Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Jewish Cemetery (Židovský hřbitov), Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic

In our continuing journey visiting the numerous Jewish cemeteries, Židovský hřbitov, in the Czech Republic we visited the local one here in Ceske Budejovice. This one is also called Jüdischer Friedhof Budweis (cf.
Our colleague Lynn had the map and directions to get to it. What was so surprising is that it was so close by and we had never seen it!
The Židovský hřbitov is located northeast of the train station in the middle of an industrial district....which was the big surprise for this particular cemetery. Being embedded in the midst of industry led to some unique and challenging views.
There was no 'parking lot' in which to park our car due to the chain in front of the cemetery, so we pulled off from the main road onto the grass. Here is the front wall that faces the busy street....a constant whir of light and heavy trucks rolling past, a gas line pumping station across the road. Hardly a quiet place of rest for anyone.
 To the right (east) of the main gate, the stone wall ends and gives way to this weathered wooden gate, followed by an old white metal surround. A strange combination attached to the main cemetery walls. We haven't seen anything like this before at other sites.
 When we turn to the right you can see a large Soviet era smoke stack rising above the industrial complexes.  What was behind the gate, we wondered? Mark discovered (see below....)!
 At the very corner of the metal fencing above, an old vine of hops, Humulus lupulus, entwines frozen in time. Then a stone wall and metal gate leads into an abandoned large parking lot with an industrial building (which we later see, is still in use).
 At the main gate, we see a sign that points us to the west to obtain a key (Klic). However, it is unclear exactly when one goes to get the key (we never found out).
 The gate handle does not move; again this one is locked shut.
 We peer through the gate to glimpse at what is contained therein.
 To the east of the gate is the Prayer House...silently reflecting the bright February sun. Behind the building is the eastern wall and the mysterious front walls that hide some additional buildings before the industrial complex starts.
Primarily newer stones dominate the cemetery landscape, indicating horrific events during the Nazi occupation here.
Ivy, Hedera helix, again predominates as the evergreen herbaceous perennial in this cemetery. Once again, a gravestone has become a 'shrub'--reminiscent of the ones we saw at Hluboka (earlier posting).
But the jarring industrial complexes surrounding this place of rest are everywhere. Here, adjacent to the western wall, two brewery trucks are parked...advertising the local--and original--Budvar or Budweiser beer (pivo).
Oak trees, Quercus spp., once again dominate this cemetery...this time with a line both inside and outside the western wall (which is fairly new in appearance, compared with the front wall).
A busy truck entry for the adjacent trucking firm on the west side bustles with activity.
As we move towards the wall and look over (since it is not very high), we get this view of the Prayer House which Mark artfully caught:
Neil and Mark gaze in all directions, trying to absorb this world of stark contrasts. How could we have missed this....having driven right past this a couple of times?
We ventured to the rear (north) of the cemetery along the outside walls and became trapped in the back....a dead end in the parking lot where a vehicle repair shop was humming with activity.
Now, coming back around to the front (south side) and heading to the east and through the gates of the adjacent industrial complex (albeit somewhat abandoned in appearance), again a line of oaks are outside the walls of this former parking an entangled 'field' of grasses.
And, to our amazement, in the northeast corner outside the cemetery walls hides a weathered 'cabin' abandoned. Was this a typical Bohemian 'summer cottage' next to their gardens? A caretakers home? We may never know.

As we come back around to the front, southeastern corner of the cemetery, Mark has an idea. He carefully removes the outer cover on his iPhone so it is now very slim in width and squeezes it through a small gap in the old wooden gate we showed you earlier to see what is behind the walls.....more abandoned 'cabins' or 'summer cottages' with once busy gardens.
Grape (Vitus spp.) and hop (Humulus lupulus) vines sprawl in entangled webs.
It must have belonged to some caretaker, as there is a wooden gate in front of the Prayer House walls, which leads into the southeastern corner of the cemetery.

As we leave, the brightness of the February sun shines down upon us....a combination of many types of stars. We still sit and wonder about the starkness, whirling surrounds, abandoned yet noisy soliloquy of this Židovský hřbitov. It is like none other.

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.

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