A tale of two cities: Amsterdam and Prague
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A tale of two cities: Amsterdam and Prague

Mark Silver explores the vibrant atmosphere and enchanting streets of Prague and Amsterdam

Old Town in Prague, Czech Republic
Old Town in Prague, Czech Republic

My teenage daughter thinks I was born in the Middle Ages because, according to her, I’m a bit of a ‘’dope’’ when it comes to modern technology, ‘’clueless’’ about social media and ‘’nuts’’ for my insistence on a 10pm curfew when she is out on the town.

Now I think she may have a point, because I was completely at home during a two-night break in Prague, a destination that makes you feel like you are entering medieval times.

I wandered the wonderful streets of the enchanting Old Town, with its meandering lanes, quaint alleyways and vibrant atmosphere. There were wonderful markets scattered around and charming places to stop for a bite to eat and perhaps a glass of the local beer.

Thankfully, the ancient parts were fairly unscathed during the war, leaving me to enjoy splendid sights such as the famous Astronomical Clock in the heart of the Old Town Square. My favourite attraction was the nearby Tyn Church with its magnificent Gothic spires.

Prague is the ideal place for strolling and soaking up that special atmosphere. Make sure you venture to the Old New Synagogue, which is Europe’s oldest active shul and was completed way back in 1270.

If you like Gothic history, you will feel particularly at home here, as it was one of the city’s first buildings of that particular design. There was an even older synagogue, but that was demolished in 1867 and, ironically in its place has now appeared the newest shul, the Spanish Synagogue.

The newest Synagogue of Prague
The newest Synagogue of Prague

Both buildings are located in the Jewish Quarter, which can be found between the Old Town and Vltava River and although I visited only these two, there are another four in the area to explore.

Probably the most remarkable site is the Old Jewish Cemetery, which would take some time to cover properly as it is the largest of its kind in Europe. My two-night visit allowed only for a relatively quick glance.

Much has remained intact from the Jewish Quarter in spite of the Second World War, as Hitler decided to preserve it as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. The monster had a way with words…

Clearly, I discovered no shortage of Jewish interest in Prague and there is no better place for this than the Jewish Museum, detailing much of the community’s heritage in the Czech Republic and one of the most visited museums in the capital city.

Obviously (and if travelling with female company, no doubt) you will need to keep some time for a bit of the old retail therapy and there are hundreds of pleasant shops scattered around, with crystal being a popular and wise choice.

With hundreds of yards covered by foot and energy levels running low, an intake of some sugar was required and I was in the right place.

The local trdelnik tastes as good as it smells and is sold at many stalls. It is a type of cake made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick. Delicious. The kids especially will love it and can enjoy the confection filled with ice cream (the modern version).

A good hotel is a vital party of a weekend break and I chose a winner in the Radisson Blu Alcron, which was situated close to the action and had the most attentive staff you could wish for. It also boasts two outstanding restaurants.

Radisson Blu, Amsterdam
Radisson Blu, Amsterdam

After a short break in this most fascinating of capital cities, I headed off to another delightful city, with a short flight that took me to Amsterdam for a couple of days.

It’s a special place with its many canals and oozes a totally relaxed atmosphere which personifies the friendly Dutch.

I queued for two hours to visit the Anne Frank House and it was well worth the wait, as you are given a detailed insight into the young diarist and her incredible writing. What a talent and what a tragedy.

If time permits just the one visit to a shul, then make it the beautiful Portuguese Synagogue, which is one of the most important legacies of the vibrant Jewish community that this city still boasts.

The Radisson Blu provided another ideal choice for our stay, an excellent location right near the heart of the action, and dinner at its De Palmboom restaurant with its traditional Dutch fare proved another fine choice.

Mark Silver
Mark Silver

So, two great cities were explored in the space of a few days. Both are rich in Jewish history and culture and both also offer much more to leave you with lifelong memories.

Where to stay:

Mark was a guest of Booking.com, which offers a wide range of diverse accommodation in Prague, including apartments, boats, guesthouses and hostels. The Radisson Blu Alcron is a beacon of art deco luxury in the heart of Prague. Prices start from £149. Details: booking.com/hotel/cz/radisson-sas-alcron.en-gb.html

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