“Communism and the Nuclear Bunker Tour” in Prague: Our Family Review

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As a former High School Social Studies teacher, it is fair to say that our travel adventures are always sprinkled with fun history and country studies. It came as no surprise to Andy and Mackenzie that the “Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour” was one of the first things to make it on the agenda.

The Disclaimers:

Andy never liked school, or history. My wonderful husband is one of those people who were bored to a slumber in his history class and developed a distaste for the subject. Unfortunately for him, I don’t take this into account when I plan out our outings. Fortunately, his wife is a wonderful teacher and constantly seeks out opportunities to prove to him that history is amazing, and fun to learn.

The kiddo, at 10, loves learning fascinating facts and tidbits about history and the world. But, at 10, she also loves to run and play and be engaged in the material she is learning. Long lectures don’t bode well, especially when walking around town in a crowd- no matter how small the crowd may be.

I, on the other hand, love history and can easily spend all day listening to someone speak about any topic- for hours.

The Realities:

The “Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour” in Prague is a rewarding experience. High Schoolers interested in the topic will find it interesting, anyone older will find it fascinating.

In a group of about 20 people, the kiddo was the only child. There is a chance I was next in the age line.

And when our exceptional guide introduced himself and gave us an outline of our day’s itinerary, which was to begin with a walking tour and lecture on communism in Prague, my husband turned to me and gave me that look. You know the one, the you-so-owe-me look. But it did not take long to see him paying attention and enjoying all the amazing facts and information about the topic.

The Tour:

Life under communism was incredibly hard, the history is all there for anyone to read, but our guide brought it to life by sharing family stories and their personal recollections, pointing out streets or buildings involved in the struggles he was sharing, and making sure to answer any and all questions that arose for clarification. Before we knew it, the lecture part of the walking tour was over and everyone seemed as fascinated as we were.

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The most feared street in communist Prague: home to the KGB headquarters in town

And the kiddo? The kiddo listened for a while and then began to entertain herself. Total mommy fail. I could have pulled her aside and told her the story myself, but I chose to listen to the tour myself and fill her in later on. Had I been smart, I would have created a scavenger and word hunt with a “Communism in Prague” theme. A simple prep session would have made the lecture part of the tour much better for her. This was totally my fail, but now I know. And, when you go, because you simply HAVE to go, make sure to make up your own scavenger hunt for your child and it will keep them engaged, learning, and entertained.

We are lucky to have a very calm kid who was happy to look around as we walked and tune in when she chose. Did she learn something? YES. Was it as much as Andy? No. Would I take the tour again? Yes!

The knowledgeable lecture on communism in Prague is fascinating, but it’s also just the beginning of the tour.

We had made our way to Wenceslas Square and soon boarded a tram to the outskirts of Prague. With tram ticket included in the price of the tour, the group simply boarded the tram and enjoyed the sights. An adventure in and of itself, riding the trams outside the city center gives one an excellent opportunity to view older, more utilitarian, communist architecture. On this particular tour, it also gave everyone a chance to get a glimpse of the Zizkov TV tower and Cerny’s “Babies”.

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Our tram stop near nuclear bunker tour

Prague’s nuclear bunker is at the outskirts of the city center and was supposed to house up to 5,000 city residents!

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The Zizkov TV tower is easy to spot from the area

A short walk from the tram stop, across a bridge and up a hill, we found ourselves approaching what looked like an abandoned trash center? Small Shack?

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The entrance to Prague’s nuclear bunker

We were informed that the old nuclear bunker once doubled as a nightclub (why not?) and began to make our way down the four stories (16 meters) into the old bunker.

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The length of the circular staircase definitely helps guests get in the mindset for the tour. Imagine, going down deep into the underground of Prague, to try to save yourself and your family from the nuclear threat above. And, that is all if you make it into the bunker in time. With a capacity of 5,000 residents, this was a first come-first serve facility.

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A meeting room

The various long hallways throughout the tunnel help it feel bigger than it is, though I imagine if there were 5,000 people with us I would not be saying that. The tour guides you through one of four identical sections of the nuclear bunker.

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The FIVE toilets available in this bunker section

That’s right. FIVE toilets for all the Prague residents who would be riding out a nuclear attack in this bunker.

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Secret stash of really cool old phones

At one point in the tour there was a large curtain like material separating two areas. Because I am a naturally curious person, I opened up the curtain. I love that I found old tables with these phones pilled up on them!

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Part of the Communism and Nuclear Bunker Museum inside. I love the great maps on display!

As you walk through the bunker you get the chance to look at various Cold War and Communism artifacts, maps, and memorabilia. The maps on the walls, explaining the world as a dichotomy between the “greedy capitalist” and the communist countries was a personal favorite.

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Gas masks and communist manuals from the time period are on display in this large room

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Gas masks for children of various ages/ sizes

One of the interesting exhibits demonstrated various gas masks available for children. The red, half body mask suit, was to be used for children with weak lungs (such as those with asthma). The beige, all encompassing body mask, was built for babies. The instructions in front of the suit explain that parents must pump air into the mask suit every three minutes (“or the problem will solve itself”).

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Displaying proper use and wear of gas masks

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Of course there’s a photo op!

After the maps, uniforms, guns and gas masks, everyone received the BOOK. I don’t think I have to tell anyone how exciting this is for a teacher. I was like a kid at Christmas, giddy with excitement to receive my shiny new book AND some handouts! The fun could go on beyond the life of the tour! There is writing, and pictures for the little one, and one for each person! I don’t even have to share my book! The kiddo now has hers in her bookshelf, and mine is on my shelf. LOVE it. It’s really the little things that get me excited.

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I had no clue we would receive this book with our tour! Very happy surprise

The book, containing pictures and propaganda posters from the time period, is a great resource for continuing to teach children, or adults, about Communism in Prague.

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Handouts! The teacher in me was squealing with excitement

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Very handy map for delving deeper into the history of communism in Prague

imageAt the end of the nuclear bunker tour, still excited from the props and hands-on fun, we walked back to the tram and enjoyed the sights around us. Because, in Prague, all you have to do is look up and you’ll find something worth exploring

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The National Monument in Vitkov- Equestrian statue of Jan Zizka

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Graffiti? Art? Self-expression?

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This was an amazing day and we highly recommend the Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour in Prague. It is informative and fun, making a day of learning seem like a day of enjoying some very different sights! While the beginning lecture is not designed for children, the rest of the tour was incredibly hands-on and child friendly. A little pre-planning on the parents side can make the communism lecture fun for any child as well. In the end, Mackenzie had as much fun as we did and she would gladly go back and enjoy this tour again.

 

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