Marion Hume | October 12th, 2012
Photos by Petr Novy
We do love an obscure museum, especially one that is hard to reach yet delivers all it promises. It is unlikely you will be just passing through Jablonec nad Nisou, a small town about an hour and a half by car from Prague. However, if you love glass, you should make the trip.
In the past, there were a few things you needed to make glass; besides the know-how which was taken out of Venice and the island of Murano by illicit means (formulas tattooed under the hair of children and the like) basically, you needed to have plenty of water, particular sand and masses of firewood to heat the furnaces. This mountainous region of a landlocked country lacked sand, but had fast running rivers and trees a-plenty; hence it is the birthplace of the Bohemian glass.
Today, the towering chimneys of the glass furnaces are cold - any glassmaking still happening here is powered by gas not wood, but this museum celebrates both times past and the future. In the past, there was the Jablonec button, of glass and famed around the world until plastic imitations, and zips, rendered it almost redundant. Yet existing still is the glass of Preciosa Ornela, whose beads are traded around the globe from the Maasai of Kenya to Central America, the latter where intricate funeral wreaths are still made out of thousands of glass beads. On display, a bangle tree of glass bracelets once shipped to all over India from this little region up a mountain where it snows from October to April. Put on the to-do list next time you are visiting the Czech Republic, but be warned, the best public transport access from Prague is by bus. If visiting in the snow, you could be lucky; the annual exhibition of glass Christmas decorations, for which I was too early, apparently draws in people from far and wide.
Museum of Glass & Jewellery, U Muzea 398/4, 466 01 Jablonec nad Nisou. +420 483 369 011; www.msb-jablonec.cz