The bus arrived in the area of Josefov, the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Here they were going to walk around and look at the old cemetery, and another museum housed in a former synagogue.
It was strange how it all had come to be saved during WWII. There had been a Jewish Museum in this area for some time before the war, and then Hitler had decided he was going to let it stand and he was going to add to it and build a museum of "decadent" Jewish culture. There were five synagogues in the area and they still stand. The items collected by Hitler's henchman from Moravia and Bohemia in 1939 and other areas remain. These things, along with each and every cobblestone that remains, stand in a kind of unforgettable memorial to the very people he had tried to wipe out.
The almost ancient cemetery, with burials stacked one on top of each other, remained during the war too. Long before that last terrible war, Jews could only bury their dead in certain places in the ghetto. They had to add dirt upon other graves and keep stacking them, because once buried, the bodies were never to be disinterred. Jews observe halakhah, which says you cannot destroy graves or remove headstones. This was unlike some Christian burial sites where graves were recycled after so many years and bones stored underground or elsewhere. In these places when the burial lease was up, or it did not matter any more to the died out families, the graves were reused.
In other countries, obviously due in part to the forced elimination of the Jewish population, especially in Poland, Jewish graves were routinely desecrated, abused or neglected. Some used the Jewish headstones to pave village roads in an act of disrespect. There were possibly shortages of money and material, but primarily it was done for the purpose of desecration.
The Jewish graveyard here in Josefov, was very strange and haunting. The headstones were so close and irregular due to the constant addition in the past of bodies, dirt and memorials.
As they had driven from the hotel to the quarter they did have the front seats on the bus. Hans the driver had taken note that they sat together and seemed to be somehow connecting. He maintained his professional demeanor but somewhere behind his glance was something else.
When all of them left the bus and made their way to the museum, it seemed the two of them were still together. For the very first time, she did not feel that she needed to avoid him and he did not feel like it was a big deal. They had talked about so much in that hotel room and yes, were drunk, but most of it was about history, politics and the effects of the last war.
The stretch of the relationship was the fact that each was really trying to play a specific part. When they had first met, he had noted that she did not seem like an American. She blended in, not just how she dressed, but how she carried herself, what she said. Her German was good, but her accent, fantastic. It was familiar and almost endearing. He liked to listen to her order her next beer, or call a waiter or ask a question. He could not help himself. Her surname was interesting, exotic, actually Hungarian. He did find out when he spoke to her that her grandparents were Hungarian and that her grandfather had come when it was still the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was like an Austrian, but an American. Her first name was Sarah. She answered to Sari and that was a Hungarian name too, although he was not even sure she knew that.
She did not even pay to much attention to him at first, but as she watched him navigate the group and his familiarity of the place, she felt like if it was okay for everyone else to call him by his first name, she could too. It had been his attempt to make everyone comfortable with asking him questions and his teaching style. No one objected and Frau Fussan had given it the okay. She was just a few years into the creation of this school and wanted to keep the Americans happy, so the formalities of some old traditions had been temporarily banned so she might continue to win favor with the students on as many fronts as possible. Kurt didn't mind being called by his first name. He knew his last name was a mouthful and didn't really care to hear it mispronounced and he had already seen it misspelled enough for a lifetime.
So there they were, Sari and Kurt, shadowing each other like cat and mouse all day in the museum, the streets and then well, strangely that changed. Most of the students were not interested in the graveyard. Sari was. She wanted to go in and was going to figure it out. She ran over to ask at what looked like was a connecting building and they told her it was about to be closed as it was late afternoon, without even thinking she ran to the gate and went in. It banged behind her and she was alone.
It was a good feeling to be there, alone. She was so tired of the ignorance of some of these kids. The idea that some of them were completely ignorant of the Holocaust should probably not have surprised her, but it did. It always did. It was such a monumental historical event and it was not that long ago. It was not even a generation. How could it disappear from the consciousness so quickly that parents neglected to tell their children about it and school books did not explore it? Her parents had lived the war years and her father had served. She knew and grew up with a lot of kids like that. How could these students, just a few years younger not be aware? The first time she realized it was with a potential room mate, and based on her dimness alone as they went through a concentration camp on their initial tour through Germany before school; she had opted to live in a student house with kids from other schools and she never regretted it. She was with people nearer her real age and she could let her act down went she was in the privacy of her room, her roommates there had nothing to do with the school.
She silently looked for the grave of the famous Rabbi buried here. Though there were some 12,000 headstones visible here in this tight space, it was said there could be as many as 100,000 graves here. She looked for the headstone with the most stones on top, small stones placed out of respect for Yehuda ben Bazalah also know as Maharal Rabbi Loew. This man who was quite the leader, died in 1609. The cemetery's oldest know headstone is from 1439 and people were buried here until 1787.
She wanted to be able to tell her sorority sister, Zelda Morgenstern that she placed stones upon this man's grave because Zelly had spent a lot of time telling her stories about the guy. He invented some kind of clay man who he brought to life to save the Jews from persecution and "blood libel" in old Prague called a Golem. She had been fascinated by the story. Of course he was famous for other things in their religion, but Zelly had made her promise to get a picture of the headstone and so she was on a mission.
After she realized that she had walked by it several times, she got the picture. By now it was getting colder as the sun had gone down and the place began to have some very interesting shadows and since the wind had picked up, sounds too.
She was hustling to get out of there now and suddenly she realized she was not alone. It was Kurt.
"What are you doing in here? They have been trying to lock up the last 20 minutes and I would not let them because I had seen you make a dash for the gate. I had assumed you just wanted a look, I didn't realize you were still here. I couldn't find you at the bus, so I told them to wait."
She looked very apologetic, tired and cold; "Oh, I am so sorry. I just didn't know what I was looking for, I mean I knew but I didn't know what it looked like, it took me more time than I thought. I am so sorry. We should get out of here now. It is freezing anyway."
Together they got to the gate where the guard was not happy. He gave them a real nasty look and banged the gate shut after them, locking it securely. It was only then she realized how long she had been gone. Kurt had deliberately put his arm protectively around her as they had passed through the gate. It actually made her feel safe, when it banged shut, she did not even give a start.
Her mind had entertained her through her search with tales of the Golem, the old quarter and Hitler's museum, he had called it the Central Jewish Museum. In her mind, she had raced through centuries of history in her search and read to herself the names of many people, while trying to find the right one. Zelly would be so proud of her! She checked her pocket for her camera and feeling it, confidently boarded the bus, which had been waiting about 15 minutes longer than it should have.
The kids had all hit the local liquor store and got themselves some wine for the evening. It was going to be another party tonight, but this was one she planned on missing. She wanted to make a few notes for her research and get to sleep. They would be heading back tomorrow with few stops and she just didn't want it to get any more complicated with anyone, namely Kurt. If Zelly were here she would be screaming with laughter! "You are going to pass up an opportunity like this?" She was laughing to herself just thinking about it.
When they got back to the hotel, their dinner was about to be served. After all, she had made them late, so the hotel had a schedule to keep and they were laying it all out. Ugh, she hated being rushed so much. She needed more time to think, reflect, but she was starving so, whatever. Everyone ran back to their rooms and stashed their wine, anything else they needed to and headed back down.
For once, the food smelled decent and the tables were laden with bread and butter too. She sat down with some girls she normally ate lunch with at school and started to reach for the bread. Kurt handed it to her.
She had not even noticed him sitting there, or did he sit after she sat? She had no idea. There he was a seat down from her. He told Laura some story and they changed seats so he could sit right next to her. Laura was laughing, it sounded like Zelly for a minute, and there he was right in her face again.
They had to sit together on the bus, because they were the last two on, and it was that crowded with students. The Medieval Dance teacher barely noticed anything, but kept watching her clock and muttering. Now here they were again, side by side. Several times during the meal, his hand brushed hers. That's what you get stupid for not laying it in your lap like a lady. He was to her left. She was right handed. So was he. He was not doing it on purpose, the chairs and settings were closely spaced.
Everyone was busy eating, ravenous from the cold and chatting in between bites, so no one seemed to be paying any kind of attention. He was engaging one of the girls across from him in a conversation about the museum.
She had a chance to watch him. Chewing away she saw him smile and almost twinkle with laughter. He seemed happy and relaxed. He seemed almost like he was flirting with that girl, what kind of thought was that now? What did she even care if he was. How her mind worked! She must just be tired and well, stupid.
She bit her tongue. Literally. It hurt like hell. She slowed herself down on all fronts and decided to drink a bit of her hot tea, instead of wolfing her food down staring at him.
No one noticed, so that was good. In the meantime she noticed. There really was no denying it, she was in love with Kurt's dark curly hair, his laugh, his wit, his intelligence and it was going to be very hard to behave. Well, maybe he was hitting on that other girl, and that would give her a break from dealing with him. What was she talking about dealing with him? She would love to be dealing with him right now!
Her face broke into a smile and she let out a laugh, a Zelly kind of laugh. Suddenly everyone was looking at her with surprise. Now her face was red. She knew it, it burned like hell and that was not wind burn.
He looked at her quizzically. She said, "Oh, I bit my tongue."
"Really, and that's funny?" Kurt laughed, and suddenly everyone was kind of smirking and laughing. Suddenly he looked serious, "Are you all right?"
"Yes, yes, I am all right, just chewing too fast..." she said.
"Well, we were just talking about the Karlstein Castle, we are going to see it on the way back to Salzburg. It is a beautiful medieval castle and it has a chamber for the crown jewels. It is also where the Chapel of the Holy Rood is located, and that is decorated with semi precious stones and 14th century wall paintings. The real crown jewels are not kept there any longer but are now in Prague Castle. They keep a replica in Karlstein, the whole place is fantastic." enthusiastically remarked Kurt.
"I am sure it will be beautiful, it is on a hill, or something right? I bet the view will be fantastic." she said. Wow, fantastic must be a cheap word, everyone seemed to be using it, she thought angry at herself for being unable to think of a new adjective.
He could not help notice her cheeks so crimson and her eyes so bright. The way her hair looked and her green eyes. He was sure that he had never seen a more beautiful woman, so close to him, so real. Her perfume was filling his head, just a light scent that reminded him of when he was in Turkey, something exotic yet, sweet, he would ask her about it. Tonight.
Jewish Cemetery Josfov
Old New Synagogue Josefov
Rabbi Loew's Tombstone
Fresco Chapel of the Holy Rood
Chapel Karlstein Castle
Chapel of the Holy Rood Karlstein Castle
Crown Jewels copies in Karlstein and real ones in Prague Castle
Copyright 2011 by SheilaTGTG55
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