Repairs start on Letná carousel

The carousel is the oldest in Europe, but has been closed for over a decade

The historical carousel in Prague's Letná park will be open to the public next year. The carousel on Feb. 22 was turned over to contractors for a second phase of repairs. The 12-sided neo-Renaissance structure has been owned by the National Technical Museum since 2004, and it has not been in operation since 2006 due to its poor technical condition. It is the oldest carousel of its type in Europe.

Several dozen people attended a ceremony to mark the start of the repairs, and an organ grinder provided entertainment. The first phase of repairs was in the mid 1990s, when the roof was fixed. Funds ran out before the repairs to the rest of the structure could be completed.

National Technical Museum director Karel Ksandr said the carousel would definitely be ready for use in summer 2018. It will be in operation on weekends and holidays to limit the wear and tear so i can be preserved for future generations.

The cost of the restoration in not certain, but is estimated to be around Kč 7.5 million to 8 million in total. It costs Kč 180,000 to fix each of the carousel's 19 horses, which were made with real horsehide covering an iron frame with wooden legs and heads. In addition to the horses, there are also four cars that rotate. These were installed in the 1930s, replacing benches. The central pillar has figures of knights made a papier mâché, like theatrical props. Repairs to the horses and cars should top Kč 3.5 million. Repairs to the pavilion including the turntable and motor should cost some Kč 4 million.

The original music machine in the carousel, called an orchestrion, was lost over the years but a replacement has been found. The orchestrion mechanically reproduces the sound of an orchestra.

The Culture Ministry will pay for some of the repairs, and money collected from the public will be used as well.

Several celebrities including actresses Aňa Geislerová, Jana Plodková and Simona Babčáková, director Jan Hřebejk, actor and musician Vojta Dyk, actor and director Jakub Kohák, and entrepreneur Michal Horáček are supporting the restoration campaign.

The carousel was built in 1892 or '93 and was originally in Prague's Vinohrady district. It was moved to Letná in 1894 by its then-owner Josef Nebeský.

The carousel was originally powered manually, with a person rotating the turntable by hand. By 1930 an electric motor was used. A new motor was installed in 1981, and the carousel rotated faster than previously due to increased power. The carousel was listed as protected heritage in 1991.

For information on how to support the project, visit www.letenskykolotoc.cz

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