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The City of Prague Museum

Vanished Podskalí – rafts and boats on the Vltava

Vanished Podskalí – rafts and boats on the Vltava

Podskalí Custom House at Výtoň

from 8. 6. 2016

The exhibition in the Podskalí Custom House, a unique 16th century Renaissance building with a log cabin style first floor, will present the original purpose of the structure – to collect the toll on timber floated to Prague. In the Middle Ages, the toll was collected in the form of “cuts” where a certain number of beams were cut off from the rafts; later money was collected by the New Town of Prague which is commemorated by the stuccoed New Town coat of arms above the custom house entrance.

The Podskalí Custom House is the last reminder of the old Podskalí settlement situated on the Vltava riverbank that has changed beyond recognition. In the late 19th and early 20th century, its houses, typical board fences, and raft ports were replaced with a modern housing development. Fortunately, the lives of raftsmen, timber merchants, sand miners, ice diggers and other “people of the river” have survived in many photographs, drawings, and tools used by the Podskalí artisans that will be on display.

The exhibition will also feature the changes in transportation on the Vltava near Prague – visitors will be able to see the traditional timber rafting and the development of ship transportation in historical pictures and through the modern technology presentation. Furthermore, they can also try out a mechanic and electronic simulator to raft through the legendary St John’s Rapids which raftsmen had to overcome for centuries when floating timber to Prague. After the successful “rafting” down the rapids, the visitors can try to connect the raft to a steam tugboat and go through a sluice or even a lock chamber.

Models of ships and rafts will be displayed to give an idea of what the Vltava vessels looked like which is traditionally a great learning and hand-on experience tool for the groups of visiting children.
The goal of the permanent exhibition is to attract not only adults but also children – interactive features and children’s play area with navigation and timber-rafting elements in front of the museum building are believed to attract the youngest visitors repeatedly.

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