After breakfast and an orientation briefing, enjoy a tour of the city—a great way to get acclimated and identify the places you may wish to revisit on your own.
Your tour includes a visit to Josefov (Prague’s Jewish Quarter) and the Old Jewish Cemetery. The Prague Ghetto and vibrant Jewish community have contributed to Prague’s character since the tenth century, and this area once was one of Europe’s main centers of Jewish mysticism and thought. The Old Jewish Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, documents the rich Jewish heritage that is an integral part of Prague’s culture. The cemetery was spared during Nazi occupation as an “Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race.” Shortly after World War II, the names, birth dates, and death dates of nearly 80,000 Czech Jews who perished in the Holocaust were carved on the stones of one of the crypts. Due to space limitations, and the Jewish tradition that graves never be disturbed, thousands of people are buried in a dozen layers and their tombstones are amazingly crowded together.
Here is the much-visited grave of the great Jewish scholar, Rabbi Loew, who created the mythical being Golem, a figure he sculpted from clay and animated with magical powers to protect the persecuted. It is said that Golem would perform tasks written on a scrap of paper that was then placed in his mouth.
In an imitation of the legend, many Jews hid their valuables in the cracks of Rabbi Loew’s tomb before they were transported to concentration camps. Even today, people place scraps of paper, bearing prayers and wishes, into the tomb.
You’ll also discover the Stare Mesto, Prague’s Old Town, with its many wonderful Gothic and Baroque buildings. See the famous 15th-century astronomical clock at the Old Town Hall. Every hour, crowds assemble below to watch Christ and the twelve Apostles appear at two little windows above the clock face, followed by the skeleton of Death tolling the bell. And you'll walk across the city's famed Charles Bridge—a 15th-century structure spanning the Vltava River that functions as a makeshift performance and gallery space for musicians, artists, dancers, and more.
After lunch on your own, you can return to your hotel—joining your Program Director on Prague’s subway system—or spend time in the early afternoon exploring Prague at your own pace. Perhaps you'll return to Wenceslas Square to take in the collections of the National Museum.
Later this afternoon, join us for a charming optional excursion to the Czech countryside. Settled since the middle ages, the region is perhaps best known for its hops fields and small breweries (in the nation with the highest beer consumption per capita in the world). The town of Nosalov, one of the best-preserved historical villages in Bohemia, will transport you back in time with the largest collection of genuine 17th- and 18th-century timber architecture in the Czech Republic. Here, you'll have opportunities to sample the region's beloved Czech beer and Bohemian cuisine, and see an energetic dance show featuring Czech polka.
Dinner is on your own tonight.