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Hotel Praha

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Let me tell you about a place that is no more.

It stood on a hill overlooking a beautiful, mediaeval town, the modern serpentine of its concrete curves nestled into the sloping landscape. For six years, the best and the brightest in the land toiled over its construction. The interior fittings had all been sourced from local suppliers and manufactured using local technologies, uncompromising in terms of quality and design; creating a veritable gallery of national craftsmanship in steel, glass, and textiles.

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Even by today’s standards, the bill for the building of Hotel Praha ran up to a staggering CZK 800 million (just under EUR 30 million) when it was finished back in 1981. Sponsored entirely by government money, and intended exclusively for foreign dignitaries, nothing was too good for it. And yet, precisely because it was built under an authoritarian regime for authoritarian guests, its opening was a modest affair and its splendour a hushed matter. (And even, if some anecdotes are to be believed, was its existence.) What happened in Hotel Praha definitely stayed in Hotel Praha, whose vast 300m2 Presidential suite could be accessed by a private lift and outside entrance. (Which was, allegedly, much appreciated by Tom Cruise when he stayed there while filming Mission: Impossible III.) Oh, but if the walls could speak.

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After the ousting of communism in 1989, the hotel was made accessible to regular guests. Owners changed frequently, and in 2013, it was acquired for the particular aim of being demolished. Efforts at its preservation were meek – not enough people knew, not enough people cared, and anyway it was awkward to fight for the preservation of a monument to authoritarianism, however exceptional and valuable it may have been. (As if it would have been the only one.) And so, in June 2014, the bulldozers were rolled in, and Hotel Praha, its enterior now stripped to bare walls, was buried in time.

I had been one of the lucky people to have had the opportunity to explore Hotel Praha while it still stood. Not just to spend a few nights in one of its rooms – all of which had a private terrace overlooking the UNESCO protected skyline of Prague – but to actually get to know its shaded hallways and spacious conference rooms. Every detail in that hotel was a work of art – down to the tableware and silverware, engraved with the hotel’s logo. I recently saw some of these pieces on sale at a flea market, and remembered on that occasion that I had made a series of photos back during my stay. It wouldn’t be fair to keep them for myself, even though these memories are now gone with the wind.

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{all images by Blue Jay & Bumblebee}

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