The day of our return to Prague, Michael and I headed to the Národní památník, the National Monument on Vitkov Hill while Sami and Nate took naps following the long drive from Berlin. This museum is dedicated to the history of the statehood of Czechoslovakia: from its foundation in 1918 to its end in 1939 and its reestablishment subsequent to World War II, its governance by the Soviet Union from 1948-1989 and the fall of communism, up through the Velvet Divorce in 1992 when the Czech Republic and Slovakia peacefully separated. As the building is managed by the National Museum, with history being told from a Czech perspective, of course the exhibits read with a bias, as some have complained in Yelp reviews. It is their nation’s history. In spite of this, and perhaps because of this, a visit to the National Monument is a good way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.
The park surrounding the museum was really pleasant. It was close to our AirBnB in Prague 3, and so it was an easy walk from where we were staying. Yes, the museum is indeed on a hill, with trails that take visitors up a nice incline, but there was fortunately some shade thanks to the trees along the paths. The day was warm, and I failed to bring a water bottle as I figured we’d grab a soda at the rooftop cafe.
After paying our entry, which was just over $5 per person with the conversion from koruna to dollars, we visited the downstairs portion of the museum. At ground level is the Czech statehood long-term exhibition, as well as side exhibits dedicated to programs such as Scouting. It was neat to see how Scouts developed in what would become the Czech Republic, and how the culture of the American West influenced Czech Scouts and Guides. Ultimately though, the goal is the same regardless of country: “to encourage positive forming of children’s and youth’s personality, intellect, spirituality, morality and social and physical skills.”
Also on the lower floor is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which contains the remains of an unknown soldier from the Battles of Zborov in 1917 and Dukla in 1944. The room is beautifully done in intricate mosaics, with a marble sarcophagus. It is at once interesting and somber, and as an American learning the history of a nation that has existed in its current relative peace and freedom for just over 30 years, a reminder that it only takes a generation for freedom to be lost. May these soldiers rest in peace.
We headed outside where the museum has a rooftop cafe that offers beautiful panoramas of the city below. We arrived within an hour of the museum’s closing so there really wasn’t anyone at the counter while we were there, however there were a few folks enjoying the day on the patio with their pots of tea. We checked it out and took a few photos before heading back inside and checking out the other exhibits.
Featured until the end of September 2022 is the history of the Czech Driver Education System. We had fun with this as Jacob earned his driver license last year, and agreed that a good driver education system is beneficial for many young drivers. The exhibition features three simulators which are offered as part of the museum tours, along with parts of a car engine, driver’s ed books, and more. I thought Jacob would have enjoyed this, as well as the rest of the museum. Sadly, he was unable to be on this trip, though he did have a really good reason, as he is following a long-time dream of his and is at basic training at time of writing.
After checking out the Driver Education exhibition, we headed back outside. There, we were greeted by the massive bronze statue of Jan Žižka atop his horse during the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 during the Reformation. Fun fact, this statue is the third largest horse statue in the world. The detailing on the statue is impressive; it is said that the finest horse was used as a model for the statue. The structure measures 22 meters high, and is situated in the location where Žižka lead the Hussites to victory against the Crusaders. It is a pretty cool statue, and truly massive. I appreciated its height as I was standing at its base.
After hanging out for a bit longer and catching a few Pokemon, we walked back to the AirBnB to get the kids ready for a family dinner with Emily. We had returned to Prague on my birthday, and I looked forward to celebrating together with the family. A visit to the National Monument and a walk in the park was a great way to kick off our stay in Prague.
For more information and to purchase tickets, check out:
Scouting in the Czech Republic. skaut.cz. (2021, September 10). Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://www.skaut.cz/english/about-us/
Equestrian statue of jan zizka in Prague Czech Republic. Equestrian statues. (2021, January 29). Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://equestrianstatue.org/zizka-jan/