Nuclear bomb shelter opens in Prague 2

Czechoslovakia was ready for the worst, and a tunnel complex shows how

The Cold War may long be over, but many of the anti-nuclear bunkers and the civil defense plans remained classified until relatively recently. Prague 2 has been opening up its 1950s-era fallout shelter to the public for free once a month, and it will be open for the sixth time Saturday, Oct. 14, from 9 am to 4 pm. Tours are self-guided, and there is some information such as a map in English.

A street art festival takes place this time in conjunction with the tunnel being open. Folimanka park will have music and activities from 10 am to 4 pm. People who want to try street art first hand is urged to wear old clothes in case of paint spills.

The anti-nuclear complex can be entered from Pod Karlovem street through a rather forbidding concrete frame with large metal doors set into the side of an overgrown hill. There is now yellow graffiti on the concrete entryway saying “Kryt Folimanka” next to stylized depictions of atomic blasts. Some banners should be in place to help people find the entry.

It is wheelchair accessible and suitable for kids. There are games of finding clues to solve puzzles on paper that kids can play if they want.

The complex is huge, and not all of it is open to the public. The tunnels still have cases of gas masks and other supplies that thankfully were never needed. Showers, toilets, common spaces, bunk beds and everything else for an underground city are spread out in the 23 spaces that are on the tour.

Vintage electrical generators, water pumps, filtration systems, a first aid center, a communications center and two morgues were all set up in case the Cold War got hot. Pipes and cables run along every ceiling. All the doors are sturdy metal so different areas can be isolated.

A large map of Prague 2, with the Czech word for “secret” now crossed out, shows every basement in the city district that was designated as a safe area. Photos on display show some of the history of the era. The history of Czechs in the RAF will also be shown as part of the tour, with experts on hand to discuss it.

Concrete domes for ventilation are in the park above the tunnels and can be found by the curious after seeing the complex below. The air went through a dust filtration system to remove any atomic particles. There is also a small concrete observation post in the park, not unlike a periscope on a submarine.

Clearly, the threat of a nuclear attack was something the authorities took very seriously.

“Back in the 1950s/1960s, nuclear fallout shelters were all the rage. The Folimanka shelter is known to be the largest underground construction in Prague 2. Its interior of 1,332 square meters can hold up to 1,260 persons. The shelter is maintained and is fully functional with lighting and heating,” a website for the shelter states.

Prague 2 reminds people that the shelter is open for free and all of the relevant information is online. The district authority says that increasingly they are seeing guided tours by unlicensed guides, but there is no need to pay to see the complex. Those who really want more in-depth knowledge can contact experts through the shelter's website. There are also trained volunteers at the site who can answer most questions.

Many other similar complexes are located in Prague but are not open on a regular basis or open only for paid tours. Some on occasion open for nightclub-type events, which isn't the best way to see them.

The Folimanka shelter is a very good deal for anyone who is curious about the Cold War.

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