It was cold. Damp. Musty. The air had a unique odor to it, familiar yet still slightly repungent. For most people, visiting a former waste water treatment plant isn't their idea of a vacation, but here we found ourselves, in the dark, walking through what used to be Prague's main facility for processing waste. Gross? A little. But, for two engineers who love industrial history, this was a pretty cool place to see. And since it's not in use any more, it smells quite a bit more pleasant than it's modern, still in use, counterparts. But still, that odor, it lingers.
When looking for things to do in Prague that extended beyond the Castle or St. Charles' Bridge, we found a couple of options. Ironically, both of them happened to be underground. One was the bunker tour we took and the other was a tour of an old waste water treatment plant in Prague. Getting there was half the adventure though! Located quite a ways outside of the main city, we took a tram most of the way and walked the rest (travel tip: use Here Maps for offline, turn-by-turn navigation in a foreign city!). We got to see the places where Prague residents really live, the parks they take their kids to, and where they spend their free time. The walk there was quiet and relaxing, but the unseasonable warm spell meant it did get a little hot. Which is exactly why it was nice to go underground and cool off for a bit!
The website for the plant tour is a little lacking in information for English speakers. No set tour times are listed so we just showed up, hoping that we could get a tour. Thankfully, they were starting a tour when we got there and they graciously waited while I got Evelyn out of her stroller and into her carrier on my chest. This place is not stroller friendly in the least, but, once again, our soft structured carrier came in handy. Since the tour was given in Czech, we each got a laminated guide with all the information in English. While we were led from room to room, we were able to read the same stuff in English the guide was saying in Czech.
Suprisingly, this is the oldest waste water treatment plant of its kind still standing in Europe. It really is an architectural masterpiece, from the complex masonry found throughout to the little details that signify the pride the craftsmen had in their profession. The tour begins in the sludge rooms where the waste water first entered the plant. It then continues through to where large debris such as branches, cats(!) and, sadly, the occasional baby (which I sincerely hope is just a myth) was filtered out before passing through to smaller sedimentation tanks. The crowning jewel of the plant is it's giant steam engine. It still functions and if you rent out the space for a special occasion, they'll even fire it up for you!
The tour finishes up in the underground settling tanks. The warm temperatures outside made going underground a welcome relief. It's eerie to be standing at the end of one of the long tanks and see most of it shrouded with shadows from the poor lighting. It's easy to let your mind wander and imagine all the monsters that could be hiding. So be careful to not let it do that ;) And if you're interested, you can even take a raft down one of the tanks or repel down the output chimney! I would suggest contacting the operators ahead of your visit if this is something that interests you.
The tour lasted about a hour and a half and cost 180 Czech crown, which is roughly $7 depending on the exchange rate. Check out this website for more information.