My niece, Ali, texted me a picture of what is considered the most beautiful library in the world. Guess where it is? Prague. So I headed to the Klementinum library, a fine example of Baroque architecture founded by Jesuits in the 1700’s. The tour started in a chapel that regularly has concerts–I’m going to one tomorrow. Then we walked up several flights of stairs to the library. No pictures are allowed, unfortunately, but it was a privilege to see this rare collection of books. Some shelves are empty because Google is reproducing them so they can be available to the public.
Much of the tour explained how scholars measured time using the sun, moon, and stars. Astronomical clocks seem to have a recurring theme in Prague–they must have been leaders in astronomy at the time? Then we ascended the last several flights of the astronomical tower.
WOW. I kept saying “WOW”. The view was mind-boggling. The cityscape of Prague on both sides of the river, the Charles Bridge, and the castle in the distance.
I started back to my hotel when I spotted these cylindrical pastries called “trdelnik”. They are rolled in nuts and either spread with Nutella or filled with strawberries and ice cream! It was like Sophie’s Choice–what would I do? I went with Nutella and honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything so perfectly crunchy, warm, smooth and delicious. Another trdelnik may be in my near future.
I boarded a shuttle to Terezin, a fortress built in the early 1700s by Joseph II. He named it for his mother–none other than Maria Theresa (the one with 16 children)! She certainly left her mark in this part of the world. The fortress was built to defend their land against the Prussians. Ironically, it was never needed, but the Germans used it for a ghetto during WWII.
There are actually two fortresses, a small one and a large one. The small fortress held political prisoners, many of whom were tortured to death.
The larger fortress is where a propaganda effort was staged by the Germans. In preparation for a visit from the Red Cross, the Germans created the set of a model town where children were playing happily. They went so far as to build a beautiful bathroom facility that didn’t have any plumbing!
In reality, many thousands of Jews died at the large fortress even though it was not an extermination camp. Disease was rampant–there was one toilet every block! And many starved or froze to death. There is a profound sense of loss in this place.