD or so); and the Knight with the Unbreakable Sword represents the legend that grew up with Roland as champion of the newly emerging independence of cities against the nobility. Roland may have been Charlemagne's nephew, or just an officer.

Savage Man Fountain, Statue, Cheb, Sudetenland, Czech Republic

So, there are two fountains that claim Roland: this one looking more like Hercules with the club; and another, at "Roland's Well" in the center square, more knightlike, with a sword.

The knight with spear - or is it this one? - is a copy of the 1591 original kept in the Cheb Museum - and is (we are told) the Knight Roland.
  • But is the Roland of the market privileges, the same as Roland, the nephew of Charlemagne? This makes sense if we see the Savage as Germany of old, and the Knight as the legendary protector.
The time frames seem different. Charlemagne was, crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800; but the rise of market towns and freedom came later.

The historical (with legends) Roland was retreating from a campaign against the Muslims in Spain, Battle of Ronceveaux, where he died at the hands of rebellious Basques.

Read the Song of Roland. See a teacher's guide to Roland and all this at Go in front of your own hall mirror and declaim out loud, emoting to the max, the poetry from the Song of Roland, excerpts there. Now. Louder. Gesticulate. Yes.

There is another Knight Roland statue in Bratislava, Slovakia; and we understand there is one in Bremen, Germany.  He got places.

Castle at Cheb.  

Ostroh Castle (Seeburg):  The Black Tower here dates from original Roman fortifications.  The rest stems from Slavic settlements in later centuries.

Black Tower, Ostroh Castle (Seeburg), Cheb, Czech Republic

Read a fine history at ://, but the black background and yellow lettering is dizzying. The castle is called Ostroh (Seeburg) there.

The castle was built in the 12th Century, by the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa. A gamer's view of Barbarossa, and a succinct summary of his campaigns, is at Its old tower, is known as the "Black Tower." I believe I saw somewhere that it dates from Roman times. The overall style is Romanesque, but that does not mean "Roman." See Romanesque at

There had been a Slavic settlement there from the 9th-11th centuries. There is a rare Gothic-Roman chapel there. See

Wall, Ostroh Castle (Seeburg), Cheb, Czech Republic

Part of the east wall  dates from Roman times.

Sudetenland, as with many areas populated by moving ethnic groups in centuries past, is considered by those later displaced by others to be their home even in "exile." Passions and the pendulum of rectitude swing - and run high among some today to "return" Sudetenland to Germany, although others would say that Slavs were there before Germans, and Romans before that, and etc.

After WWII there was a population exchange, Germans were evicted-pushed back behind German borders as then defined, and given harsher terms such as "cleansing" by some, then again others say should there be no consequence to what Germany did.... and etc. again. See

At that site, scroll down to the historical map and see the variable borders as historical events and religions and military efforts moved them. The forced movement of ethnic groups in the aftermath of WWII is still an issue - see

For a super site for medieval civilizations, history, migrations, boundary shifts through the centuries as the three major groups - Muslims, Orthodox-Byzantine-Eastern Christians and Roman Catholic-Western Christians and murder each other. Take an entire morning at Bookmark it now. Please.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sudetanland. Cheb's Aga. History through History's Ashes. What is Left Out?

The Sudetenland - And Tiled Stoves

Cheb's Tiled Stove

Petr mentions that someone who is a friend of the family was from this Saxon (Germanic) area, near the German border. At Ostroh Castle (Seeburg) at Cheb, see a fine example of Europe's old tiled stoves. These were connected to ductwork carrying heat to other rooms, in many instances. This stove is at the Castle at Cheb, in the Sudetenland, western Czech Republic.

Cheb CZ, Tiled Stove

The castle is essentially a ruin, but was built in the 12th Century by Barbarossa and has a Black Tower made of volcanic stone, see See it all at ://
This is how houses were heated.

An Aga, of sorts.

Like the old stove here, is this true:

True that all the world's events go into the hopper, and come out ashes. But those ashes are prodded and sifted by those who come after, and some lumps are discarded as though they never were. Other lumps are reused in a new form to suit the user, and some just powder away. Grayed, charred stuff to show that something once was there. But what do we really know of history from ashes.

We attempt here to put some visual form back on the ashes of the life of Petr Ginz. History would have been part of his life because he saw it - we get it in books.

Did Petr see these in old Czech castles, large homes.  History's ashes. Preserve and sift.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Neveklov, in Beneslov District


 Neveklov is a town now known for its biking.  Go to this site and watch the little blue ball make its peppy way around the Nevoklov2 route, some 60 plus kms for mountainbiking, on the map. All for you. See://  Here is a video of the area - ://

Its history, however, is traumatic.  Petr goes here to help other people move, including Aryans, to make room for Germans. Page 96.

Here is the Neveklov coat of arms, symbols of two castle towers, shield between,. Fair use thumbnail from ://

Coat of arms of Neveklov
Do an Images search and find it on the map from Prague, and photos of the synagogue there, and one appears to be housed at the Jewish Museum in Prague. See the museum site at

Dobris, Town South of Prague. Benesov

1.  Dobris.

Fiser from Benesov was sent to Dobris.  Dobris is a town south of Prague, see Then Fiser came back, writes Petr, and had to register at Tabor.  Fiser later said he has to leave for Theresienstadt.

We see no "Fiser" in the Yad Vashem database, but Fiser may be "Fischer" and there are many of those; two are from Benesov or the district of Benesov, one died at Auschwitz, another is on a deportation list, no further information, but neither is recorded in Theersienstadt. We found no Fiser or Fischer Y for Dobris.

Pages 95-97.

Dobris has a castle, do an Images search for Dobris and see it. It is French Baroque, fine photo here, Tabor -a "Hussite town." See

The name stems from Jan Hus, was a reformer against the abuses of the Catholic Church long before Martin Luther took similar stands in Germany, see Germany Road Ways, Wittenberg posts. The Hussites in the now Czech Republic were defeated by 1437.

Jan Hus, Reformer, statue at Theresienstadt (Terezin)

Here is Jan Hus the Reformer, as he stands at Terezin - Theresienstadt, where Fiser the confectioner was to be sent, Diary at Pages 95-97.

2. Benesov.

Fiser the Confectioner lived here, and was taken. Page 95.

Fiser from Benesov.

Benesov is a district in central Czech Republic, the area of Central Bohemia, see ://, with historic castles, fortresses and a monastery complex.  That site is useful for its side menu of links to named sections of the Czech Republic, and the main cities there.

Benesov was part of this mega-bicycle route all over Europe, see There also is a "Konopiste (Benesov)" that is a castle about an hour away, and available as a venue for weddings, see photo and article at