There seems to be something almost ironic about communism. Years of repression for those caught in its cold grip and years of fighting against the spread of it by those who have eluded it, yet the fall of each Communist state has turned over a page in every history book that no-one has ever seen before. Books have been written, sold and read. Countries and cities have been opened up and tourists have flocked towards them.
Prague’s Communist History
Prague is no exception to this. The Czech capital is home to a museum that depicts the mistakes made by their former rulers and cruelly recalls the hardships of life under a communist regime. The museum is within touching distance of Wenceslas Square, the scene of joy in November 1989 when thousands of Czechs played their part in the peaceful overthrow of communism. Twenty years earlier the square was filled with a population protesting against the Soviet occupation of Prague.
The Museum of Communism graphically shows the dream the regime thought they had created, but that was no more than an illusion, because in reality it was a nightmare that student, Jan Palach, found so unbearable that he burned himself to death on the steps of the National Museum. The ghosts of the past may still haunt the capital but that is all they can do, as it is much more than a city climbing out of the depths of the dark ages of communism.
Jewish Quarter and Astronomical Clock
Ironically, thanks to Hitler’s desire to build museums depicting the extinction of the Jewish race, a huge amount has been preserved and visitors come from all around the world to stroll the streets of the Jewish Quarter. The most noteworthy attractions are the Jewish Museum, with one of the most extensive collections of Judaic art in the world, and the Old Jewish Cemetery, with artistically and historically precious gravestones.
Although the holocaust more or less wiped out the city’s Jewish population, there is still a 1,000 strong community that keep ticking just as the Astronomical Clock, one of Prague’s star attractions, continues to do.
Just around the corner from the Jewish Quarter, crowds gather on the stroke of the hour to see death (in the form of a skeleton’s head) strike once before making way for the 12 Apostles. When the cock isn’t crowing and the clock isn’t chiming passers-by can gaze up not only at the time of day, but the months and seasons of the year, the signs of the zodiac and the course of the sun.
Prague is a true treasure chest, unlocked for the world to immerse itself in a showcase of modern architecture of the Czech Republic, and a city free of communism.
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