Karel Gott is by far the most successful Czech singer. He has won the Golden Nightingale, a prestigious annual music award, 31 times and is, at 67, a living legend. And he is the very first Czech living legend to have his own museum - Gottland.
The museum is situated in the singer's former house in Jevany, a picturesque village half an hour's drive from Prague. The house was built in 1927 and became the property of Karel Gott's family in the late seventies. The singer then sold the house, before buying it back a few years later. He sold it for the second time after ten years. That was just a year ago. The new owner Jan Motovsky soon realized that he hadn't just bought a beautiful house - his property was also a witness of the legend's life. He came up with the idea of Gottland and approached the singer to participate in the project. Vlastimil Korec, the museum's spokesperson, describes Gott's reactions.
"His first reactions were very negative. 'Oh my God you are joking. I am not a narcissistic person who would want to build his own museum' said the Maestro. Jan Motovsky then very slowly persuaded him that it had nothing to do with being narcissistic, that it would just reflect his life and success, his achievements, his albums. Karel Gott dropped all of his arguments and agreed to co-operate."
His approval gave the rare idea credibility. The singer provided his own furniture. It now belongs to the exhibition and provides pleasure to many fans, who mainly come from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. Vlastimil Korec says:
"Interest has been very high. We didn't expect it to be so big. Daily there are several busloads of tourists. That is more than good, although many thought it was a very crazy idea. There is not a living person who has a museum. It is a unique thing here, contrary to the USA where even small stars have their own museum. They exhibit guitars they used to play on, or their shoes. Why couldn't we have something similar here in the Czech Republic? Karel Gott is a figure of huge importance. It is just natural."
Fans who visit Gottland get to learn a lot about their idol. Some of them may even have waited outside the house as fans, hoping to glimpse their idol, during the communist era.
"I have only met visitors that were satisfied. They visited the maestro's house, and had the chance to sit on the sofa where he used to sit. After they walk through the house where he used to live they enter the hall of fame, which has unique exhibits such as gold and platinum LPs, the covers of all the LPs he has ever released as well the Golden Nightingale awards. There is no other option that to feel admiration and amazement. "
One of the older fans I spoke to in the house proved Vlastimil Korec right. This lady was very satisfied.
But her granddaughter wasn't so enthusiastic.
"It is just a coincidence that I am here. It is also a birthday present. We came just to accompany our grandmother. I don't listen to this kind of music. I am too young for it. On the other hand it is interesting, that a person who is still alive has his own museum. Why not visit it?'
Tourists are welcomed by a sound from speakers in the entrance hall of the house. Together with a guide it tells you that the singer likes playing chess - if you feel like it you can even sit down and have a closer look at his own chess set.
The singer's bedroom is in a masculine style, as you might expect of Karel Gott. It features a massive dark wooden bed, connected to a bathroom, which is in turn connected to a terrace with a beautiful view, which as the voice says must have a been a great inspiration.
As we move on I get scared as we walk into a study. In the middle stands Karel Gott. Not exactly - it is just a waxwork figure of the crooner. My heart beats a bit faster for a while. I am not a great fan myself, but a legend ...
The study feels the same as the living room. Elegant, stylish, simple. Contrary to the young granddaughter I had talked to, I do like it.
My second guide here describes the room and photographs of the singer's three daughters, Dominika, Lucie and Charlotta Ella, who is just a few months old. A picture of the youngest, painted by her father, a passionate painter, is to be seen in next room. Many nice messages from visitors encourages Karel Gott to have a fourth child, hopefully a son. 'Just like the father.' reads one of them.
Gottland spokesperson Vlastimil Korec:
"We went to look at the villa together with Karel Gott shortly before the opening. It looked mess and it was meant to be opened the next day. Everybody worked on the exhibition throughout the night, to the very last minutes before the opening. Karel Gott called me as he was about to set off from his house in Prague, just to make sure it was really going to happen as we had planned. When I reassured him that everything was going well, he asked 'Am I not going to be ashamed?' 'Don't worry you definitely won't be ashamed. We have managed to finish it all just on time.' I replied."
Gottland is now a brand name. T-shirts, caps, paintings, chocolate and even the singer's favorite cakes are all available. The name Gott sells.
Karel Gott pops in from time to time. He has a word with visitors, entertains them, signs photographs and moves on. He has released two hundred singles, nearly seventy albums and has sold tens of millions of albums. But is it enough to keep Gottland alive for longer than a few years? Vlastimil Korec:
"If I were a fortune teller and I could tell the future I would answer your question. I think that the museum is a record of his great and amazing life. It is not going to change, and therefore it is going to be interesting even for generations that will live in twenty, thirty years."