The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation – A Visit to the Past

A new entry in the Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation. Everybody has rested after the airship travel. Rachael, Millicent, John, Michael and Felicity are taking a day trip to see the sites while the others attend to business. Millicent insists that the distances are not long and that they should walk despite Rachael’s wheel chair. As they walk towards the clock square, Rachael sees a site she had only imagined.

For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the book home page is a good place to start.

Author’s note

Old Prague is surprisingly walkable. On our visit there a few years ago, once we had arrived in the downtown we could walk to the Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter and along the Danube.  Of course we were 15 years younger then. If there are any Orthodox Jews in Prague when I visited, they were not dressed like the story. But they could have been in our story’s time. Charles was surprisingly benevolent to Jews. While other countries were systematically expelling them or worse, he was setting a portion of the town for them to live and work. There were six synagogues to attest to this effort. Most of those synagogues remain despite the Nazi’s efforts during World War II and the Communist Era purges. But it is also a section of town with many sad memories.

Thank you for your support. Look for more on Wednesday.

A visit to the past

Rachael winced with each bounce over the old cobblestoned road. Even with the suspension and the rubberized wheels, the bumps seemed to shake her very core. The Grand Hotel Praha was in downtown and managed to deal with her disability. But after a few blocks with the narrow streets, the cobbles, the hills and the heavy traffic, she had finally relented and let John push her the final few blocks. They might have taken a carriage to their destinations and as far as she was concerned, they might take one back to the hotel. But Millicent had convinced her that the walking the streets would be a valuable experience and she had agreed.

In some ways, much of the town was like her old neighborhood: small shops and vendor carts on the street. But the hawkers spoke a different language and the signs were in a different language.  As they proceeded, something completely different appeared. Two men were wearing shtreimel[1]  and long bekishe[2]. Under the coats were white Tzitzit[3] and gartals[4]. Her father and uncle wore on these on Shabbat but never midweek. The two men both had long beards and peyots[5]. She gasped when she saw the sight and bit her knuckle as her eyes watered. Millicent smiled at her and put her hand on Rachael’s shoulder.

Felicity noticed Rachael’s reaction and asked, “What’s the matter?”

Rachael pointed discreetly at the men discreetly and said in a whisper, “I’ve…I’ve only seen pictures and heard the stories. In London, if you saw that dress at all, it would only be on high holy days.” She composed herself and then said, “It’s like I am seeing my great grandfathers walking across the street.”

Millicent said, “After we visit the clock, we’ll visit the Jewish Quarter for lunch. You should visit one of the temples.”

Rachael snorted, “If they are dressed like that, they won’t know what to do with me…Uncle Moshe and Da’ offended a few in my synagogue…Still, even a visit to the women’s side could be good.”

Felicity raised her eyebrow and voice, “Women’s side?!”

Rachael said, “If we see men dressed like that, they are not enlightened in any fashion…especially on matters of women.”  She squared her shoulders and said, “Let’s move. The square should only be a block away. We can debate religious traditions later.”

[1] Shtreimel – large round fur hats

[2] Bekishe – long black coats

[3] Tzitzit – traditional prayer vest

[4] Gartals – traditional prayer rope.

[5] Peyots – side locks


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