Prague uncovered: A British travelogue shows the city in spring 1968

Prague can be seen in beautiful color in the spring of 1968, with actress Olinka Bérová as a guide

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.04.2020 10:25:00 (updated on 10.08.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague in and around April 1968 can be seen in the British Pathé travelogue called Prague – the Sad City, which was filmed before the Soviet-led invasion but released after, with rather somber narration that undercuts the mostly happy scenes in color. The film was seen in UK and other movie theaters before the main feature.

People can be seen in jackets enjoying the spring weather during Prague Spring, which roughly started with the inauguration of Alexander Dubček as first secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia January 5, 1968, and lasted until tanks came in on August 21.

Shops on Wenceslas Square seem full of food, including eggs stuffed with caviar, and well-dressed children eat sausages on the street. Now touristy places such as Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and the banks of the Vltava seem almost devoid of people and cars, though the classic T3 trams are in evidence.

The scenes then move to Karlštejn castle and Konopiště, while the narrator recounts some history and the music turns ominous. A trio of women can the be seen hiking in Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj) as the narrator talks of the bitter cup of disappointment that has befallen Czech generations in the past.

prague sad city
A young man eats a snack on Wenceslas Square / via Youtube

The film shifts gears, and introduces then- 25-year-old film star Olinka Bérová (aka Olga Schoberová), known for her roles in Czech comedies such as Lemonade Joe (Limonádový Joe aneb Koňská opera) and Who Wants to Kill Jessie? (Kdo chce zabít Jessii?), as well as internationally produced Westerns and spy films.

In 1968 she appeared in the British fantasy film Vengeance of the She and the Italian film Lucrezia, where she starred as Lucrezia Borgia. She only made a few sporadic film and TV appearances after 1970, staying out of the public eye ever since, preferring privacy to the fame she once had.

Olinka Bérová
Olinka Bérová at the Astronomical Clock / via Youtube

She can be seen wandering a garden, rowing on the pond in the Wallenstein Garden, and walking around Kampa Island, crossing Charles Bridge, watching the figures rotate on the Astronomical Clock, strolling the courtyard of the Loreto, and touring Prague Castle.

“As Olinka was keen to point out in the spring, time, despite the fears of some, was definitely on the side of those who hoped for change,” the narrator recounts as she points to the Astronomical Clock.

A second reel of outtakes, without sound, has more shots of tourist attractions and Olinka Bérová. Viewers can imagine the sort of innocuous travel film the filmmakers intended to produce, before events intervened to make that rather outdated.

And for fans of Olinka Bérová, there is some black-and-white silent footage of her in Prague sometime in 1968. She can be seen doing her makeup; getting dressed; answering fan mail; shopping for vegetables; discussing fashion; going to a pub for a Kozel dark beer;  changing a tire on a Fiat 850 Coupe with her sister, actress Eva Schoberová; and then driving to a western-genre film set for a photo shoot.

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