Today, it is no problem to buy premium food and clothes or to verify information from different sources. However, the situation in the country was very different during the communist era from 1948 to 1989. The truth is that when something is readily available, you do not appreciate it as much as the under-the-counter stuff. On the one hand, we will never experience what our parents felt when they bought the Beatles’ Long Play Album, watched their first movie in the cinema or when they bought their first jeans in TUZEX, which was a chain of stores that sold luxury goods manufactured in the West, otherwise unavailable to Czech customers. On the other hand, luckily enough we will also never know the feeling of being rejected to study at university on the basis of our family’s political opinions.
Moreover, we also do not need to be close friends with the nearby butcher just to get fresh meat for Saturday lunch. We can set up our own businesses and travel, without having to get permission from the state officials. Thirty years ago, life in Czechoslovakia was completely different. Prague, as the capital city, was the seat of the Communist party, whose political decisions were dictated by the Soviet Union. Freedom would be the last word you could use to describe the then situation. Employment would be much more fitting. Everyone had to have a job. The resulting construction boom left us a number of industrial buildings, factories, and monuments from this period in Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic. Some of them have been reconstructed, other remain as they were.
Architect Petr Kučera describes the famous Wenceslas Square as a “monument to communism” and for the last five years, he has been working on its revitalization. He thinks that square is a good reflection of today’s Czech society and that change is necessary in order to transform Prague into a West European metropolis. Well, we just have to wait to see what happens.
An example of a successful reconstruction of Soviet architecture and art would be the controversial statue of a big metronome in the park Letenské sady. It replaced Stalin’s statue, for which the place used to be called “meat queue“, referring to the lack of fresh food being brought to local stores.
One of the most important venues during the Communist era was the Strahov Stadium. In its time, it was the largest stadium ever built, with the capacity of 220,000 people. Its main purpose was to host the mass synchronized gymnastics shows called Spartakiáda. It now serves as a concert venue and is in desperate need of reconstruction.
Although the country has gone through massive changes since Czechoslovakia was divided into two independent countries in 1993, you can still see that it is only recovering from the dark totalitarian period. Brutal political trials, prosecution by the secret police and large-scale media censorship are just a few examples of what Czech people will never forget. Despite all of this, members of the Communist party are still represented in the government. Many socialist buildings can also be found in Prague.
With our new guided tour called Retro ŠKODA Cars, you get a chance to discover the most significant monuments of the Soviet times in Prague. As authenticity is the most important element when trying to experience the atmosphere of times long gone, you will sit behind the wheel of a retro ŠKODA automobile, one of the symbols of life under the communist regime. Since this was the most popular Czech car in the 70s, you could hardly look for a better time machine that would take you behind the Iron Curtain and allowed you to make up your own mind about it.