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Holy s**t, Prague’s historical toilet museum is incredible
You have to smell it to believe it.
People desperately wrapped themselves in a line around the building. They simply had to go, obeying a primal urge that has escalated with each passing moment. The museum took matters into its own hands that fateful Prague Museum Night, employing a hurdy-gurdy player to appease the masses with generic songs cranked out just before its entrance, perhaps as a distraction. Though the breathtaking exhibits of nearly fifty local museums were free and open to the public on this occasion, this unique, important, and unifying institution had drawn the biggest crowd by far.
This hyped-up haven is the Museum of Historic Chamber Pots and Toilets, dedicated not just to shit but the tools we use to help us shit. Its collection spans eons and nations: There’s the compelling story of Abraham Lincoln’s custom chamber pot, which literally united a town. Next to it is the rather generic story of Napoleon doing his business in a similarly grand chamber pot. Basically, they’re neighbors. It’s really weird.
I had a chance to make it into this scene after the crowds had been relieved, because a four-hour wait to see an excrement container just kind of seemed like bullshit. Still, the museum is a must-see for all bathroom humor enthusiasts, aka every human being with a pulse.
There’s a history to each toilet and chamber pot, of course. I picked up a laminated fixture guide just outside the actual bathroom and across from the ancient wooden basin that bore a warning not to take the Browns to the Super Bowl, though admittedly the relic harkened back to the last time the Browns were any good. Once you have that waterproof guide in your hands, you see you’re literally surrounded by bowel movement implements. They’re arranged by shape, style, and period in rows upon rows of porcelain and wood. They’re eyeing you like they want to start some shit.
The whole place got its start because of restorative shit, surprisingly. Owner Jan Sedláček was fixing up a fortress in which to live (as you do in the Czech Republic) and went so far as to restore the privies jutting out from his imposing home like goddamn sky toilets—which is exactly what they are. Privies allowed for bathrooms in a home before there was such a thing as plumbing, but you’re basically taking a dump on the side of your house. Somehow that experience was intriguing as hell to Sedláček and got him interested in the nitty gritty of all things shit. He started building a collection and moved it from his home at Třebotov fortress to a more central location to share his many findings with the world.
The Museum of Historic Chamber Pots and Toilets offers far more than those two things. There’s a smattering of bathroom humor-themed propaganda postcards on the wall—think Hitler drinking out of a chamber pot, assuming the Brits brought him tea—as well as a special room of Czech celebrity-decorated chamber pots with designs reflecting their creators, who naturally had their pictures snapped with their handiwork. Major shout-out to the dude who put the damn chamber pot on his head when being photographed. That certainly says a lot about a man.
Custom toilet paper, children’s chamber pots and training toilets, as well as a whole weird collection French chamber pots decorated with an evil eye to piss on, dot the multi-level museum. Apparently the French pots are traditionally for weddings, which is a thing I really want to reinstate, so apologies to every friend or family member of mine who’s getting married in the near future—your gift has already been decided.
Souvenirs sadly aren’t that plentiful, though. You can buy gift admission for the shit-lover in your life, stickers, and, um, little mirrors and magnets to show off your love of toilets on the least appropriate appliance in your home: the fridge. Anyway, you should totally go, because everyone loves laughing about shit, but few know the very real history of crap throughout the ages. Also, it smells like a combination between urinal cakes and hospital disinfectant. There’s nothing quite like it!
Photo via April Siese
A former Weekend Editor at the Daily Dot, April Siese's reporting covers everything from technology and politics to web culture and humor. Her work has been published by Bustle, Uproxx, Death and Taxes, Rolling Stone, the Daily Beast, Thrillist, Atlas Obscura, and others. Siese joined Quartz in December 2016.