Ramble On: Tourist Trap Museums
Yes, yes, the Museum of Communism, at Havirska #10 in Old Town, is located smack-dab next to a McDonald's. No, you're not the first person to note the McIrony. Hush up and pay the 180 K? admission fee.
From an English translation of New Family Legislation in Czechoslovakia on display in the museum: "The best means to make people live on a higher level of moral integrity and to improve the conditions of life." How can you argue with that?
The museum has a lot to offer. Learn, for example, that under the Tuzex crown system, a whore could turn twenty dollars U.S. into a month's wages via the black market. There are great posters and propaganda materials, and the secret police room is worth seeing. If your pop is the type to watch The History Channel every night, this place will keep him out of your hair for a whole afternoon.
Straight out of the museum, cross the plaza and find Melantrichova #18. You're going to the Sex Machine Museum, but there's no sign on the street so keep your eyes peeled. If you see a manikin in a sex swing, you just passed it. Plunk down your 250 Kc.
I walked in skeptical. I recalled getting suckered in Amsterdam, me a foolish tourist foolish enough to buck up for a fraudulent sex museum when I should've just put that money toward a prostitute and seen what despicable acts I could've purchased. The first floor didn't help change that opinion. A room full of corsets? Oh christ. Who's titillated by this? Even the latex suit and bondage gear. Who's impressed by S&M regalia anymore? The same people, no doubt, who think that putting a dominatrix on the cover of a magazine is cutting
But I perked up on the second and third floors. Who can resist the charms of crank-driven vibrators and a golden shower chair (easily converted into a throne for Pittsburgh platters with a sheet of plexiglass)? And then the collection of early electrical vibrators--what woman would actually dare stick one of those contraptions inside her snatch? God bless the sex-tech spearheaders. There are chastity belts for women and men. Lots of strap-ons, including one that goes on your head, which struck me as absolutely brilliant. There's a wide variety of butt plugs and several intercourse tables, including a reproduction of one dating from a couple hundred years ago found in the Italian countryside. All in all, a worthwhile stop.
Time to go. Exit. Turn right. Find yourself in Old Town Square. God help you if it's a few minutes before the hour. Down to the right, look for two people holding signs advertising the Museum of Torture Instruments and the Exhibition of Spiders and Scorpions, both located at Staromestska Namesti #20. The spider museum is relatively new, but the torture museum is the same collection that was once housed in a space just off Charles Bridge.
Torture first. 140 Kc. The collection is interesting, and sure to be a hit with both your teenage goth cousin and her metal-head brother. It's amazing how we can find so many ways to inflict misery on each other. The Street Sweeper's Daughter, for instance, is a terribly clever contraption wherein the victim is contained within a metal framework that secures the neck, hands and ankles is a sadistic fetal position. A few hours of that--not to mention days--and I'd confess to being a witch, an Episcopalian and a dog-fucker. Whatever they wanted to hear.
There are head crushers which, well, crush your head. There are racks designed to pull your body apart. The Virgin of Nuremberg is similar to an iron maiden: a small enclosed chamber filled with spikes. There's the Alsatian Shoe, which sounds more like a gangster name than a torture device. The Gilded Cradle slowly inserts a large spear up your ass. And my favorite: the Pear. Suitable for oral, vaginal or anal application, this pear-shaped object is forced into the chosen orifice and then expanded. Think of a closed tripod inserted and then slowly opened so that the legs spread wide inside you.
I counted 55 devices in total, just enough to take care of two groups of Italian tourists waiting for the clock to do whatever-the-fuck it is they so enjoy watching it do. The person holding the umbrella gets the Pear.
Across the hall, find the spiders and scorpions (100 Kc), another sure-fire hit with your goth cousin. I was expecting to snooze, but once I let myself slip into the mood, I was a little creeped out. How can you not be impressed by a spider with a body the size of a jumbo-sized egg? The damned thing is larger than my hand. There are African Giant Black Millipedes ten inches long and two inches across. The black Emperor Scorpions were pretty bad-ass, as was the King Baboon, a reddish-brown monster which ranks as the second-largest tarantula in Africa.
All done. Exit. You think that was scary? You're back in the Square, and I've got nowhere else to tell you to go.