In Which I Descend Into a Nuclear Bunker And Find A Nightclub

Traveling with teenagers can be kind of cool. One rule we have is: if the Teenager actually shows an interest in something, we do it. He made it clear that he was So Over medieval castles, but lit up like a birthday cake when I showed a him a flyer for a “Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour.”

This could have gone either way, and we were dubious when the ticket office was about the size of a phone booth and covered with posters for all kinds of tours from ghosts to girlie bars. But, as it turned out, our guide was a history student from Charles University with excellent English. The tour was low-key and truly educational.

We started out with a walk around various sites of interest, from the former secret police headquarters, to Vaclávské Namestí, site of the huge protests that brought about the Velvet Revolution. At each stop we got a little Communist history lesson, most of which was news to me, despite having lived there for four years.

For the second hour, we got to explore a real-live nuclear bunker! This was majorly cool. I love these little low-budget attractions, filled with stuff that people find in their attics. We got to try on gas masks and radiation suits, handle grenades and Kalashnikovs, and generally do everything on a 15 year old tourist’s list. (The middle-aged teenager had a pretty good time, too.)

Part of the bunker (which is now owned by a radio station) has been turned into a nightclub, complete with a bar and stage. It looks like a scuzzy university student center, to tell you the truth, and I can’t imagine it passes any kind of fire code. I would be scared to death to be down there with a bunch of drunks. But I am sure it is hip as all get-out.

After stuffing ourselves with pizza at a little hole-in-the-wall place that we remembered from years before, we stopped by the Museum of Communism. I had actually been there before, but I wanted the Teenager to see it, and he did seem to enjoy it. Most of the museum is a random collection of interesting memorabilia, but the video with scenes from the Velvet Revolution is quite moving.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wallowing in capitalism: shopping for several items I should have bought years before. Let’s just say the garnet collection is finally complete. Dekují, Praha!

Former headquarters of the Czech secret police (STB).  Now a police station.
Former headquarters of the Czech secret police (STB). Now a police station.
Happy workers on the facade of STB HQ.  This is pretty classic socialist art, actually. I'm glad they leave it around.
Happy workers on the facade of STB HQ. This is pretty classic socialist art, actually. I’m glad they leave it around.
Our guide on the communism tour explains that this memorial is to the students who demonstrated on Narodni Trida on the 20th anniversary of Jan Palac's death in 1989. I must have walked past this dozens of times when I lived in Prague and never knew what it was for.
Our guide on the communism tour explains that this memorial is to the students who demonstrated on Narodni Trida on the 20th anniversary of Jan Palac’s death in 1989. I must have walked past this dozens of times when I lived in Prague and never knew what it was for.
The balcony from which Vaclav Havel addressed the crowd on Vaclavke Namesti.  Now a monument to capitalism (department store.)
The balcony from which Vaclav Havel addressed the crowd on Vaclavke Namesti. Now a monument to capitalism (department store.)
Entering the nuclear bunker!
Entering the nuclear bunker!
Special gas masks for babies and small children. Creepy!
Special gas masks for babies and small children. Creepy!
Happy nuclear family in the nuclear bunker.
Happy nuclear family in the nuclear bunker.
No one could explain the Santa hat.
No one could explain the Santa hat.
Decontamination procedure...yikes.
Decontamination procedure…yikes.
This really reminds of of skulls in a catacombs, or the Bone Church.
This really reminds of of skulls in a catacombs, or the Bone Church.
Part of the bunker is now a small, dank nightclub.
Part of the bunker is now a small, dank nightclub.
Stage in the nightclub.
Stage in the nightclub.
Graffiti on the wall of the nightclub.
Graffiti on the wall of the nightclub.
The Museum of Communism is located just above the McDonald's on a major shopping street in Prague.
The Museum of Communism is located just above the McDonald’s on a major shopping street in Prague.
The museum is mostly a random assortment of Commie kitsch, but the video is good.
The museum is mostly a random assortment of Commie kitsch, but the video is good.
Yes, Hooters has come to Prague. Stalin is rolling in his grave.
Yes, Hooters has come to Prague. Stalin is rolling in his grave.
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