When the walls had ears

Hotel Jalta, Prague

Between 1959 and 1989, the luxurious Jalta Hotel on Prague’s Wencelas Square literally sat on a secret. Even employees of the hotel were unaware that 20 metres under the building an underground bunker served as a communist listening post, spying on the hotel’s VIP visitors 24/7.

Innocent looking objects like clothes brushes in the guest rooms were bugged to pick up conversations and guests’ telephone calls were constantly monitored at a listening post in the bunker.

The hotel was built in 1945 on the site of a bomb crater, making it possible to include a fallout shelter – and spying facility –   in the plans without attracting attention. Designed to serve as headquarters in the event of a third World War, there was room and provisions for 120 officials and 30 support staff.

In December 2013 the hotel turned its underground bunker into a museum and opened it to the public.  The rooms have been refurnished and equipped as they were with gas masks, beds, a doctor’s examining room — and the listening post..

Tours are given in Czech, texts in English are available. There is an admission charge but hotel guests visit free.