Hidden away behind the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague’s Jewish Quarter – or Josefov – is the city’s Old Jewish Cemetery. It dates back to the 15th century and the oldest gravestone belongs to the poet Avigdor Karo who was buried here in April 1439. There are about 12,000 gravestones packed into this small area, at crooked angles and entangled with vegetation. It’s forbidden to move Jewish headstones, so as space in the cemetery ran out, more layers of earth were added and the stones were packed in closer and closer together until the cemetery went out of use in the 18th century.
Think cemeteries and you probably imagine they’re going to be depressing places to spend your time, but not so in Paris. Its cemeteries are full of decoratively carved tombs with stained glass detailing, beautiful statues, and wide boulevards surrounded by colourful trees and flowers. Used almost like parks by the city centre residents, they are a relaxing place for strolling, sitting and even picnicking.
Beneath an unassuming building in Place Denfert Rochereau in southern Paris is the gateway to a subterranean world of tunnels, caverns and mass graves beneath the city – the Paris catacombs. As you enter the building you descend down a narrow, stone spiral staircase, ending up 19 metres underground in the darkness of the quarry tunnels. These tunnels run below much of the city, covering over 175 miles in total. They were first started in the 12th century to mine the limestone and gypsum used to build some of Paris’ most famous buildings, like the Louvre and Notre Dame cathedral.