Zizkov Tunnel Connecting Karlin also Fallout Shelter
Zizkov tunnel connects Karlin to Zizkov, two districts in Prague situated on either side of Vitkov Hill. The tunnel is 303 meters long and pedestrians and cyclists only. It is the fastest way to get from one neighbourhood to the other. The entrance looks quite obscure. Large reassuring letters on the Karlin side read: neboj, don’t worry. The tunnel makes a bend so that when you reach the middle you cannot see where you came from or where you are going as the entrance and exit are concealed. However, no need to be afraid: the tunnel is completely safe for walking.
Zizkov Tunnel and Gold Diggers
The Communist regime funded the tunnel. The aim was not only to create a fast connection between the Zizkov and Karlin districts, but also to take samples of the rock. As it was thought that a vein of gold ran through the entire Czech Republic. There were rumours that a detailed map existed, showing different gold concentrations across Czechoslovakia. Neither the map nor the gold were ever found. The search for gold continued until the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Zizkov Tunnel or Karlin Tunnel?
The tunnel’s name was a bone of contention. The residents of Karlin called it ‘the Karlin tunnel’, and the others swore by ‘Zizkov tunnel’. The solution didn’t come until 2014, when the official name became Zizkov Tunnel. If you want to walk through the tunnel, start at the Zizkov end because you will walk downhill which is less tiring.
Fallout Shelter, Emergency Hospital and Morgue
The tunnel is not only a shortcut between two neighbourhoods it is also a fallout shelter, emergency hospital, morgue and laboratory.
One of the doors inside the tunnel leads to a nuclear fallout shelter built into the rock. The supply of food, electricity and air was sufficient so that 1.250 people could survive for 72 hours. This shelter was kept in a state of readiness until 1990.
Another room could immediately be converted into an emergency hospital with beds, blankets, water, food and medicines. This space has never been used but is still maintained and can be put into use at once when disaster strikes.
A third room closed off by steel doors was a morgue but now contains a laboratory with an orbital electron accelerator which is used to determine isotope ratios. It is managed by the Czech Nuclear Research Institute. Four scientists work in this lab. The dense rocks of Vitkov Hill make it an ideal place where the high energy output and radiation of the particle accelerator can be safely handled.