Tag Archives: traveling to Europe

The Legend of the Golem of Prague

Golem in Prague

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

Old New Synagogue – Photo by eve@eveandersson.com

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

Golem statuette from NY Times article

Souvenir shops

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.

Cafes

Golem cafe

Golem in a cafe from The Penny Farthing blog

The Golem in popular culture

Golem in film

Golem in 1920’s “Der Golem”

Film

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.

Secret Garden in the Sky: Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantee picture, Paris

Promenade Plantee from gardenvisit.com

You’ll find the entrance to the Promenade Plantée on l’Avenue Daumesnil just south of the Bastille Opera where you’ll head up the steps. This is a raised promenade that follows to a large extent the old chemin de fer de l’Est (railway line). It’s a real treat of a walk that allows you to get away from the hoards, sniff roses and look out over the Parisian rooftops whilst being mown down by passing joggers. (Only joking – pedestrians and joggers can co-exist – the path’s generally wide enough).

You’ll be walking through the rooftops of Paris, and will see amongst other things reproductions of “The Dying Slave” on top of a police station on the corner of Rue de Rambouillet (see photo above – credited to Paris Walking Tours.)

The promenade’s 4.5km long so you’ll get a decent amount of exercise and it ends a short way away from the Bois de Vincennes (and it’s a short walk to Metro Dorée to get you home). There’s also a cycle route running below, joining up with the promenade later, but still split into two paths – so you’ll not be mown down by cyclists either.

As an alternative to the raised area, between the arches of the Viaduct (the Viaduc des Arts) a number of artists and artisan workshops were established to complete the renovation of this crumbling piece of engineering in the late 1980s.

Five favourite sculptures, London

Red rose sculpture

"Icon" by Will Ryman

This one was taken very recently. It was part of the Frieze Art Fair Sculpture Park and witnessed on a beautifully sunny, mild autumnal day. It’s called “Icon” and was created by American artist and former playwright Will Ryman. Apparently Ryman has said about his sculpture that “I am taking this global symbol and its connotations of romance and beauty and changing it to represent commercialism and high art.” His roses originally appeared in Park Avenue (although not at this scale.)

Henry Moore sculpture

"Large Reclining Figure" by Henry Moore

This fibreglass and plaster Henry Moore figure was part of Moore at Kew in 2007-2008. It’s now back at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge if you’d like a closer look.

Angel sculpture, St Paul's

Emily Young "Angel"

Made of Purbeck stone and sitting on columns, this is one of five sculptures that gaze toward St Paul’s Cathedral.This one will be overshadowed a bit at the moment, what with the posh campers known as Occupy London Stock Exchange occupying the outside of the church at the moment.

Angry Pins sculpture, Frieze Sculpture Park

"Angry Pins" by Des Hughes

Another Frieze Sculpture Park work, these very angry heads are set on 3 metre tall “pins.” I wouldn’t want to cross them! A previous work of Des Hughes was the “Unconvincing Sausages.” I wish I’d seen that one.

Ram in New Street, London

Ram in New Street

New Street can be found between Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfields Market. This is a bit of surprise as you round the corner to a street otherwise full of metropolitan police cars. It’s sat on top of a lovely arch which used to be the entrance to the Coopers Wool Warehouse, that has now been converted to offices.

10 London Underground Station Names

Belsize Park sign

These names are lifted shamelessly from the book What’s in a Name?: Origins of Station Names on the London Underground by Cyril M Harris. Thanks Cyril.

Barbican

Named after the “barbicana” or Roman Tower that stood in the area. A latin word probably derived from the Persian language originally, it meant upper chamber. The Saxons then named it “burgh kennin” and lit fires on it to guide Londonders on their journeys. It was pulled down in 1267, rebuilt in 1336 and demolished at an unknown later date. Actually, I’ve just noticed that there’s a barbican in York. Fascinating.

Belsize Park

The area was named Belassis (from the French “bel asis” – beautifully situated.) There used to be a manor house and park in Belsize Square which would account for the descriptive name. And why Cameron Diaz has just bought a flat there.

Clapham Common

There was a wood on the site called Cloppaham (recorded in the 8th century.) And that name is derived from “clap” (hill) and “ham” (home). Common is a common…

Covent Garden

Great one this – it was named after a convent garden run by the monks of Westminster Abbey in the fifteenth century. The famous Covent Garden fruit market was then established there in 1661.

Hangar Lane

“Le Hangrewode” was a wood known in the fourteenth century. “Hangra” is an old English word meaning wooded hill. They obviously then changed it to lane.

King’s Cross

Named after a statue of King George IV that stood  at the crossroads there. Incidentally, the area had been called Battlebridge before this, after a battle between Queen Boudica and the Romans in AD59 or 61.

Manor House

Surprisingly, named after a tavern (I had naively presumed it would have been been an actual manor house). The pub was originally called the Manor Tavern but renamed the Manor House after the manor house opposite in 1931. So there was a manor house involved then!

Neasden

Recorded as Neasdun in 939 from the old English “naess” meaning nose and “dun” meaning hill, reason being there’s a nose-shaped hill in the area. Wow.

Seven Sisters

There used to be seven elm trees in this neck of the woods, near Page Green. They were known as “7 sesters” in 1754 and “Seven Sisters” in 1805.

Wembley Central

“Wemba” a person who lived in the area, and “lea” after the word for clearing “leah” was how this district was recorded in 825. Therefore Wemba lea was the clearing where Wemba lived! Lovely.