My own photo of a Prague Golem
One of the best reasons to go on a Prague city break has to be to see the traces of the Golem legend. Golem is inescapable – from figurines to books to t-shirts, street decoration and a Golem restaurant and cafe, the myth lives on in this quirky city.
Although the most famous Golem, Prague’s was certainly not the first. The myth is said to have originated in the early Hebrew text, the Talmud which told the story of Adam (of Adam and Eve fame) who was said to be one, moulded from dust.
Prague’s Golem was created by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel from clay in the 16th century to protect the Jewish community from antisemitic attacks and possible expulsion from their homeland. However, this large lump of a thing continued to grow more powerful and violent and eventually turned against its creator. It was deactivated either by removing the first letter from emet (truth in Hebrew) which was written on its forehead, transforming it into the word for dead; or by removing the clay tablet from its mouth.
Old New Synagogue – Photo by firstname.lastname@example.org
The lifeless monster was then removed to the attic of the Old New Synagogue (Altneuschul) and, according to rumour, attacked and ripped apart Nazi soldiers who broke into the building.
Although the synagogue isn’t keen on the public entering the attic, there was an investigation into whether the remains where there, just in the last five years or so, and was reported in the Fortean Times. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the article online, although my recollection of the report was that no remains were found …
Recognizing the description, the rabbi said, he confronted the synagogue’s shamash, or attendant, a man called Josef, who shares the Golem’s first name. Josef eventually confessed that he had been telling visitors he was the Golem’s great-grandson.
Where to find the Golem in Prague
There’s a 7ft statue outside the Precious Legacy Tours office, Sirkoa Street.
Restaurant U Golema, Maiselova 8 is full of Golem memorabilia, and has a black and white tiled Golem outside in the pavement. Although the reviews on Tripadvisor are mixed for this one, I’ve eaten there and the food was very good, if a bit more expensive than other restaurants of its type. Perhaps for Golem hunters only.
Rabbi Loew‘s gravestone can be seen opposite the entrance hall of the Jewish Cemetery. He is said to have saved numerous Jews from pogroms, and the story of the Golem is just one attached to this great man.
Golem statuette from NY Times article
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/world/europe/11golem.html: This New York Times article discusses the Golem industry boom in Prague a few years back.
Golem in a cafe from The Penny Farthing blog
Golem in 1920’s “Der Golem”
From director Paul Wegener:
1917 Der Golem und die Tänzerin (The Golem and the Dancing Girl)>
1920 The German expressionist classic Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (how he came into the world) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zag79w8eIQ
1936 Le Golem: The Legend of Prague, director Julien Duvivier
1966 It! aka Anger of the Golem or Curse of the Golem – stars Roddy McDowell as a mad scientist who brings the golem to life. Director Herbert Leder.
1983 The Keep – an ancient evil released by Nazis appears in the form of a golem to a Jewish professor. Director Michael Mann.
There’s a Golem Pokemon, a turtle-like creature made of rock.
http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/theater/reviews/golem-at-la-mama-etc-review.html: A very recent dance/marionnette-featuring work staged in New York’s Ellen Stewart Theatre.
An X-Files episode entitled Kaddish featured the Golem.
http://ayidindixieland.blogspot.com/2011/04/golem-of-prague-elected-mayor-of-mud.html: A very funny article from “A Yid in Dixieland” website.
http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Golem_-_In_popular_culture/id/1291338: Lots of popular culture references are listed on this page.
Terry Pratchett in his own inimitable fashion explores all the golem myths in Feet of Clay
New Quirky Travel Features
Quirky Travel is expanding its scope – that’s what this Prague article is all about. I’ll be writing about very many quirky cities as it progresses. Future cities I hope to feature are Budapest, Reykjavik, Dubrovnik and many many more.