When Czech travel agency owner Petr Krč was in the basement of a mountain hotel in Slovakia, he stumbled upon box after box of flags, linens, cutlery and glasses, all emblazoned with the “Revolutionary Trade Union Movement” logo. That’s when his capitalist instincts took over and he realized that communist relics from a half century ago were a modern-day “goldmine.” So two decades after communism fell in the former Czechoslovakia, Krč has gone to great lengths to recreate the typical “workers’ holidays” of the 1950s.
The blast into the Communist past is quite a trip. It all begins at the Hotel Morava in Slovakia’s Tatra mountains, about 600 km from Prague and 400 km from Bratislava. The Morava, where Krč found the basement full of relics, is pretty gloomy in itself, with walls full of Lenin pictures and many other signs that things are just like they were in the 1950s. If that wasn’t enough fun, everybody gets a 7 a.m. wakeup call and must participate in group exercises on the hotel’s lawn. A 1950s-era train with Soviet flags and more Lenin pictures chugs vacationers a few towns over for a recreated May Day parade.
According to Radio Prague’s Rob Cameron, the rooms at the Morava are “gloomy and claustrophobic,” and there’s “a weird smell in the bathroom.” And yet a few hundred people have already made reservations at the hotel for this year.
The mood regarding former strict Soviet rule in the country seems to be mostly relief over its abolition, mixed with a bit of genuine nostalgia. Vladimír Polák got dressed in the light blue uniform of the Communist Union of Youth to wait for the May Day train, but he stressed that “it’s just a bit of a laugh.”
“It’s about reliving your memories – in my case memories of having to stand on the pavement as a kid and wave a red flag on May Day,” Polák said. “We’re just having a bit of fun.”
Marie Kindermannová, a woman in her fifties sporting a bright red scarf, explained the fun:
I think all normal people were greatly relieved when Communism collapsed in 1989. I wouldn’t call it “nostalgia” – we’re poking fun at it, that’s all. And I think that’s a good thing.
At least one retired electrician, however, genuinely seemed to miss the workers’ holiday experience of his youth:
It’s a mistake that we didn’t keep the good things from the old regime – everything was just lumped together as “communism” and chucked out. But it wasn’t all bad was it? – the trade union holidays certainly weren’t.
Maybe you had to be there.