Prague; Czech Republic: Wipe that smile off your . . .

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Prague; Czech Republic: Wipe that smile off your  . . .
The pleasant middle-aged woman at the private museum in central Prague looks baffled by my simple question. I don't need one, but I ask again: “Do you have a toilet here?”

I haven't seen a bathroom as I've walked around, so I'm just curious.

But therein lies her confusion . . . because here there's no shortage of toilets, chamber pots, thunder-boxes and other objects of relief or personal hygiene.

This is the Muzeum Historickych nocniku a toalet . . . a.k.a. The Museum of Historical Chamber Pots and Toilets.

In fact, in this museum there are around 2000 exhibits of places where you can “bomb Dresden”, as the old joke goes.

So you are somewhat spoiled for choice.

Or choices to spoil, if you prefer.

Although I wasn't teasing her about an actual and available toilet – call it research, if you will – the open-faced lady quite rightly stares at me with that expression we reserve for someone who thinks they are being funny, but who isn't at all.

Or that weary sympathy with which we look at an idiot child.

But back to the boggery.

toilet2This collection of toilets in Prague – the largest such collection in the world apparently – was founded in 2000 when the owners of the building (the devastated Trebotov fortress just 100m from the Old Town Hall and the famous astrological clock) discovered two long-drops: one dating from the Middle Ages and the other nearby from the Baroque era.

An idea formed – toilet humour or history? – which has grown today into a collection of extraordinary breadth, depth (hmmm) and often great beauty where painted ceramics, elegantly crafted couch toilets and historic objects (a chamber pot made for Napoleon, another from Lincoln's bedroom in the White House) are displayed with care and attention in large glass cases.

There are bowls from China in the 15th century; 19th century ones with cartoons and flowers painted in them; a delightful piece decorated with the Queen and Phillips' profiles from Her Majesty's silver jubilee in 77 (like a large, double handled tea-cup you could sit on) and so much more.

There are toilets and bowls from World War II with Hitler's face on the bottom and under yours; one with a gloriously erect phallic handle; a replica of a gold toilet (entitled “America”) which confusingly is dated post-Trump Towers as 2019; a chamber pot from the same White Star Line which launched the ill-fated Titanic; some bowel evacuation objects with Nativity figures on them . . .

Among the oddities is a very pretty potty with a large eye at the bottom looking back at you, which gets more weird and disturbing the more you think about it.

So just don't.

Let it be said however that most of the painted ceramics are delightful objets d'art: an English urinal from the late 19th century decorated with floral motifs, insects and exotic flowers; some with sinuous Art Nouveau designs on another; a child's potty from America in the 30s with delightful wee ducks frolicking and dunking their heads into godknowswhat; a gorgeous German bidet from around 1850 with intensely elaborate blue floral design from the famous porcelain factories in Meissen . . .

Yes, there are comedic crappers, slightly lewd posters and other amusements among the thousands of exhibits (soaps, toilet papers and other objets d'WC), but it is the fine art applied to many which slows you down and takes you deeper into the building.

toilet1From the street the Museum appears to be little more than one well-lit room on a corner while you are on the way to somewhere else.

But there is an annexe, then another, a flight of stairs down to other rooms and even more chamber pots and such:
Everything from a model of a devouring and defecating monster from Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights through a Lego loo to the Space Shuttle shitter.

And yes, they do have a bathroom for visitors as it turns out.

All that said and fascinating though it is, like a toilet, you might not want to spend hours in here.

After about 45 minutes – probably 30 longer than I expected, and the sole visitor – I felt I'd seen as many porcelain pans and such as I needed.

Outside the wonders of old Prague awaited and across the Charles Bridge was the Franz Kafka Museum for some cheery existential doubt.

But before that, just around the corner was the Sex Machines Museum.

More on that another time.

With photos.


Graham Reid paid his own way to Prague. And found his own toilets.

For an excellent list of museums in Prague see Trip Advisor here

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