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Prague
Private Tours
Obecni Dum
The Museum of Modern Art
Josefov
Prague Castle
Charles Bridge
Old Town Square
Unusual Attractions
Terezin

Private Tours

We used a private guide and car recommended by Hoffmeister for a half-day tour of the Jewish quarter and Kafka sites, as well as to go out to Terezin. The company is Bo.Ca.S - Jiri Muhr, owner. Tel/fax: 420-2-232-15-54, Their web site is www.czn.cz/tmtrade/bocas. We highly recommend Dr. Irene Kimlova as a private guide. A retired scientist, she's fabulously knowledgable about all aspects of Prague's history and current affairs. Her Tel/fax is 420-2-52-63-90.

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Obecni Dum (Municipal House), Namesti Republiky, 5 in Old Town.

Early 20th century, A combination of Art Nouveau and Secession Style, the exterior of this recently restored jewel of a building, will make you gape with its gorgeous ornamental decoration. And when you enter, one surprise after another awaits you. You can see the interior spaces only with a guided tour, so check with your concierge for the hours. Within the building, you'll visit Smetana Hall (try to arrange to attend a concert in this glorious concert hall), a masterpiece of Secession architecture. And as you move through the official offices, you'll find windows by Alphonse Mucha, the great Art Nouveau artist. And speaking of Mucha, ask the concierge about the hours for the newly opened and very interesting Mucha Museum.

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The Museum of Modern Art, Dukelskych hrdinu 7, Tues-Sun 10-6

Housed in the Veletrzini Palace, in a near suburb (take a short bus ride). Built in the 1920's, this concrete, steel and glass building is an early example of what became the heart of Modernism, exemplified by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Not only will you find an interesting building, but the best of Czech modern art and a fabulous collection of French Impressionist paintings. The Czechs purchased an entire collection of these French masterpieces early in the century.

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Josefov - Old/New Synagogue, Sun-Thurs, 9-5, Fri, 9-1

You will enter the Jewish ghetto and find 13th century Prague, where a Jewish community thrived for nearly 700 years, despite intermittent pogroms, until Hitler's ultimate Nazi progrom destroyed most of the Jewish community of Prague, transported to Theresienstadt or, where most died, in Auschwitz. In one synagogue, now a memorial to the Holocaust, the names of the Jews of Prague who perished in the camps are inscribed on the walls. If you climb the stairs to the second floor, you will see drawings from the children of the prison town of Terezin (Theresienstad} and their innocence and beauty will break your heart. Wandering the ghetto will take you to the old Jewish cemetery, where you can pause to reflect. Closed for worship by the tiny community of survivors which remains, on Sabbath.

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Prague Castle, Hradcany, Tues-Sun 9-5

More than a castle, this thousand year old enclave which looks down on Prague is a treasure of palaces, churches, courtyards, narrow streets, museums. Allow ample time for exploring its byways. See St. Vitus's Cathedral, the "changing of the guard," Vladislav Hall in the old Royal Palace, Golden Lane, to name a few.

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Charles Bridge

For 600 years, it has stood across the river connecting Old Town to Mala Strana. Visit it at different times of the day as you explore the city. Capture the changing light on the sculptures.

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Old Town Square

Astronomical Clock, Town houses from Gothic to 19th Century, Tyn Church, the Old Town Hall and the Art Nouveau Jan Hus Memorial make this crowded square a must see.

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Unusual Attractions

If you're an architecture buff, have a look at the Cubist Street Lamp at Jungmannova namesti, New Town; The House of the Black Madonna, also Czech Cubist, Ovocny trh 19, Old Town. Music lovers will want to visit the Mozart Museum (Betramka), Mozartova 169, Smichov, Tues-Sunday 9:30-6. Here, Mozart completed Don Giovanni before conducting the first performance at the Estates Theatre. You must attend the Estates Theatre for opera (Milos Forman used it in his wonderful film, "Amadeus"). Also, be sure to visit the National Theatre. Take the tour, but better still attend a concert or opera. Same applies to Smetana Hall, mentioned above in our discussion of the Obecni Dum. Then there's Dvorak's Birthplace, now a Museum, 20 miles northwest of Prague, at the foot of a Renaissance Castle. Ask your concierge for directions. Tues-Thurs, Sat and Sun 9-12 and 2-5. If you don't want to leave town, there's Vila Amerika, the Dvorak Museum at Ke karlovu 20, New Town. Tues-Fri. 10-12, 1-5, Sat and Sun 1-5.

Something little known but very special for art-lovers. Frantisek Bilek (1872-1941) was a well-known Czech sculptor. His body of work is powerful, some of it extraordinary. We tripped over the Frantisek Bilek Atelier, Bilek Villa (Bukova Vila). Located in the house which he designed, fascinating in its own right, this makes a special visit. Open from May 15-October 15, Tues-Sun. 10-12 and 1-6.

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Terezin

For those who wish never to forget that this is the century of the Holocaust, a visit to Prague is an opportunity to visit Terezin, a village outside of the city from which the townspeople were displaced so that the Nazis could convert the entire town into what now stands as a monument to cruelty - a concentration camp for Jews from all over Europe. Terezin was a way-station on the route to Auschwitz and other killing camps to the East. A visit will underscore the effort, determination and organization of Hitler's Third Reich to realize the Final Solution and wipe-out European Jewry. Your best bet if you're not driving, is to join a tour or hire Bo.Ca.S and a guide like Irene Kimlova.

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