Hidden Prague: Urban Decay in the City of a Thousand Spires

Stopovers are great. I love the challenge of getting stuck in an unplanned destination for an afternoon, a night, or even just a few hours between flights – and then trying to make something of it.

Sometimes, in the past, they’ve worked out really well for me (take this high-speed exploration in Belgrade, for instance); other times they’ve fallen flat (try as I might, I didn’t get a lot out of this overnight stay in Singapore a few years back). But just last September, on my way to Ukraine to lead a tour, I had the chance to play this game again in Prague – and this time, thanks in no small part to an excellent local contact, it brought fantastic results.

We explored two abandoned factory sites that day, and even found time for Czech beer and sausages in the park halfway through. This will be a fun story to write up in full, but for now here’s a quick look at the photos I came back with.



The Auto Hall

In 1968 the Soviet Union led an overnight invasion of Czechoslovakia, in order to suppress an increasingly liberal, Western-leaning local government. I previously wrote about the event in my article on Prague’s communist heritage… but what I didn’t know then, was that the Soviets had been invited in.

Certain workers’ unions within Czechoslovakia had objected to the liberal leadership of Alexander Dubček and during the height of Dubček’s ‘Prague Spring,’ they got together to pen a fateful letter to Moscow.

That letter was written in the offices of a car manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Prague… and the following photos show just how that factory looks today.



Industrial Hell

I never learned the name of this next place, but my guide referred to it affectionately as ‘Industrial Hell.’ It certainly fits.

The former power station sits at the opposite end of the city, and when we arrived there were signs of life all over the place – homeless people, squatting the main station as they worked at stripping away metal parts for scrap. We were a little nervous going in, but we approached one of them and received a cordial invitation to take photographs.

The building was impressive. Floor after floor of rusted gantries, humungous pipes and graffiti-stained glass. It took a while to work our way around, up to the rooftop… and when we finally got there, we had a scare as suddenly the emergency services arrived and started making their way in through the ground floor.

As for what happened next – well, I’ll tell you that story soon enough.


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