Panenka scarves II

Panenka scarves is one Canadian’s attempt to document his appreciation of the obvious and not-so-obvious experiences of a life in the Czech Republic. For previous Panenkas, click here.


I think I’ve got a pretty unique one today. So, without delay, today’s Czech thing is the Wednesday Czech Doomsday whistle.

What exactly is the Wednesday Czech Doomsday whistle, you ask? Well, on the first Wednesday of every month, at exactly twelve noon, the screeching sound of air raid horns blanket the country.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of living in a place that regularly tests their insanely loud and terrifying sirens (until I lived here, that was me), I’d recommend watching the video below. It was shot out my front window this afternoon:

And it pretty much goes on like that for a minute or two.

If you’ve been here long enough it’s no longer a frightening thing. The most serious reaction you may have is, “Oh yeah, I guess it is the first Wednesday of the month.” Or, you simply have to put your conversation on pause until it’s over.

Keep in mind, these sirens are a holdover from the Cold War era, installed to warn against imminent nuclear attack. Believe me when I say, no matter where you are in the city, you cannot escape the alarm. Your iPod could be cranked at full-blast and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference.

Now, imagine that you move to Prague a fresh-faced kid eager to drink beer and teach English, except no one bothers to tell you that this – I only know sounds like that from disaster movies! – horn is going to suddenly go off. It’s downright terrifying. Picture yourself walking down the street, humming along to your iPod, when all of a sudden you unexpectedly hear the doomsday whistle sound. If you’ve seen enough alien invasion movies, you might start to freak out a little bit … start praying for a second pair of pants and whatnot. Scarier still is the fact that no one on the street seems to be reacting at all to this apparent emergency.

It really is quite startling.

I’ve read that the alarms were actually sounded for real in 2002, when the Vltava River flooded a good portion of Prague. I can only hope that I don’t have to experience a similar wake-up call … Unless, of course, there was an actual alien invasion. Because, let’s face it, that would be pretty cool.

For a bit, anyway.

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