Tim Boxer

Nina Boxer

[ Warsaw ] [ Prague ]
[ Travel Guides: Lonely Planet Poland, Lonely Planet Krakow, Time Out Prague ]

Palace of Culture and Science

Nojik Synagogue

Aaron David at
Jewish Historical Institute

Gabriel Boxer at
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial

We Tour Warsaw
On The Way To Israel

NSTEAD of traveling to Israel direct on EL AL or Continental, we opted to fly one of the other national airlines and saw more of the world. Last year we took Malev Hungarian Airlines, which made a stop in Budapest. That afforded us an opportunity to see that enchanting city for one day.

Last month we boarded LOT Polish Airlines, and stopped in Warsaw at 9:30 a.m. to catch another plane at midnight. We spent the day exploring a city that rose anew from the ashes of the Second World War.

We engaged a very informative and friendly guide, Ms. Renata Kopczewska (+48 602-587-783), who accompanied our hired driver and van.

Before the war one-third of the city was Jewish, making Warsaw the largest Jewish community in Europe. What are left are monuments, the ancient cemetery, and the surviving synagogue.

At the Jewish Historical Institute we sat for 30 minutes through a heart-wrenching film about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. There are plans to build a Museum of the History of Polish Jews opposite the nearby monument commemorating the uprising.

History unfolds in the Jewish Cemetery, the resting place of such luminaries as Dr. Lazaro Zamenhof, inventor of Esperanto, who died in 1917.

Another stone held a memory of the Holocaust: "Grandma Masha had 20 grandchildren, Grandma Hana had 11 grandchildren. Only one survived—Jack Eisner."

A statue of educator Janusza Korczaka cited his martyrdom when he refused to save himself and instead accompanied a group of young doomed orphans to the gas chamber in Treblinka.

Janusza Korczaka and his orphans

All Saints Church 18th century

Nina Boxer at the Jewish Cemetery


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Wedding Cake Houses

Prague Still Endures As
The Crossroads Of Europe

Story by Roger Webster and Marilyn Lester
Photos by Roger Webster

ITUATED at the center of Europe, Prague has been a crossroads from time immemorial, a cosmopolitan meeting place for merchants, artists, scientists and, most importantly, ideas from all parts of the continent.

The capital of the Czech Republic has been a Hollywood location for such productions as Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible, Les Miserables with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush, Amadeus, the Oscar-winning story of Mozart, Immortal Beloved with Gary Oldman portraying Beethoven and Kafka, starring Jeremy Irons.

Praha, as it is also called, was the seat of Czech royalty from the 10 century.

Under Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, it was larger than London or Paris. As part of the Hapsburg monarchy in the 19th century, Prague, still the capital of Czech lands, became the strongest economic part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, when the people bloodlessly overthrew the Communist government, Prague has been basking in its neo-15 minutes of glory.

The cityscape is one of cobbled lanes, ancient courtyards, small passages, churches beyond number, historical monuments and exquisite buildings of many architectural styles, especially Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau.

The historical centre of Prague is situated on both banks of the river Vltava and consists of six quarters—Old Town (Stare Mesto), Jewish Quarter, New Town (Nove Mesto), Little Quarter, Hradcany and Vysehrad.

Stairway up to Prague Castle

Prague Castle

ITTING high on a hill, the Prague Castle (the Hrad) commands a stunning view of the city. Founded in the 9th century as a Slavonic fortress, it was rebuilt in the 12th century and gilded and expanded repeatedly over the next several centuries.

The castle complex open to the public includes Old Royal Palace, St. Wenceslas’ and St. Vojtech’s Chapels, St. George’s Basilica and Cloister, the Lobkowitz Palace and the Golden Street, the Royal Garden, the Deer Moat, the Picture Gallery of Prague Castle, Queen Anne’s Summer House, and the amazing St. Vitus’ Cathedral, one of the most stunning examples of Gothic architecture in Europe with stain glass windows that are incredible.

Be sure to walk the quaint streets and staircases leading down the hill from the castle to the Little Quarter.

Dixieland jazz on the Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

E crossed the Charles Bridge many times from the palace side of the city to the Old Town and its environs. The experience never ceases to astound with the variety of street performers, vendors and fellow tourists sharing the path.

The bridge was designed by Petr Parler and completed in 1402.  Thirty sculptures, mainly from the Baroque period, line the two sides of the bridge. It also has three bridge towers.

Don't miss the rich sculpture of the Old Town Bridge Tower.

Church of our Lady at Tyn

Old Town Square

O Matter where our travels took us in a day, we would always gravitate to the Old Town Square with its many restaurants, pubs, shops, cafe, entertainment, galleries, churches and museums within paces of each other. The centerpiece of this large cobbled space is the statue of reformer Jan Hus.

The old Town Hall bears The Orloj, a 15th century astronomical clock, which has a procession of twelve wooden statues of the Apostles that appear with chimes on the hour. Two important churches on the square are St. Nicholas and the Church of our Lady at Tyn.

The Jewish Quarter

ZECH JEWS prospered and coexisted in relative peace with their gentile neighbors until the 11th century when Crusaders enroute to the Holy Land massacred much of the population and plundered their properties.

Those who survived were forced into this ghetto community on the right bank of the Vltava. The Nazis devastated the Czech Jewish population (once one of the largest in Europe and now one of the smallest).

Today the Jewish Quarter is mainly a tourist area but does serve a growing Jewish community. There are many things to see: Franz Kafka’s birthplace, Jewish Town Hall (18th century Rococo), High Synagogue (16th century), Klaus Synagogue (17th century Baroque), Maisel Synagogue (1590), Pinkas Synagogue (1535), Spanish Synagogue (1868 Moorish), Old-New Synagogue (1250 Gothic) and the Old Jewish Cemetery (5th-18th century), Europe's oldest surviving Jewish cemetery.

Don't miss the clock on the Old Town Hall which has numbers in Hebrew and runs counterclockwise.

Musical Paradise

NE of the delights of this cultured city is the sheer number of daily concerts. Notices were posted everywhere and it wasn't possible to walk too far without a flyer being handed to us. While some of the smaller concerts in the lesser churches of Prague might be amateurish, on the whole the quality of the music is astounding.

We enjoyed concerts at:

The Church of St Nicholas in Old Town Square, built in 1732, with its stunning Baroque interior.

The Clementinum, an extensive Jesuit complex completed in the early 18th Century. Later becoming the University of Charles-Ferdinand, the complex today serves as the National Library of the Czech Republic.

The Rudolfinum, built in 1876, and home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. We were privileged to attend the season’s opening night concert, which was also the 75th birthday celebration of chief conductor, Zdenek Macal.

Smetana Hall, located in the Municipal House, which features the work of the great Slavic painter Alfons Mucha, whose work here is uniquely preserved.

We also attended the State Opera on the last night of our visit, seeing Tosca in a jewel box venue, which was originally built in 1888 as the Prague German Stage.

Open Air Market

Fascinating Shopping

HERE are open-air craft markets in Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter. Bohemian glass, art glass, and amber and garnet jewelry, which is available everywhere at reasonable prices.

For designer and antique shops and some very fine restaurants, don't miss Parízská Street, which runs off the Old Town Square to the Vltava River cutting the Jewish Quarter in two.

Alchymist Hotel Residence

HIS is a boutique hotel in the Lesser Town, just underneath Prague Castle and almost next door to the American Embassy. The building is a baroque landmark recently renovated with five-star comforts.

The special suites include living rooms and dining areas, lovely balconies and terraces with private garden.

The opulent Alchymist features 16th to19th century paintings, sumptuous furniture, exquisitely restored baroque halls, renaissance frescoes and vaulted ceilings, together with all the comforts.

The Cafe Barroca Veneziano is an after-dinner rendezvous offering coffee or aperitif in a beautiful intimate setting.

A restaurant, Spa and sushi bar are scheduled to open soon. For an intimate romantic stay, the Alchymist is the perfect place. (Doubles, $304, Trziste 19, phone 257-286-011,

Hotel Paris

Hotel Paris

OU’LL find the Hotel Paris on the other side of the river in the Old Town, across the Municipal House. Built in 1904, it is an embodiment of the Art Nouveau era. The lobby boasts an elegant stairway with preserved window panels, hand-painted motifs and decorative cast-iron railings.

The 86 guest rooms are uniquely styled and sized. Each room is well-appointed but only non-standard rooms are furnished with replicas of the original furniture.

The hotel's Sara Bernhardt restaurant is decorated with a classic Art Nouveau: blue cleft mosaic with original lighting fixtures, wooden wainscoting and gilded stuccowork.

The Café de Paris resembles the traditional cafés in Paris and features light fare, coffee and homemade cakes and pastries.

Sarah Bernhardt Restaurant

Bar Chez des Amis offers cocktails and traditional Czech beers.

For a traditional hotel stay, the five-star Hotel Paris is a wonderful choice in the center of Prague activity. (Doubles, $205-256, U Obecniho domu 1, phone 222-195-195,


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Travel Guides

By Tim Boxer

Poland is Lonely Planet’s guide to a landscape infused with history. This is a jam-packed guide to the whole country. Essential reading before you embark on your journey. Lonely Planet, 520 pages, $24.99 Price: $16.49


Best of Krakow really is the ultimate pocket guide and map for this historic southern Polish destination. Fits in your pocket, handy to consult as you walk around exploring the sights, fully illustrated, informative boxes with phones, directions, hours for each attraction that you may want to visit. Lonely Planet, 64 pages, $12.99 Price: $11.04
Prague 2007 is the latest entry in Time Out’s series of Shortlist city guides. Full of colorful maps and attractive photos, this pocket-size booklet directs you to museums, nightlife venues, arts and leisure sites, shopping areas, restaurants and hotels. Includes a calendar of events for the year. Time Out, 191 pages, $11.95 Price: $9.56

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