When was the last time your senses deceived you? Now you have the chance to put them all to the test in the newly-opened Museum of Senses In Prague. The museum is a playful world where nothing around you is what it seems. I went along to see the attractions and was given a guided tour by Primož Kolarič who began by telling me how the idea to open such a museum arose.
“Our firm has three owners from Slovenia and Croatia, all young men who have seven children altogether, so they travel a lot and go to a great many amusement parks. And they got the idea to open something interesting for children, but also for adults, something where people can have fun and test their senses. We put together this concept and launched it in Prague. Why Prague? Prague has a lot of tourists and also locals willing to spend time and money on entertainment.”
Is there something similar to this abroad?
“A combination of all these things, yes, but nothing exactly like this. Some of the exhibits are solely ours, you will not find anything like them abroad. So let me show you some of them now. This is a maze in which you feel lost and disoriented. And that leads us to the Jungle Room.”
We are in complete darkness here…
“Yes, the only light is from this levitating water. And there is a specific smell, the smell of the jungle, a mix of earth and water. From there we go to the next room which creates the atmosphere of a backstreet. There are lights creating shapes and a bad smell, the smell of a sewer. It is very evocative. Then we move onto a room where you appear to be standing at a great height, balancing at the top of a skyscraper and you have to walk along this rope.”
A tightrope – you are walking a tightrope between skyscrapers!
“Yes, and you get the impression that you are just about to fall.”
Who came up with these ideas?
“It was students at a faculty in Slovenia, who are helping us. Not with this idea in particular, but many of the ones you see here are theirs. Students have so many ideas, but they do not have the money to realize them.”
And here we come to a sign reading “Reality is merely an illusion – Albert Einstein”.
“Yes, this is the Albert Einstein room. On this wall there are nine Albert Einsteins and when you look into their eyes from any position in the room it seems that the eyes are always following you.”
“So that was the Dark Tunnel Zone and now we come to the Desert, where the carpet creates the impression of sand. On the walls you see a number of stereograms – pictures in which you look for 3D images hidden within the original picture. You must look hard to find them.”
“The next artefact, one we are really proud of, is the bed of nails. You lie on the bed, make yourself comfortable and push the button. Like this. And the nails come up.”
Oh, my God! How are you feeling?
“Perfect. Try it for yourself and you will see. We had this bed specially made by a firm in Slovenia. It has approximately 3,000 nails.”
So, as opposed to one nail, 3,000 nails are comfortable. What is this object?
“That is a wishing well. It will make your wish come true, but you must drop a coin.”
“This Friday. (laughs) Here you see our Fata Morgana, a mirage. If you look at it, it seems that the object is on the outside, but when you try to grab it, you can’t, because there is nothing there.”
It is very interactive this exhibition, isn’t it?
“Yes, it certainly is. And here the Desert section ends with A Head on the Platter. You have to go round to the other side and pop your head in the hole there. And if you are with someone they can take a picture from where we are now standing.”
Yes, I saw some of those pictures, they are grotesque!
“Yes, they are. Our young visitors love this because they can get a photo of their head on a platter to send to friends. And here you have a system of mirrors which we call Swap Faces. If you stand here and I stand on the other side it will create a face that is half mine and half yours. Also very good for taking pictures. And now from the Desert, we go to the Park. And this is our Inclined Room.”
Yes, and I feel drunk here already. How do you create that effect?
“All the angles here are 90 degrees. Children love this room. The second room in the Park area is a disco. You have disco lights and music and mirrors so when you close the door you get a very real impression of being at the disco and you see yourself all round.”
“And the most scary part of the museum is this –we call it the Vortex Tunnel. It is a sort of cylinder with flashing lights going round and round and a bridge you must cross. People go crazy here they scream, they dance – it is a powerful experience -you lose your sense of balance here and feel disoriented.”
“And here we have two rooms in which people love to take pictures. One is an upside down bathroom. When you walk in, you appear to be standing on the ceiling. But there are many poses that will give you memorable pics, like if you stand below the toilet and pretend to be taking a dive into the loo or taking a shower upside down. And then there is the other room where people appear to be of a different height depending on which corner they stand. See now I am a giant and you are a midget and if we change places it is the other way round.”
Children must really love this. Do you have a lot of children’s parties here?
“We are just starting. We opened two weeks ago. We are now in 208th place on a list of popular things to do in Prague and we started out at 750, so in just two weeks we have shot up. I think it is because we are different. It is more interactive, it is fun, I love it.”
I love it too. What do children like best here?
“Practically everything. They take a lot of pictures. This is very important now, because everywhere we go we take a lot of selfies. And here you can take great pictures to send to friends. And the Vortex Tunnel is great for making short videos.”
So it is not just the experience of testing their senses here – they get a souvenir in the form of funny pics or a video…
“Yes, people love to put these pictures on the social media. On Facebook we have got over a thousand likes in two weeks, so I think we are on the way to getting among the top 30 things that tourists like to do in Prague. And it is because we are different – you have the Sex Museum, the Museum of Communism, the Mucha Museum, you have many different attractions, but there is nothing quite like us.