A chance to peek inside some often closed doors
European Heritage Days opens monuments to the public.
Posted: September 4, 2013
The Strašnicé Crematorium in Prague 10 is the largest in Europe, and among the many places that will show its secrets.
Prague, as well as the rest of the Czech Republic, is filled with beautiful buildings, but not all of them are museums. Some remain a mystery to people who have even lived here for decades. European Heritage Days is an annual nationwide event that lets people explore many of the interesting hidden spots in the city.
This year the event runs from Sept. 7 to 15, with a national theme of Monuments in a New Light. Most of the events are on the weekend of Sept. 7-8, but others are strewn throughout the week.
Every year a different city or town is selected for the gala opening, and Olomouc, in the center of Moravia, has the honor this time and will have an opera in the main square Sept. 6 and a concert by the Tata Bojs on Sept. 7.
Prague also has dozens of locations that will open their doors and many related events. While Prague 1, with its historical center, has many interesting places to see, some of the outlying areas also have treats, depending on what you are interested in. There is a database online to help, as there are too many places to list.
Prague 1 always gets the most interest, and many churched will be open. But the real treats include the Masaryk Salon, an old luxurious waiting room in railway station Masarykovo nádraží, the treasury of the Czech National Bank and the interior of dům U Taucerů near Prague Castle.
The main train station Hlavní nádraží in Prague 2 also offers a look inside one of its shuttered luxury rooms, as well as free entry to the charming Police Museum and a chance to peek inside the Sokol building on Žitná Street.
The small Jewish cemetery next to the Žižkov TV tower will be open in Prague 3, as will the Prague Water System Museum in Prague 4.
Prague 5 is making an effort, with puppet shows in the Kinsky Garden. In addition to many churches being open, the overgrown cemetery Malostranský hřbitov will allow people to wander about and look for its famous residents and examine the masterfully sculpted tombstones. The cemetery is actually in Smíchov; it is where people from Malá Strana used to bury their dearly departed, back when Smíchov was considered a suburb.
Of the outlying Prague districts, the one that is trying hardest to attract people is Prague 10. One site in the district has checkered history. "You can visit the Strašnicé Crematorium, which is its largest in Europe. The story of this building during Nazism and communism is extremely interesting. Both totalitarian regimes burned the victims of political repression. The director of the crematorium, František Suchý, carefully recorded the names of victims and hid their ashes. For that act of sedition was sentenced to 25 years in prison," Ivana Cabrnochová, deputy mayor of Prague 10, said in a press release.
The district has a number of houses of worship that are the works of noted modern architects. The often bland functionalist exteriors hide some interesting details inside. The Church of St. Václav (Wenceslas) in Vršovice is the work of architect Josef Gočár, for example. The almost hidden slits of windows create an unexpectedly bright interior. "The Church of Saint Václav is one of the most successful religious functionalist buildings. In 2010 the Prague 10 district added a statue of the saint," Cabrnochová said, adding that the statue had been in the original plans but was left out for 80 years. "Similar care was paid to the Hussite Church in Vinohrady, where we made a gift of three new bells." The Church of Saint Václav is open Sept. 14, and there is a free concert on Sept. 24. Two villas are also open in Prague 10, the Ladislav Šaloun Villa in Vinohrady and the František Trmal Villa in Strašnice.
Many nearby towns are also participating, so if the weather is nice then European Heritage Days can provide some interesting destinations.
For more informatrion, see www.shscms.cz/ehd/en.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at