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Prague is a city with an abundance of statues. Some are symbolic, some are contemporary or abstract and some even date back to the communist era but some are simply odd and leave you thinking…what on earth?! I don’t normally pay too much attention to my surroundings when I walk around the city. I’ve been living here almost two years, so unless something is strangely large and unfamiliar I tend not to take too much notice while I walk around on my daily errands. However, there are a number of statues dotted around the city that are incredibly hard not to notice!
Quite a number of the strange statues on my list are created by the famous Czech sculptor called David Cerny. While some people adore his work, others simply hate it. I am a person in-between. Some of his work is a little too strange and provocative for my liking…but none the less definitely worth seeing!
1. The Big Ass Silver Pregnant Lady
Really not sure what other description I could give it! This rather large stainless steel sculpture currently resides just a few meters from my apartment meaning I have to walk past it on an almost daily basis. At a height of six meters, this rather bizarre work of art is a kneeling down pregnant woman. Named UnUtero, the woman has a hollow inside in which members of the public are free to climb inside to experience what it may be like to be “inside a womb”. I often sit at the restaurant right next to it and hear tourists talking about it. Some think it’s grotesque, some people love it…and others..well some do in fact climb inside however I have seen my fair share of young lads climbing all over it…groping it and even hanging from inside it re-enacting birth….yes really!
(Update 2017 – This statue is no longer in Prague).
2. Giant Alien Bronze Babies
Located in the beautiful Kampa Park, these giant babies sure do stand out. Guarding the entrance to Kampa museum these three babies are incredibly creepy. The crawling rug rats can also be seen on the Zizkov TV Tower in Prague 3. Standing out from the picturesque skyline of the city, the babies are scaling the sides of the television tower, a symbol of the communist era, unable to reach adulthood, their growth stifled by this landmark of totalitarian rule. A night the tower lights up in the colors of the Czech flag, making it (in my opinion) even more freaky with the smushed mechanical faces of the lower babies look like devils in the red light.
3. Creepy Looking Cloaked Man
The first time I walked past this statue it didn’t even occur to me that it was, in fact, a statue. I think my mind was so used to seeing poor homeless people on the streets that I just passed it without a second glimpse. However, the second time I walked past I noticed a large group of tourists huddled around it taking pictures. Created by Czech-born, Austrian-raised artist Anna Chromy the spooky statue with a hollow inside sits outside the Estates Theater, where W.A. Mozart conducted the 1787 premiere of his opera Don Giovanni. Local legend says that if you take a picture of it with a flash, an image of a face appears in the photo despite there being no facial features of any kind on the statue….freaky!
4. The Broken Men
Located on Újezd street at the foot of Petřín Hill, one can find a monument by sculptor Olbram Zoubek. Most tourists that walk past this simply end up taking candid pictures of various poses next to the men…completely unaware of the deep meaning of the monument. Unveiled in 2002, this monument is, in fact, a Memorial to the Victims of Communism. It shows seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues appear more “decayed” the further away they are from you – losing limbs and their bodies breaking open. It symbolizes how political prisoners were affected by Communism. There is also a bronze strip that runs along the center of the memorial, showing estimated numbers of those impacted by communism:
170,938 forced into exile
4,500 died in prison
327 shot trying to escape
The bronze plaque nearby reads:
“The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism”.
4. Franz Kafka Statue
Located next to the Spanish Synagogue in the Jewish quarter, this interesting metal statue by sculptor Jaroslav Rona is one of the most peculiar ones I see often. Apparently, the statue is based on a vivid description that appears in Franz Kafka’s early short story “Description of a Struggle.” Kafka wrote of a young man riding on another man’s shoulders through the streets of Prague. In Rona’s work, that figure is Kafka himself sitting astride a headless man.
I’m being serious when I say that “Piss” is the actual name of this bizarre sculpture, another of David Cerny’s masterpieces that can be found in Malá Straná, on the small plaza at Cihelná 2b where the Kafka Museum is situated. While most simply observe the unusual fountain as two men peeing, very few actually notice the bronze shape of the basin below. If you look carefully you’ll actually see its the shape of the Czech Republic, so the men appear to be urinating into the country. Controversial or just amazing?
What’s also cool is visitors can interrupt them peeing by sending SMS message from mobile phone to a number, displayed next to the sculptures. The living statue then moves and ‘writes’ the text of the message, before carrying on as before. Cool huh?!
6. The Hanging Man
I must admit when I first saw this statue it alarmed me a little. Stopping in my tracks I tried to focus my eyes on whether it was a statue or a suicidal. And I’m not the only one! Apparently while exhibited in Chicago bystanders were convinced it was also a person attempting suicide and called the fire-brigade to the bronze man’s aid! Oops! Another of David Cerny’s statues this one portrays a 220-centimeter Sigmund Freud hanging by one hand onto a roof. Many people say he is hanging by one hand perhaps hinting at the man’s hopelessness and powerlessness in the modern world or on the other hand, highlighting the possibility of the man saving his life by pulling himself back onto the roof. You can find him at Husova Street between The Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.
Have you seen any strange statues in your city? Or have you seen the above statues in Prague? What did you think the first time you saw them? Would love to know your thoughts!