My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

Beth Kaplan logo

found my vstupenka

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Guess what I’m looking at beside the computer – two red vstupenka – tickets – which were, of course, right under my nose. Because they’re attached and turned inward, and the back looks like one ticket to a national monument, I thought that strip in a pile of papers was just a used ticket from something I’d seen. Finally this afternoon, I opened it up and found two opera tickets, face to face.

Yes, stunningly silly. There you go. C’est moi. Ah well.
This morning, the sun was shining and I got an early start – wanted to get to the Jewish ghetto before the crowds. I marched smartly through the Old Town – though had to stop and gasp in the Old Town Square, because during the night they’d taken down the thicket of market stalls, temporarily up for Easter, so now I could see the square in all its glory. But no stopping, important to get to my destination before the massive tours and school trips.
Started with the magnificent Spanish Synagogue, in which I was completely alone, and then went straight to the old Jewish Cemetery, the main place I wanted to visit. Managed to fit in between two school groups and have it more or less to myself. Which is the way to see it – in solitude. It was founded in 1478 and was used as a cemetery for the next 300 years; because of lack of space, Jews were buried on top of each other, and the hundreds of mossy headstones are jumbled and tumbled. In silence, you feel and hear the breath of time. Mystical and very moving. There’s a wall where fragments of fifteenth century headstones have been embedded; visitors have written messages or prayers on little pieces of paper, rolled them up and stuck them in the crevices. So I did too.
My ticket (the cheapest, naturlich) allowed the visiting of several more synagogues and sites, which combine to present the most exhaustive history of Jewish life in this region. They’ve done a marvellous job of laying it all out, with artefacts, art, clothing, paintings and plenty of detailed description and history.
I am always, in my travels, looking for identity – last year to my mother’s village in England, this year to my Jewish half in Berlin and Prague – to see if something resonates. Everything does, but nothing in particular. I see these marvellous Jewish places, things, history, life – I admire them and am connected to them through my family and my work on my great-grandfather’s life – Prague is not that far from Ukraine, where he was born and lived till the age of 38. But though it is all in my blood, it is not my identity, spiritual or actual. I know that for sure now.
On my way home, I passed the entrance to the Jewish Cemetery, where at least a hundred people were piled up on the street outside the gates, waiting to get in. Home to have lunch, find opera tickets and have tea with a friend of Helen’s. Suzanne, a Canadian married to a Czech, told me that when they moved here in 1992, not long after the “Velvet Revolution” that got rid of Communism, this city was completely grey, the houses, the people, the air. (There was so much pollution, she told me, that the city parks were dying.) I had no idea that all the buildings were painted their cheerful pinks, blues, yellows, greens in the last 20 years. There’s a memorial in Wenceslas Square to the victims of Communism – hundreds of thousands hanged, beheaded, arrested, died in prison, shot crossing the border or driven into exile. A Czech politician has said it will take 3 generations before the shadow of the Communist regime is lifted from the land. But Suzanne thinks the Czech Republic will recover, because it was such a prosperous, creative and vital country before.
The country is fast adopting Western ways, for good but also, of course, for bad; Prague has become a huge centre, apparently, for the sex trade and the making of pornography. Suzanne told me about going to an event during which Vaclav Havel, then President, made a speech, after which she and her husband went with him and his friends to a pub around the corner for a drink. “There was a marvellous informality to life here then,” she said. “Not any more. It’s an international city now.”
And now, a glass of wine and a little informal snack before I go to the theatre, ticket firmly in hand, to see “Don Giovanni” in the theatre where it opened, conducted by Wolfgang himself. I quiver in anticipation.



4 Responses to “found my vstupenka”

  1. george says:

    Thanks for the ride thru my town.Geo

  2. beth says:

    A very beautiful city, George. A pleasure to share my time with you.

  3. Jason says:

    There's something to be said for looking for something that's under your nose the whole time, no? 😉

  4. beth says:

    Hmm, is there a double meaning here, Jason? Like Dorothy, all the time whatever she was looking for was right there at home?
    I've been feeling that way recently …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.


Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.


I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.


Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


Juliet in Paris, Spain and Beyond
Juliet is a Canadian who’s lived for decades in Paris and writes about her travels and the many things that interest her.