There are some oddball museums out there — The SPAM Museum, Lawnmower Museum, The Dan Quayle Museum — and you always have to wonder: who’s going to visit that? Well, if it’s odd AND free, I’m in!
On our way back to Vienna from Prague, we decided to swing through Kutna Hora, a town about an hour south-southeast of Prague and not too far out of the way. We had just a few hours to make our train connections, so it would be commando travel: get in, get the photos, get out. Synchronize your watches! On my mark… hack!
We were traveling light and hopped off the train at Kutna Hora station and started speed-walking the 1.5 km to the Bone Church (you simply must follow my link there – the place is as macabre and fascinating as they come!) There is bag storage at Kutna Hora station, but we couldn’t be bothered. The mission was critical, every minute counted.
A couple with a Rick Steves’ Prague and the Czech Republic, a paper guidebook (gasp!) knew enough to take the next local train to the next station in town and get out there for a shorter stroll to the church. Argh! Surely no one without an internet travel website and smart phone could find out such a useful travel tip using PAPER! The horror!
So they beat us there without breaking a sweat. I’ll be putting that tip in my Kutna Hora post on The Mad Traveler, so take that Rick Steves, and put THAT in your carefully researched guidebook. Oh. Right.
We shot way too many photos of skulls and other assorted bones, and then got out, leaving no man behind, and headed for the train station. No time for a UNESCO church — too far across town and without direct local transportation — but what the heck, skeleton chandeliers are cooler anyway.
(Plus I already saw the church in 1999 :P)
But on the way back I had to stop and check my vision. What’s that on the building attached to the local cathedral. Does that say… Philip Morris??? Sure enough. The Philip Morris Tobacco Museum, a museum (and a factory beyond the courtyard) dedicated to cigarettes. What sort of unholy shenanigans was the Church up to here?
None, actually. Back in 1142, the complex I was looking at was established as the Sedlec Monastery (of the Cistercian Order), and funded by local silver mining. But when tobacco came back from the New World, it caught on quick in the region. Then in 1783, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, of the Habsburgs and based out of Vienna, decreed that tobacco was under state control: its production and, of course, its profits. In 1812 the monastery was shut down, also by state decree, and the producers of tobacco products over in Prague moved in and took over. So the monastery there today was once a factory too. But the building was restored in 1995 so now we can see it in its former glory as the beautiful… um, offices for Philip Morris.
Well, whatever. It looks nice there attached to the church. Philip Morris contracted with the then state-owned factory in 1987 to make Marlboro cigarettes in Czechoslovakia — two years before the Velvet Revolution of 1989, when the country came out from behind the Iron Curtain. When things went private, Philip Morris bought up the place.
The Philip Morris Tobacco Museum is small and contains information on the origins of tobacco and its production, but also a bit of interesting history about the area through the lens of tobacco production history. Take note: Visitors must be at least 18 years old. If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, I’d say it’s worth it for history buffs. And after all, it is odd AND free!
Philip Morris Tobacco Museum
Open April-October Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm
(+420) 327-509-126 or 327-509-111