A Side Trip Enroute To Cesky Krumlov
We left Prague after a great 8 day visit to go to Cesky Krumlov. The first stop on our trip out of Prague was a sobering view of the country’s past. We visited a former forced labour camp at the Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial. The camp was initially set up for German war prisoners. It was then used to hold Communist political prisoners until 1961.
When we travelled from Prague to Budapest, on the transit days on our Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) tour we often stopped several times along the way. This gave us a great chance to see more of the countries. And to learn more about local life and the history.
This blog post is not the pretty view of the Czech Republic that so many others in this series provides. But this history does shape the Czech people. It tells a story of a time in the not so distant past. Lest we forget!
View The Past At The Pribram Uranium Mine
This first stop on our trip out of Prague was a more sobering view of the country’s past. We pulled up to the Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial site and saw the double row of razor fence that enclosed the camp. When our guide Vashek told us that his whole country used to be enclosed in similar fencing, it made us stop and think. We never had to face this kind of constraint on our liberties. There was even a piece of the Berlin Wall at the site.
The German sign that hung over the entrance to the mine translated to “Freedom Though Work”. The prisoners toiled in the uranium mines all day. And then the exhausted workers were subjected to re-education therapy when they weren’t working.
We walked around the camp and saw the restored buildings – dorm buildings, a small hospital and the common room. Nothing we saw in the camp made their life look easy. The entertainment room had curved benches so the prisoners would not get too comfortable. Even this prison had separate locked prisoner rooms for more severe detention.
We saw the railway cars that went out to the mine rusting in the yard. Behind the railway track, we saw the slag heap for the uranium mine. It was now covered with new greenery.
As we walked around the Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial site, we got a glimpse into where this all happened. How it felt to be imprisoned here was imprinted on us when our guide to us to the next stop on our tour.
A Memorial And A Museum
There was an interesting museum that showed some of the history of this mine. It also helped us to understand a little about the resistance movements and the leaders of that resistance. There were touching letters on the walls that talked about the life of the captives. A memorial is a tribute to those executed for political reasons in the period from 1949 to 1960.
Several interesting pieces of art brought home the point. A man in chains was set up yards from freedom in the open courtyard. He seems to be gesturing “catch me if you can”. A second man scaled a ladder to escape while others piled in at his feet.
The Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial museum helped us understand the pain that once filled this site.
The History Of Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial Will Stay With Me
As we toured in Prague, we got a small glimpse into the past of this country. We heard about life during both during the world wars and through the Communist period. This stop at the uranium mines on our way to stay in Cesky Krumlov certainly gave us a much more visible reminder. When we reached Cesky Krumlov, it showed us much older history of the Czech Republic.
The Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial is not likely on many tour lists that you find when you visit the Czech Republic. It was the type of place that our OAT tour leader felt we should see to get a balanced view of his country. But you can go to the mine for guided tours on your own.
I had the same visceral reaction seeing the history at Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial as I had when we visited the Jewish Quarter in Trebic a little later in the trip. These stories are not about the far distant past. It was a firm reminder of worse times in history. And the resilience of people to re-shape their lives after tragedy.
Did you visit the Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial? Does this post make the history feel more real to you?
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An interesting an very informative post. I didn’t know that they used to mine Uranium in the Czech Republic. It’s great that they’ve turned this into a museum to allow future generations to remember the past.
Christina, It was interesting to see a very different part of the Czech Republic. Definitely a great spot for people to see to remember the past. Linda
I’m planning this trip for next year and hadn’t heard of Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial. I will add this to the itinerary for sure. Love the man in chains sculpture, so much meaning
Sherianne, Pribram is not on most people’s itinerary for Czech Republic. But it was an interesting spot to get a view into Czech history. The sculptures were a great way to make the points. Linda
Its sad to see the state the miners were living in and its represented in the wired pieces of art, which are fabulously made. I would have never considered visiting the Uranium Vojna Memorial but after reading this, I can see its a great place to learn about the tragic history of Czech Republic. I have been to Prague but did not make it to Cesky Kremlov so I do plan to go back sometime, will add this to the list of places I need to visit the second time.
Medha, It was a fascinating place to learn about the tragic history of the Czech Republic. The memorial was such a great tribute to the people who were imprisoned here. And to the freedom fighters that fought such persecution. Definitely a spot to consider when you visit. Linda
Wow, I didn’t know about the Pribram Uranium Mine Vojna Memorial. It’s one of those sites that really gives you a harsh, but important, look into countries’ past. Your OAT tour leader was right – it was an important stop to give you a more rounded view!
Hannah, We did so many interesting stops with our local tour guide. I was glad we got this chance to see a darker side to the country. A good reminder of life not so long ago. Linda
I would have a hard time visiting this or any prison site yet know how valuable it is to remember, so we do not repeat (hopefully.) I’m aghast at the huge detention centers in the US now and how families are being treated. So, guess not everyone thinks that political prisoners need to be treated humanely still. Thanks for the sobering reminders.
Elaine, I understand your reticence with visiting prison sites. This was a very moving way to start a day that was filled with light and fun. So sad that the world continues to repeat its mistakes. Hopefully we bring some lessons home with us. Linda
The pictures are very captivating! I remembered going to Dachau Concentration Camp then, it was very moving and no words can ever describe what happened in there. This is one of the extensions of the camp – slavery, torture, famine and they added “mining” to make them more productive! Thank you for writing this – next time I go to Prague again, I’ll keep this in mind.
Kate, Thanks for your feedback. I have not been to the concentration camps. But I imagine that they are very moving. This was a big eye opener for us. We heard a lot about life under the Germans and Russians. But this really brought it home. Glad this motivated you to visit when you are in the area again. Linda
Such a great, informative post with lots of history about Czech Republic. The man tied in chains sculpture clearly depicts the condition they were living in and how tough their life was. We would love visiting this place once around. Thanks for sharing.
Suruchi, The Pribram site was definitely a great way to really see the history of the Czech Republic. We were glad we didn’t miss this. The art really did bring home the point about this being a prison. Hope you visit if you visit Czech. Linda
Uranium mine – such a unique place to visit! Life was indeed hard and torturous. Sad evidences of tortures then. Seeing this part of history is important so that we do not repeat it.
Indrani, I agree that sometimes you need to visit the more serious spots when you travel. So much history everywhere we travel. Lest we forget! Linda
This reminds me of my visit to the Tuol Sleng Museum in Cambodia. A place to really get the full perspective of the country, its people, its past, and how it’s shaping the future. Balanced view, as you mention. Glad you visited here and I will keep it in mind for when I visit!
Alli, Cambodia is still on our travel wish list. I will keep the Tuoi Sleng Museum in mind. It was very interesting to get a different view of this beautiful country. Linda