Category Archives: Prague

Prague Museum of Communism


One of the odder sights in Prague is located in a building occupied by a casino and a McDonald’s: the Museum of Communism.  It’s an invention of an American entrepreneur, and more than a little biased.  There is really nothing to explain why the failed political system was ever appealing in the first place. Still, it’s an interesting overview of an important period in the history of the Czech Republic.

Many of the exhibits are colorful collections of artifacts, such as the propaganda present everywhere during that era.  There are also informative placards for those seriously interested in historical events, although there is really no attempt at objectivity. There’s a chilling reconstruction of an interrogation room, giving an idea of the repressive regime people lived under.

Most interesting, to me, were actual objects from that era, lovingly preserved.  In Eastern Europe, many people are nostalgic for some aspects of the Communist period.  There’s a feeling that under capitalism and democracy, Eastern Europe has taken on some of the worst aspects of Western materialism. Some people say that under the Communist regime, they had jobs and money, but nothing to buy.  Now, they say that under capitalism, they have no jobs and no money but there is plenty to buy.

The museum is right around the corner from the huge square where the events of the Prague Spring took place in 1968, eventually leading to democracy. Newsreel footage records those mass demonstrations, complete with arrests.

It would certainly take more than this museum to understand this tumultuous period of history.  Still, it’s an interesting place to spend an hour or two pondering the history that took place in the streets just outside.

Join me next time for more explorations into the fascinating art and history of Europe!

Maybe I Do Like Prague…


Prague Cathedral

Prague Cathedral

Of all the cities I’ve visited, Prague felt the most foreign.  For one thing, I didn’t know even a smidgeon of the language. In fact I didn’t even recognize the letters of the alphabet.  Peering out the train window, I passed several stations that could have been the main station.  The family in the compartment with me kindly stopped me each time I jumped out of my seat.  They saw to it that I got off at the right place, and there I stood on the platform, as directed by the rental agency, waiting for a driver to fetch me.  Hailing a cab outside the station is perilous.

The money is foreign, too, and tourist guides are rife with warnings of ripoffs of unwary travelers.

Even the apartment rental agency was not quite trustworthy.  A day before my arrival, they emailed me that the apartment I had rented needed some maintenance work on my first day, but I could have a cheaper one and they would refund the difference in price.  Then, when I arrived, they tried to get me to stay in the cheaper one.  After the first night, I insisted on moving to the original apartment, which was much bigger, much nicer, and had air conditioning.  Only after I had checked out and carefully checked my bill did I realize that they never did refund the money due me from the first night.  It took numerous emails to sort that out.


Still, the city is beautiful. The architecture is unique, all tall painted houses and towers festooned with smaller towers.


When I returned home, I talked with an elderly relative who had been in Prague just at the end of World War II.  His face darkened when I asked him about it.  He said he had witnessed things he just wanted to forget. Today, the people crowding the streets and restaurants seem full of joy, as though they had just emerged from an oppressive regime yesterday.  Maybe I didn’t spend enough time in Prague to appreciate it.  I see another visit in my future. Then there’s Krakow in Poland, which I’ve never seen…

Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe!

A Perfect Summer Day

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Pieter Breugel the Elder painted a series of six seasonal landscapes in around 1565.  Each represents two months of the year. Five of them survive, including the beautiful and haunting “Hunters in the Snow,” now exhibited in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.

The Lobkowicz Palace in Prague has the June and July panel, titled “Haymaking” or “The Haymakers.”  It is as warm and inviting as the winter landscape is cool and mysterious.  The painting depicts peasants moving through their time-honored routines of bringing in the hay.  A small image hardly does justice to the glorious painting.  Pieter Breugel was known in his lifetime by the nickname “The Peasant” because he often dressed in peasant clothing so that he could blend in and observe his subjects for long periods of time.  The people in this painting have a natural nobility and a natural connection with the agricultural landscape that sustains them.

Prague is not my favorite city.  Years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it is still pretty rough around the edges. I rented an apartment from an agency there.  I asked how to get from the train station to the agency office.  I was told to wait right on the train station platform for a driver to collect me.  According to Rick Steves, hailing a cab outside the station invites severe overcharging or worse.  I guess that must be true.  Once I got settled, though, I felt perfectly safe in tourist areas. No doubt there are pickpockets, as in any large city, but I had no problems.


The city is a magnet for all of Eastern Europe, so it is full of partying crowds day and night.  But the Lobkowicz Palace, on Castle Hill, is a haven of peace.  The history of the palace  is fascinating.  The noble family lost everything to the Nazis, regained some of it, and lost it all over again to the Communists.  They were staunch opponents of both regimes.  The palace today hosts daily chamber concerts in a lovely, quiet music room. Afterward, a stroll through the grand rooms with an audioguide provides a unique glimpse into the turbulent history of the city, seen through the ups and downs of an aristocratic family. There’s a nice restaurant with views over the rooftops of Prague.

The palace’s website is at

Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe!