The National Technical Museum
Today, Czechia lies in Central Europe, but when I was young, it lay in Eastern Europe, safely tucked away behind the Iron Curtain. In Holland, we watched Pat & Mat (‘A je to!’) on television & saw the occasional Škoda driving by, but otherwise we were clueless as to what the Czechs were up to, tech-wise. That is why the National Technical Museum in Prague is so interesting: most of what you see here, you won’t find in the West. Almost all of the vehicles & aircraft in the Transportation Hall were new to us, and of their manufacturers, such as Aero, Avia, Jawa, Tatra, Praga, Zbrojovka and Zlín, most of us had never heard before. And there is more to be seen than just wheels & wings: the other exhibitions are about astronomical instruments, clocks, mining, metallurgy, chemistry, the sugar industry, printing, photography, television, architecture, and household appliances. Children will appreciate the playroom with Merkur toys, construction sets similar to Meccano.
Among the oldest cars in the museum are a Benz Viktoria (1893) & an NW Präsident (1898), the first car produced in Austria-Hungary, along with an NW Rennzweier (1900), a racing car. Other notable cars are President Masaryk’s Tatra 80 landaulet (1935), a Jawa 750 sports car (1935), which was specially built for the 1,600-km rally Tisíc mil československých, a Mercedes-Benz W154 racing car (1938), and a streamlined Tatra 87 (1947), with a rear-mounted air-cooled V8 engine, three headlights & an iconic dorsal fin. The highlight among the steam locomotives is an Austro-Hungarian Class 310, a powerful six-coupled express locomotive with a four-cylinder, superheated compound engine, built in Prague in 1911. Apart from the transportation exhibition, the household appliances will be of great interest to anyone running a household, and typographers such as myself will love the printing presses. Visiting the entire museum takes two to three days at least.ntm.cz