It's part of the childhood memories of generations of Prague citizens. For more than a century, the famous wooden merry-go-round on Letna Hill has both thrilled and scared tens of thousands of children with its grinning, almost life-size horses. With eleven decades of non-stop operation the Letna merry-go-round is the oldest working carousel in Europe. It is now undergoing repairs to be soon restored to its original glory.
The shiny new roller shutters were the very first step in the renovation of the historic merry-go-round. Behind them the menagerie on a wooden turntable consists of twenty rather shabby-looking horses and four battered cars that were added in the 1930s.
"The horses are partly carved from wood and partly stuffed. They are not painted ponies but they are covered in real horse leather and they have real saddles. They are quite big, as big as the real horses whose hide was used."
Karel Ksandr of the National Technical Museum which recently bought the merry-go-round from its previous owner. The carousel stands on the edge of a park just across the street from the museum which hopes to finish the repairs by 2008 and re-open it in time for the museum's centenary.
When the carousel was first made in 1892 it entertained both children and adults in the district of Vinohrady and someone had to push it to make it turn around. An electric engine was built in two years later when the merry-go-round moved to Letna, at that time a favourite spot for Sunday family walks.
"In Letna the merry-go-round was in operation from July 1894 and stopped in November last year when our museum started with the conservation works. Unbelievably it had worked for 111.5 years altogether. Even the famous merry-go-round in Paris at the foot of the staircase to Montmartre is four years younger than the one in Letna."
The National Technical Museum needs to collect 6.5 million crowns to complete the renovation. It has already raised enough for the facelift of one of the horses and it is hoping to collect enough money for another one at next week's fundraising concert.
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