We got up later today. The morning was more leisurely. We were both tired.
We walked towards Wenceslas Square and stopped at the Museum of Communism. The museum is housed in one floor of an older building. It is a small museum but we spent over two hours there. Ironically, it is located on the second floor in the same building as a casino. The ground floor is a huge McDonald restaurant. Lenin, eat your heart out! Karl Marx, you gambled and lost!
The museum occupies only half a floor (the other half is a casino). It is packed with information about how the communists took over Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, what life was like under the communist regime, the attempts for change and reform by the Czech people, the subsequent brutal crackdowns/invasions by the Soviets, the Prague Spring movement and the Velvet Revolution in 1989. There were several statues and busts of Lenin, Stalin, and Marx that had been removed from public display. Well, they were all busted and relegated to stare at each other in a small room indefinitely.
There is a short documentary about twenty minutes portraying the oppression under the Communist regime before the Prague Spring in 1968 and subsequent crackdown in 1969, the hard line leadership of President Hasek, Charter 77, and the events leading up to the student demonstrations in 1989. It shows actual footage of thousands of people crammed into Wenceslas Square and the police brutality towards the people resulting in many arrests.
We then walked around the corner and looked up the 750 metre-long Wenceslas Square (more like a boulevard with a median). At the very end is the very impressive National Museum. This street once bore the tank tread marks of more than one Soviet invasion, witnessed demonstrations by long-oppressed Czech people shouting for change, was the site of Jan Palach setting himself on fire in protest (a memorial has been set up in his honour), and was the birthplace of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Today it is a bustling avenue of businesses, shops and boutiques, banks, hotels and restaurants. What a huge change in 20 years! It was hard to imagine the events that led to their freedoms they enjoy today.
As my personal reflection, repressive regime will eventually fail. No government, ideology or religion can dictate what one should think or do. Enlightening others to do good is great, forcing others to do what one think it is good is a great sin.
After returning to our hotel for a short rest, we ate at a Czech restaurant nearby – James tried roast boar, a Czech specialty. Then it was off to see Swan Lake ballet just down the street at Hibernia Theatre. It was really good. By the way, we forgot to mention how good the marionette performance of Don Giovanni was. It was quite comical with puppets about 3-4 feet tall. James was really impressed watching the puppeteers handling of the marionettes (you could see their hands and forearms at times).
Road sign to the Museum of Communism
Statue of King Wenseclas
- Lenin pointing to nowhere