We’re on the train headed out of Prague after four lovely days of exploring. I feel like I showed Jesse everything, though our feet are sore from walking and ready for a break!
I have lots of pictures to show, but because that has to wait, here are three of my favorite museums in Prague. If you ever go, I recommend these ones.
A small exhibition documenting Kafka’s connection to the city and it’s influence on him. Kafka, a German-speaking Jew, grew up in Prague’s Jewish neighborhood in the late 1800s. His life was spent wrestling with questions of existentialism and purpose, and his work as a lawyer contributed to his writings on the absurdity of of bureaucracy, as in The Trial and The Castle.
He popularized the absurd, so much so that the term kafkaesque is often used to describe the strange, the mysterious, and the ridiculous. For example in The Metamorphosis, his most easy-to-digest book, a man wakes up one morning to find he has been turned into a giant insect.
The museum has journals, photos, first edition books, and talks about the influence Prague had on the young Kafka. His Jewish struggle for a place in Prague society along with an overbearing and judgmental father influenced him greatly.
The museum does an excellent job giving information while also creating an eerie, experimental space. One room is simply a dark hallway with floor to ceiling black file cabinets and enough turns to make you feel trapped.
If you don’t have time for the museum at least stop by the courtyard in front where you’ll see a statue of two men urinating. Parts move, water comes out– it’s worth pointing and giggling at. A lesson in the absurd.
Hergetova cihelna, Cihelna 2b
Praha 1, Mala Strana
130czk, adult ticket.
A world away from the dark tone of Kafka is the Mucha Museum.
Alfons Mucha is considered the father of Art Nouveau, and his posters and illustrations pop up everywhere. Known for being highly stylized, Art Nouveau uses a lot of natural influences: curling vines and flowers, ladies with flowing hair and long dresses. It’s more the idea of beauty, personified, without being a picture of a certain woman.
Mucha got his start creating posters for French actress Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, and continued creating his ideal of beauty with exhibitions across Europe and America. Towards the end of his life he created the many panels of the Slav Epic to show his patriotism.
Prague is steeped in Art Nouveau, and Mucha is the greatest. The museum has originals of many posters and prints, along with some paintings and sculptures, and a good video of his life.
180 czk, adult ticket
Museum of Communism
Last is the Museum of Communism, nestled right beside a casino and above a McDonalds. Did they plan that irony, or was it by chance?
Cute and a bit kitschy, the museum is aimed more at visitors than Czechs, and walks you through the years of Communist occupation in Czechoslovakia from 1968-1989. The history is fascinating for its complete influence on society and culture, and for the struggle for freedom. In 1968 Russian tanks rolled into the city to occupy it, and Czechs protested by destroying their own street signs to confuse the Russians, and by staging mass protests. A year later a young student, Jan Palach, set himself on fire to protest and died a few days later, becoming a national martyr. Any rebellion was crushed as the Communists tightened their hold across Eastern Europe. Things got progressively worse as they gained power. Everyone had a job and no one was homeless, but nothing got fixed, buildings fell down, stores remained empty, and culture was suppressed. If you didn’t profess support for the party you were arrested. No one could leave, and everyone was suspicious of everyone else.
When the 20th anniversary of Palach’s death rolled around in 1989, students again staged mass protests in Wenceslas Square. While they were violently stopped, by November 1989 the people again gathered in the square, 1 million strong, to watch Vaclav Havel announce Czechoslovakia’s freedom. Called the Velvet Revolution because of the peaceful transfer of power, the country experienced it’s first freedom in over 50 years.
With Soviet artifacts, pictures, propaganda posters and an emotional film with footage of the demonstrations and revolution, the museum is worth seeing. What strikes me is that the Czechs around today lived that. The students in the film, demonstrating during the 70s and 80s, were my parents age back then.
History is not so long ago.
Museum of Communism
Na Prikope 16
180czk- adult ticket