225. Old-New Synagogue, Prague

The Old-New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe, and was built around 1270. It is famous for the story of the Golem of Prague.

Supposedly, the Rabbi (Judah Loew ben Bezalel) created a golem out of mud. When a Nazi officer went in to the attic (or Genizah, a storage place of old writings), the legend says the Golem came alive and killed him. Supposedly during the war the Gestapo didn’t enter the attic and the church was preserved. The attic isn’t open to the public, further preserving the mystery!

211. Topography of Terror

Categorized as an “outdoor museum,” the Topography of Terror is a visual display on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters. It is also immediately below a chunk of the Berlin Wall, that people were starting to destroy (they wanted it all gone) until they discovered it was above some underground torture chambers used by the Gestapo, and thus was a protected site.

It is also the largest remaining chunk of the outer wall (i.e. visible from West Berlin), as the East Side Gallery was one of the inner walls.

The display was really interesting, especially with the Gestapo torture chambers as an immediate backdrop. It attempts to explain how all of the atrocities of the war came to be, but to be honest I still don’t really understand how it got to such a ridiculous state…

22. Be in a building once occupied by the Gestapo

No matter what country you are from, you would have to be living under a rock to not know much about WWII. The entire history of the world was deeply changed by the great wars. Although  it is compulsory to study in History classes (at least it was at my school) and many NZ families (including my own) had soldiers who fought in the war, we were damn lucky compared to many countries in Europe.

Coming to Europe, I didn’t think I would experience wartime history until travelling to Germany or Poland, yet on day two I found myself in a magnificent building in the middle of the Aarhus University campus learning about yet another person whose life was touched by the war and had a  fascinating and highly visible response.

The Aula or Ceremonial Hall was built during the German Occupation of Denmark.  In 1943, the Gestapo established its headquarters in the five student residences of the University Campus. The hall was being constructed at that time and the Nazis were eyeing it up to base themselves out of. So the architect, Christian Frederik Møller, added an outrageous amount of unnecessary detail to the design of the building in order to delay its construction for as long as possible. Such details include waved patterns on the floor and the roof.

The Aula was also famously bombed by the RAF who reconstructed a model of the University campus to practise on as there were many hospitals nearby that they didn’t want to hit.

One of the occupied colleges

The courtyard in front of the Aula (and our tour guide)

The amphitheater in front of the Aula

Cool little cat-fountain

Wave-y tiling

If you look above the windows you can see the waved pattern in the roof

The Ceremonial hall itself, complete with cow-hide couches around the edges

Escher-esque staircase

Pretty neat sculpture on the wall