From the 1950’s till 1989, twenty metres down under the glamorous boutique Prague Hotel Jalta lay a secret that not even the hotels cleaning staff knew anything about, a vast nuclear fallout bunker lay beneath the streets of Wenceslas Square.
Being greeted with a fizzing flute of champagne isn’t the first thing you expect on a visit to a subterranean nuclear bunker. At the reception of Hotel Jalta I stood sipping a glass of champagne wondering if they’d mistaken myself for a VIP hotel guest.
Half a glass down, the lift door opens and out walks a proud looking security police officer in full dark green uniform. Thankfully he has a smile on his face as he directs me towards the lift.
Fumbling for a spot to place my champagne flute down the office says, “Don’t worry, you can bring that with you”. It seems a little bizarre to be taking a glass of champagne down to a bunker that could have been the last place of shelter in a nuclear attack, even if it hasn’t been used for thirty years.
“there isn’t a single visible clue inside or outside of the hotel of the bunkers existence”
Top Secret Bunker
So top secret was Hotel Jalta’s nuclear fallout bunker that even the hotel’s own cleaning staff had no idea of its existence, or perhaps it was best for all concerned to turn a blind eye. Either way it won’t come as a surprise if you wander into the hotels reception area, there isn’t a single visible clue inside or outside of the hotel of the bunkers existence. I found myself double checking my phone to make sure I’d walked into the right place. It all becomes clearer and more sinister when my guide informs me that the hotel itself was purposefully built as a disguise to hide the bunker.
The bunker was previous owned by the Ministry of Defence up until 1997 but now is owned by the hotel. Spanning three floors the bunker was originally built to hold 150 people including prominent communist officials, important individuals and officers during war where they had supplies for a period of up to two months. The bunker would have been the headquarters for the Warsaw Pact countries if war had broken out. War never materialised and over time the bunker was used by the Secret Police to spy on hotel guests and foreign dignitaries.
The Bunker Today
Today the underground rooms serve as a museum to the cold war era. After passing through an iron gate and down steep solid concrete stairs we wandered from room to room starting in the medical facility of the bunker. Although it resembles something out of Saw the horror movie, complete with operating table and terrifying looking medical tools it would have been fairly well equipped for the period. Beside the operating table is a metal door that reveals an escape tunnel out under the Hotel Jalta into Wenceslas Square. For anyone willing to crawl on all fours you can make your way to the end of the tunnel and look up towards the exit into Wenceslas Square.
The bunker facility had its own power supply, clean water and was protected by two meter thick concrete walls with steel to protect against radiation.
“secret police would sit for hours monitoring and eavesdropping into unassuming hotel guests conversions”
The bunkers rooms have been setup to show how they may have been used during the cold war, with the inspection room depicting a member of security searching a suitcase and a planning room with communication systems and a huge map on one wall. I was invited to test out some of the wire-and-plug telephones and hold some of the replica guns in the armoury room and it adds to the experience. Although the rooms feel quite staged, if the bunker was simply a number of empty rooms rather than a museum of the era it’d be much less interesting.
The Secret Police
Saving the best till last the tour ends with a top secret eavesdropping room that you can only enter by dialing in the passcode and unlocking the door. On a table in the room is a collection of what looks like old fashioned telephone exchanges that were used to tap into various different bugs placed in and around the rooms of the Hotel Jalta. Above the table on the wall is a floor plan of the hotel rooms with a VIP rooms and various types of guest rooms marked in different colours.
Members of the secret police would sit for hours monitoring and eavesdropping into unassuming hotel guests conversions via bugs in the walls, on lamp shades, under shoe brushes, on bedside tables and draws. The polices main focus was on foreign dignitaries and high profile VIP’s.
Sat in the chair facing the wires and switchboards of bugging equipment, with a hotel floor plan complete with detailed notes hanging on the wall above…
I took a final sip of my VIP champagne still wondering if it really was just a clever part of whole experience.
Website: Fallout Shelter, Hotel Jalta
Guided tours in English and German language:
Friday to Sunday 14:00–19:00
General: CZK 120
Students (15–26): CZK 90
Senior citizens (65 and above): CZK 90
Children (6–15 yrs): CZK 60
For hotel guests entry is free.
Booking a city break to Prague
In Prague I had a two nights stay at the lovely Barceló Praha Five and flights to and from Manchester airport to Prague cost a total of £345 per person with Jet2CityBreaks, which is great value if you ask me. A package Jet2CityBreaks takes a lot of the hassle out of planning and worrying about transfers, hotels and flight times, meaning your free to enjoy the ride with all aspects of your break already sorted.
Jet2Holidays pride themselves on their low fares whilst at the same time offering allocated seating, great flight times, a 22kg baggage allowance and no fees for using your credit card. Jet2Holidays and Jet2.com fly from airports based in the Midlands, the north of England as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland. They serve a wide range of popular European destinations, there’s plenty more information on their website too.
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