Night at the Museum

Just before you cross the Nusle Bridge, leaving Prague towards the south-east, you’ll see the Church and Monastery of the Virgin Mary and St Charlemagne. It dates back to the 14th Century and was built during the New Town expansion beyond the medieval city walls. Little of the original structure remains, and it now contains a wonderful mixture of both Gothic and Baroque elements, most notably a marvellously slender and unusually wide Gothic arch.

st mary

Rather incongruously the cloisters now house the Czech Republic’s Police Museum.

police musem 2

Saturday night was Museum Night in Prague, when the city’s dozens of museums offer free admission from 7pm to 1 am. It was raining and since the Police Museum is the closest museum to my home, and because it would have been churlish entirely to reject the city’s generosity, that’s the one I went to.

I’d been there once before, one Sunday afternoon when there wasn’t anything better to do, and I’d been almost the only visitor. I assumed on Saturday night that given the Czech population’s eagerness for jokes that portray the police as plodding and corrupt, there wouldn’t be much interest in the Police Museum. But it was packed.

It’s actually more interesting than you’d think, even if you don’t understand the labels. The museum shows uniforms, weapons, devices, vehicles and other artefacts from the late 19th century to the present day, and, as far as I could tell, it deals openly and honestly with the darker days of the Second World War and the Cold War. Indeed, from 1938, more or less continuously until 1989, the police worked under oppressively close political supervision.

One of Prague’s finest.


It looks like a pen, but it’s a Cold War bugging device


Another bug inside a clothes brush


I simply have no idea what this artificial horse is for


Cow on the road


Almost nothing is permitted at the Museum, including this photograph


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