Hotel Museum, Prague

museum-of-col-war-prague6By Tracy A. Burns

The big secret

From the 1950s until 1989, the five-star boutique Hotel Jalta, recognized by UNESCO, harbored a big secret: About 20 meters under the hotel, there was an anti-nuclear bunker spread over three floors. Built from 1954 to 1958 to hold 150 people, the bunker was slated to provide shelter for prominent officials and distinguished officers for as long as two months if war broke out. The Military of Defense owned the bunker until it was declassified in 1997. Now it is the property of the hotel and has been turned into a museum with displays focusing on the Cold War.

The Secret Police’s role

museum of cold war in pragueThe Hotel Jalta, an example of socialist architecture, was erected from 1954 to 1958 on the site of a residential building that had been bombed by Allied Forces at the end of the war. The structure was commissioned by then Czechoslovak President Antonin Zapotocky, who helped plan the project. The underground rooms were never used as an anti-nuclear bunker because no war erupted, but their history is intriguing. The Secret Police occupied the vast space for four decades. They created a listening post to eavesdrop on the hotel’s guests, who were predominantly from Western countries, as well as on the hotel’s of cold war in prague When Western Germany’s embassy was situated on the premises in the 1970s, the Secret Police tapped their phones and bugged their offices, too. Bugs in the hotel rooms were creatively placed. For example, they could be found on shoebrushes. People who worked at the hotel were not allowed to enter the underground rooms.

The interior of the bunker

museum of cold war in pragueThe bunker was well-equipped with an operating room in which 15 doctors could work at the same time, though this part of the structure is not currently open to the public. It also had its own power and water supply that included a special cistern that could hold up to 53 cubic liters of water. The concrete walls were two meters thick with a steel slab to protect against external sources of radiation. Two emergency exits led to Wenceslas Square and an adjacent building.

The museum

Now several underground rooms have been turned into the Museum of the Cold War, where visitors are greeted by their guide, a man dressed in the uniform of a Czechoslovak army officer during the 1980s. The curious can see the listening devices of the Secret Police and the facilities of the bunker. The workings of a large switchboard used to eavesdrop on conversations are explained in detail. A telex is on display, too. Visitors will also see gas masks, Communist era newspapers, numerous border control officers’ uniforms and a 1950s-era machine gun that they can actually hold. A mannequin dressed as a border control official during the 1950s appears to be inspecting a guest’s suitcase containing jewelry that was smuggled into Czechoslovakia.

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Where is the Hilton Hotel in Prague?

The Hilton Hotel in the Czech Republic is located in the capital and largest city known as Prague. The addrress of the hotel is Pobrenzi 1. The website offers detailed directions to the hotel.

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