Prague – a place where old stories come to life. A modern metropolis. An oxymoron. And a place, where Fantasy and Steampunk are very much alive. So let me take you on a small – and yes, obviously a very limited – tour through a “fantastic” city. A small tourist’s guide to Steampunk and Fantasy, both obvious and hidden.
Exhibitions and Museums
Prague has a rich history. Hidden around every other corner is a myriad of exhibitions and museums, covering “normal” art and culture and then there are those places, that indulge in the more obscure and mystic things.
The “Prague Ghost and Legends Museum” is one of these. Consisting of two floors, this is a rather small place. Visitors are given a handout with ghost stories and legends playing in Prague. The ground floor is an interactive exhibition of beautifully crafted “accessories”. Musical instruments playing if you just pull the right strings, original illustrations, objects belonging to individual ghosts, ghosts and figures that are coming out of the walls, introduce you into the world of legends. A thing pretty much unthinkable for a German is that you may touch everything. Of course there aren’t “authentic” or “historical” objects on display, but everything is arranged beautifully, and there’s just so much love in those objects that I for one couldn’t help but really enjoy this floor. Before you go downstairs, into the underground street of ghosts, you should take a seat and read the ghost stories in the handout. The translation to English is fluent, but since the stories are shortened a bit of flair gets lost. On the other hand you need quite a bit of time to read all the stories so short versions are the best compromise at hand. On the street level of medieval Prague – which means underground – the Museum shows the ghosts and protagonists from the stories. While this museum is really small, it is definitely worth a visit and the entrance fee (about 5 Euro) really is ok. The sister museum – an alchemy museum – however is not really up to par. Even smaller, that place reminded me more of a shabby attic than a museum.
The “Speculum Alchemiae” in contrast is a different museum for alchemy that is really worth visiting. Located in one of the oldest houses in Prague, the building was linked to Prague Castle by secret tunnels. Emperor Rudolph II could not publicly admit to his interest in the secret art of alchemy – the church would have heavily disapproved. Part of the old tunnels have been discovered and some of the original furniture and glass bottles have been preserved and are on display in the museum. The entrance into the old tunnels and alchemy laboratories is hidden inside a cabinet. The guided tour is in English and very informative, with friendly guides welcoming and ready for any question the visitors might have. While rather small, the museum is a very charming place and it has the full weight of history to make it stick out among other museums.
Another exhibition you shouldn’t miss is the “Magical Cavern“, created by Reon Argondian. A truly enchanted exhibition of high class fantasy art, located on Petrin Hill.
Various places of interest
Besides museums an exhibitions, there are a lot of places to visit in Prague that just seem to breathe the essence of Fantasy and Steampunk. The most beautiful mirror maze I personally ever visited is also located on Petrin Hill. With its wooden mirror frames and beautiful architecture this is a small gem, often forgotten in favour of the Eiffel-Tower’s small brother nearby.
Another mirror maze can be found in the center of the city, near Mustek, located in the same building as a kaleidoscopic cinema. Yes, kaleidoscopic. You should experience that for yourself however.
For steampunky pleasures you have to visit the famous astronomical clock. First installed in 1410 this is the third oldest astronomical watch in the world and the oldest one that still works. Mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall the watch mechanism is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the Sun and the Moon’s position in the sky, the “Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of different Apostles and a moving figure of Death represented by a skeleton, and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.
Let me conclude this little tour through Prague with Cross Club. This is Steampunk Club Culture at its best. The entrance fees are moderate, every night there’s a different event. The “Kavarna” invites you to take your dinner there, and if the genre of tonight’s party isn’t to your liking you can still go to the cinema. Located at Holešovice, the Cross Club is a mulitcultural centre that has been part of Prague’s alternative cultural scene for years. You do have to choose the event you want to visit though – electronic psychedelic music for example just isn’t the kind of music I personally can party to, but at the right event this is a “must” to visit.