Josefov and Jewish Quarter

Prague is filled with contrasts. Its history has naturally created all kinds of them - some are soft; some are more startling. I (re)noticed one of the startling kinds this week while walking through the Jewish Quarter of Prague's Josefov district.

The streets at 8am were still quiet and the street vendors were just arriving on the street that leads to the old cemetery and Klaus Synagogue. It was a perfect time for avoiding crowds of tourists.

The contrast came when I noticed that the vendors are lined up along the wall that supports the old cemetery. But the surface of the cemetery is actually high above the vendors on the street (U stareho hrbitova).

You can see from the picture below what I mean in more detail. I guess I never realized the height difference before, possibly because of the nearly always crowded street.

The difference in height is due to two things that I know of. First, the area of Josefov was once known as a ghetto and was basically demolished in the early 20th century to make way for improvements. The old Jewish areas were preserved though. Secondly, the cemetery is very small and was the only place for burials for centuries. Therefore, dirt was brought in and the level of the cemetery was periodically raised.