The secret bunker under the hotel in Prague opens to the public
PRAGUE — One thing was sure when foreigners stayed in a prestigious Cold War-era Prague hotel — their phone conversations were carefully monitored by secret police in an underground bunker hidden some 20 meters below the building.
The Jalta Hotel on Wencaslas Square in the heart of the Czech capital was built in 1958. Its massive bunker with its reinforced concrete walls was intended to provide Communist Party members and military officials with shelter in the event of a nuclear attack .
But it was also used as a surveillance operations center targeting Western visitors staying in one of Prague’s many international hotels at the time.
To mark its 55th anniversary, the 5,382 square foot bunker has since been turned into a museum. It opened to the public recently.
Sandra Zouzalova, Jalta’s public relations manager, said Wednesday that the hotel wanted to shine a light on the many secret Cold War-era activities.
Jalta was one of many places used by foreign diplomats where the communists gathered intelligence. One of the main targets was the West German business representative office in the 1970s, she said.
“They were listening to all the hotel rooms,” Zouzalova said.
Inside the bunker are some of the original amenities, including a switchboard, tape recorder, and many of the cables that once led to the hotel’s 94 rooms.
A floor plan is also on display, showing some rooms painted red, green and yellow.
Zuzalova said the red chambers were assigned to high-value targets.
She said the operation didn’t just cover phone calls.
Listening devices were attached to lint brushes and prostitutes were often used.
The shelter, which had walls two meters (6.6 feet) thick, had its own ventilation system and a huge water tank that would allow more than 150 people to survive for months.
The place was shrouded in secrecy until 1998, when the Czech authorities gave up the space for use. It was nine years after the 1989 Velvet Revolution that brought an end to communist rule.
The bunker is open two days a week and customers can visit it by prior reservation.