This and That

Random bits of my life

Jerusalem of Snow, 2013

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 13, 2013


Soldiers in the snow at French Hill (above). This is the worst snow storm we can recall. I think it’s worse than 1992, although my memories of that storm are pretty hazy. I do remember not having electricity for a couple days and having to cook by candle-light, which is a lot less fun than it sounds.

Yesterday I was at work for less than an hour, barely time to finish my coffee. When we drove in, the snow started coming down in large flakes just as we entered the Mt. Scopus tunnel. It’s amazing how the climate changes according to the elevation, so you leave home in the rain and get to work in the snow.

At first it was quite pretty. I shot this video on the way in to work, around 9 a.m., with a pocket camera:

By 10, the view from my office window looked like this:


A co-worker sent out an email offering places in her car. We drove through French Hill, one of the highest points of Jerusalem, and the snow was quite heavy. Cars were struggling up the ramp from the parking garage because the slush was so slippery. We drove in first gear until we got out of Jerusalem. A lot of drivers were stranded and there were calls for anyone with a 4×4 vehicle to help get people home. Later, we got an official email at work telling us to go home, either in private cars or in the shuttle buses. My husband was taken home in a jeep. It took hours because the three passengers lived in different outlying areas and the first jeep broke down just outside Har Hotzvim.

Now it’s cold and rainy in Maale Adumim. No buses and no deliveries from Jerusalem. Fortunately, I had thought about that yesterday and did a lot of my Shabbat shopping yesterday, when I came home early.





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St. George’s Basilica, Prague Castle

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 11, 2013


St. George’s Basilica is the oldest church in the Prague castle complex. Although it was founded in 920, most of the present building was constructed in 1142 after a major fire. The 17th century facade of the basilica is early Baroque, so I expected a dark interior with twisted columns, lots of little chapels. I certainly wasn’t expecting a Romanesque interior.


The nave is often described as austere and monumental. The tomb with the rose belongs to a member of the Přemyslovci (Premyslid) family. The Přemyslovci were the first royal Czech dynasty, ruling the Czech principality and parts of Poland and Hungary until the early 1300s.




The Gothic chapel of St. Ludmila of Bohemia (first Czech martyr and the grandmother of Wenceslas) is not accessible to the public but I managed to get a shot of the entrance and grillwork from the main nave.


The crypt is 12th century, with a black statue of Brigitte. She is portrayed with a decaying girl’s body, representing human frailty and mortality. The Přemyslovci rulers were buried in this crypt, before St. Vitus cathedral was built.


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Old Royal Palace, Prague

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 11, 2013


The main building of the Old Royal Palace dates back to the 12th century. The 16th century Vladislav Hall was used for coronations, banquets, markets, and even tournaments (!). On the left side of the hall is a rider’s staircase, which enabled horses to enter the hall. The magnificent ceiling vaults form roses or stars.


View of the Diet room where the king sat under a canopy, with the archbishop at his side. Various legates occupied the benches; representatives of the royal towns had to stand by the windows. The Diet was rebuilt after a fire in 1541.


Stunning lace ceiling vaults with stars at the main junctions.


The ceiling of the Land Rolls room is painted with the coats of arms of prominent Bohemian families.



Records of Diet debates are bound and stored in these cupboards. The covers are delightful! The painted spines depict colourful flowers and fruit, an anthropomorphic sun, even a rainbow.




Scale model of the Prague castle complex, which the Guinness Book of Records says is the largest ancient castle in the world.


There are lots of old ceramic tile stoves in the palace but it must have been bitterly cold in winter.


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Happy Hanukkah!

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 4, 2013

8th Night of Hanukkah

I haven’t had much time lately to take photos, so I’m posting photos taken in years past. Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. I was really looking forward to having sufganiyot (donuts) and latkes (even if they are cold and greasy) at work, but instead I’m waiting at home for a delivery to arrive.

Hanukkah Street Lights

Sufganiyot (Donuts)

Hanukkah 2012

Sufganiyot (Donuts)

Pirsum haNes (Publicising the Miracle)

Finished Hanukkah Lamp Paper-Cutting

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View from Prague Castle

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 27, 2013


The Prague Castle complex is on a high hill, with a wonderful view of the city. I love the red tile rooftops, Gothic gables, and dormer windows. This is looking towards the river, with the Charles Bridge on the right.

This is the path outside the castle complex, on the side of the entrances. The green building is the outside of the palace.


Charles Bridge, from the viewpoint of the castle gardens. Look at all the people.


Rooftops of buildings along the narrow streets leading up to the castle:


The area outside Prague Castle is a “castle district,” with formal gardens and courtyards. The next two shots are views of the same courtyard, but from different angles. The first shot shows the horizon and buildings in the distance. The second shows the stairs descending to the courtyard. I don’t know whether they’re open to the public; if they were, some bride would probably be posing on the landing.



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People outside Prague Castle

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 27, 2013


Karate on the terrace outside the castle complex. It must have been really difficult to shoot, because both photographers are using point & shoot camera and standing very close to the subjects. It went on for a long time. These two kicked and jumped, kicked and jumped, kicked and jumped, for about 20 minutes. I took this shot in passing. It would have been fun to capture the whole thing but we were on our way back to the hotel.

Bride and groom gazing into each other’s eyes while their photographer checks his shot. Did you know that weddings are one of Prague’s major industries? Everywhere you look, there are beautiful gardens and chilly brides. You’ll notice the photographer is wearing a jacket, so it wasn’t very warm that day. A lot of the couples seemed to be Russian (“Oksana, look this way!” ).


Two musicians on the steps leading down from the castle complex. The light was beautiful that day. If I’d known how hazy the weather would soon become I would have taken more outdoor photos.


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Scotland the Brave in Old Prague

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 26, 2013


Bagpiper playing “Scotland the Brave” with variations in Prague’s Old Town Square. I recorded a brief clip of one of the variations.


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St. Wenceslas Chapel, St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013


The St. Wenceslas Chapel, where the kings of Bohemia prayed before the coronation, was difficult to photograph. First, you can’t go inside (the fact that the walls are covered with 1,300 semi-precious stones might have something to do with it), so you can only photograph from the doorways. Second, the chapel is very dark and tripods are not allowed. Third, the chapel is small but richly decorated, so a wide angle lens is very useful. Did I mention the crowds? You can’t stand in one spot for very long. If I’d had more time I would have tried using a telephoto lens to get better shots of the walls, although I’m not sure I could have held the camera steady for such a long exposure.

The upper walls are decorated with paintings of scenes from the life of St. Wenceslas, who was murdered by his younger brother’s men in 935. This is the same Good King Wenceslas commemorated in the St Stephen’s Day carol, but he was actually a duke and wasn’t all that good. I know–you thought “Good King Wenceslas” was a Christmas carol, right? Listen to the words again.

Beautiful gilded vaulting in the ceiling: The paintings are part of the original 14th century decoration. These photos were taken from the western door. Wenceslas’s tomb is on the right.


Geometric marble floor:


This photo was taken from the northern doorway. The door in the opposite corner of the room leads to the Bohemian crown jewels, but it was not open to the public. The Crown Chamber is the most guarded part of the cathedral, with seven locks that can only be opened if all seven key holders are present. Check out the magnificent strapping and imperial eagle on the western door. If you want to see a photo at a higher resolution, click it to go to the Flickr page.


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Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013


Above: Polychrome decorated choir in the south transcept. The vaulting is much less elaborate than in the nave.

Below: Wohlmut’s choir (organ gallery) on the north transcept.


Carved wooden map of Prague, dated 1620.


Tomb of St. John of Nepomuch (1345-93), a national Czech saint and considered the first martyr of the seal of the confessional. This monument is cast silver and silver gilt, designed by the Austrian sculptor Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach  (1656-1723).


Altarpiece of Lady Chapel with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. The main section depicts the Visitation.


Polychrome Gothic altar. I don’t recall which chapel.


Altarpiece of the St. Anne chapel. The neoclassical style of the figures is unusual because most of the altarpieces in the cathedral seem to be gothic (I admit I didn’t do a survey and I’m relying on my memory).


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St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013


St. Vitus Cathedral, located in the Prague Castle complex, could be called the Altneu cathedral. Although it was founded in 1344, much of the building was constructed later. The neo-gothic facade (above) was designed around the turn of the 20th century by Josef Mocker and finished in the 1950s. Construction was rather slow for 600 years. The St. Wenceslas Jubilee in 1929 provided the final push in the 1920s. The entire western half (i.e., the entrance, above) of the cathedral is neo-Gothic (Victorian period), but the elements blend together well. The cathedral is the largest church in the country (124 x 60 meters) and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. The photo above doesn’t really do it justice. The courtyard in front of the cathedral is rather small, so I had to use a wide angle lens and stand directly in front.

View of the nave, looking towards the west. The rose window, which doesn’t show up very well in this photo, was designed by Frantisek Kysela in 1925-27.


View towards the eastern end of the nave, taken in the transcept.


Peter Parler’s splendid net vaults were possibly inspired by English Gothic architecture. Parler was the master builder who took over construction in 1352, when he was only 23 years old. The vault style is characterized by the doubled diagonal ribs and are not merely decorative. They provide additional support for the ceiling. (I took this photo with a wide angle lens in the transcept, looking straight up. That always makes me a bit dizzy.)


Southern portal, also called the Golden Gate, because of the gold mosaic of the Last Judgment.


South portal,  showing the Last Judgement mosaic, below the windows of the St. Wenceslas chapel. Kings entered through this doorway for coronation in the chapel.


Last Judgment mosaic


Gilded ironwork on south side.


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