Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

In early June last year, I had the opportunity to visit Prague and Franz Kafka Museum. Visiting Prague was something I have been wanting to do for a very long time. And I absolutely loved it! We rented an apartment in a building which dates back to 13th century, located in the heart of Old Town Square and only 100 metres away from Astronomical Clock.

Franz Kafka Museum PraguePrague is full of history, art and Franz Kafka. Our apartment was right opposite House at the Minute (see photo above), a historic home from the 1400s where Kafka and his family lived from 1889 to 1896. Kafka’s three younger sisters Gabriele (Elli), Valerie (Valli) and Ottilie (Ottla) were born there.  From this house, as a child, he walked to the elementary school, accompanied by their family cook. House at the Minute is an interesting looking building with its façade displaying many Italian renaissance-style sgraffito frescoes. Today, there is an Italian restaurant on the ground floor called Ristorante Italiano A Minuto where we had one of the best Italian dinners alongside to a stunning red wine.

Franz Kafka Museum PragueOn the opposite corner of the Old Town Square, there is Kafka Café (see photo above) under a large building located on the corner of Kaprova Street and Maiselova Street. This is where Franz Kafka was born. He and his family lived there until 1885.

Franz Kafka Museum Prague

Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

I saw the sign of Franz Kafka Museum from St Charles Bridge and immediately wanted to go and visit. It’s located on the other side of Vltava River, an area called Malá Strana (Lesser Town). When we got there, a weird looking old woman with a slipping make-up greeted us. It looked like her face was trying to catch up with the make-up and failing miserably. Even though, we told her that we were from Australia, she carried on talking to us in Czech. Still, we miraculously understood that we had to go back to the gift shop to buy our tickets for the museum.

It was dark inside. I didn’t know what to expect from the museum but when I stood in front of the first page of Kafka’s letter to his father, the one starting with “Dearest Father, You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you.” I felt an immediate connection with this remarkable author although I hadn’t read any of his books before I visited Franz Kafka Museum.

The exhibition consists of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. Existential Space is all about how Prague shaped Kafka. His diaries, letters to family members, lovers, friends and editors are all part of this section. Imaginary Topography, on the other hand, is all about how Kafka recreated this imaginary Prague in his books.

Franz Kafka Museum Prague

On November 1, 1907, Franz Kafka was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali –an Italian insurance company where he worked for nearly a year. His correspondence, during that period, witnesses that he was unhappy with his working time schedule which made it extremely difficult for him to concentrate on his writing but at the same time he felt more like a sketch artist than a writer. In a letter to Felice Bauer he wrote: “I was, in another time, a great sketch artist, but I learned to draw in a scholastic system, under the direction of a mediocre woman painter, causing the loss of all of my talent.” Today, some fifty small sketches and illustrations remain and some of them are on display at the museum.

As a tribute by Franz Kafka Museum, Kafka’s drawings were used to produce and animation called The K Animation. It represents the daily descent of Kafka’s soul into the abyss of the blank page. You can watch a part of it here.

Museum shops are my thing and I so wanted to buy one of Kafka’s books from the gift shop but they didn’t have anything in English. So I had to wait until I came home.

Pissing fountain just outside Franz Kafka Museum. Enjoy!

Visiting Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

the museum of innocence

Visiting Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul
During Gezi Park protests, a dear friend of mine sent me a photo of a police officer firing his gun at protesters, aiming right underneath the sign of Orhan Pamuk’s real life Museum of Innocence. It was a heartbreaking scene; my country, my police, my people and one of my favourite author’s museum sign.

When you see something like that, you immediately want to go back and do whatever you missed out during your last trip. However, Turkey is a bit like India —only in a smaller scale—that every region has its own cuisine, natural beauty, unique history and dialect. So, you can never see everything; there’s always something else, some place else to see and experience. I mean, I’m from Turkey but there is a lot even I haven’t seen yet. Well, The Museum of Innocence was one of those places.

Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk (above) at the Museum of Innocence. Copyright

Luckily, the situation calmed down back in Turkey and in the end, the very same dear friend of mine and her husband who took us there on a fine May afternoon in 2015. The plan for that night was to go to a wine house around Galata Tower (see photo below) to have dinner and catch up with friends. To be able to visit the museum on the very same day, we left early. So Artun drove us down to Kadıköy. After parking the car at a nearby parking building, we walked up to the pier to catch a ferry. The ferries are the normal form of transportation in Istanbul and that is the best way to travel from Asian side of Istanbul to European side —I believe Istanbul is the only city in the world that stretches across two continents. I guess we walked through a tunnel after that, caught a tiny carriage of a train which travels underground but still doesn’t qualify as tube or metro. Once we came out at the other side, we found ourselves on famous İstiklal Caddesi (İstiklal Avenue) in Beyoğlu.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower, Istanbul

Well, The Museum of Innocence may seem like just off İstiklal Caddesi, however, it takes some searching, climbing uphill and then go downhill and consulting local taxi drivers –twice actually but Alpay doesn’t want to talk about it—to find this incredibly out of sight place. But when maroon-painted, narrow townhouse (photo below) pokes its head out and you have your experience only then you realize that it is well worth it.

the museum of innocence

The Museum of Innocence Copyright

Although, the novel came out in 2008, I read in 2011—and of course, I read it in Turkish. I now own a Turkish copy of the novel which I bought from Turkey during one of my visits, an autographed American fist edition, and the museum catalogue called The Innocence of Objects, too. In the last chapter of the novel, this is what it says:

And let those who have read the book enjoy free admission to the museum when they visit for the first time. This is best accomplished by placing a ticket in every copy. The Museum of Innocence will have a special stamp, and when visitors present their copy of the book, the guard at the door will stamp this ticket before ushering them in.

So, I brought my autographed American first edition all the way from Sydney to Istanbul to be stamped at the museum which can be seen in the photo below along with Füsun’s earrings and my bookmark.

visiting Orhan Pamuk Museum Innocence

The Museum of Innocence opened its doors in 2012 and its exhibition is divided and presented in display cabinets—some of them are box-sized cabinets, by the way— which contain objects collected by Orhan Pamuk and Kemal Basmaci. Each cabinet —there are 83 chapters in the novel so there are 83 display cabinets at the museum—corresponds to a chapter in the novel with the same number and title. The way it is designed makes you feel like you’re rereading the novel. This time through real life objects.

masumiyet muzesi Istanbul

Spiral of Time Copyright

As you step inside the museum, you are greeted with a huge spiral pattern (see photo above) on the floor: Spiral of Time. Orhan Pamuk’s catalog of the Museum of Innocence, The Innocence of Objects explains the Spiral of Time as the time spiral that the novel develops; symbolizing Aristotelian ideas about time as a line that connects indivisible moments. Objects, like atoms, are carried through to the clocks exhibited in the central stairwell that comprise Box 54, “Time.” Each object in the museum, whether a salt-shaker or a cigarette butt, helps us remember the moments, converting time into space. The little booklet you explains it a bit further as: While the spiral represents time and the story itself, the golden dots represents moments in time, or the individual objects within the story. The ground floor of the museum also houses the biggest piece under its roof: Box no: 68 with 4213 cigarette buts (see photo below).

museum of innocence

Photo credit: Nihan Vural (Istanbul Travelogue)

On the first and the second floor, the story continues with the objects and wall movie installations. Limon’s cage can also be seen on the first floor. If you need to refresh your memory, there are copies of the novel in different languages and a few places to sit while you’re reading, too.

visiting Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence

Copyright

On the top floor, the story still continues through box numbers 80-83 this is the room where Kemal Basmacı lived from 2000 to 2007 while the construction of the museum carried out. On one wall, Orhan Pamuk’s preliminary sketches for the boxes and his manuscript of The Museum of Innocence are on display.

the museum of innocence

Kemal Basmacı’s room (above).

visiting Orhan Pamuk Museum InnocenceIn the basement, you can find museum shop and toilets. I love museum shops so I actually spend quite a bit of time in every museum I visit and pick up some really cool stuff. From this particular museum shop I bought a fridge magnet, a bookmark and Füsun’s earrings (see photo). Füsun’s earrings are designed and produced by Kıymet Daştan according to the description given by Orhan Pamuk himself. I haven’t worn mine yet but I’m looking forward to it. Next time, I’m thinking of getting some of the posters as well—not that I have enough wall space but I’ll work something out.

visiting Orhan Pamuk Museum Innocence

A snippet of a narrow road (above) on the way to the museum. I personally enjoyed reading some of the graffiti on the walls as a reminder of Gezi Park protests. If you decide to visit The Museum of Innocence, you might walk down this road yourself.

The Museum of Innocence can be found in this address below:

Çukurcuma Caddesi
Dalgıç Çıkmazı, 2
Beyoğlu, 34425
Turkey
Website