Iconic Slavia cafe reopens three days after powerful blast

Café Slavia, photo: archive of Café Slavia

Prague’s iconic Café Slavia reopened this morning, as life in the area around the National Theatre slowly gets back to normal following Monday’s devastating gas explosion in Divadelní street. Police are still investigating the causes of the explosion, which left several dozen injured and caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings.

Divadelní street,  May 2,  2013,  photo: CTK
The trams are once again stopping at the stop ‘Národní Divadlo‘, and the doors of Prague’s historic Slavia coffeehouse are once again open – two signs that life in this most prestigious corner of the city is slowly returning to normal. Slavia’s manager says the damage caused to the café, a favourite of the late former president Václav Havel, has now been patched up, and the kitchen is now open – meaning Wienerschnitzel and potato salad is once again back on the menu.

Around the corner at the Zdeněk Sklenář Gallery, however, and things aren’t looking so promising. The gallery is located in the building that bore the brunt of the explosion, and the blast destroyed paintings worth millions. Owner Zdeněk Sklenář told Czech Television he was still removing paintings from the gallery and clearing up the mess but he was simply glad none of his employees was killed.

“Removing the paintings is an extremely demanding task, and even accessing the gallery is still very difficult. We’re moving out as much as we can, deciding what can be saved and what’s been destroyed. But I think what happened here was simply a miracle, because all the gallery’s employees were here at the time of the explosion, and a few seconds beforehand all of them for some reason were in a different room than usual – and this is what saved their lives.”

The Academy of Sciences,  April 30,  2013,  photo: CTK
Insurance companies estimate that the damage caused by the gas explosion at Divadelní street number 5 could exceed one hundred million crowns, over five million dollars. Notable institutions including the city’s film school FAMU, the Academy of Sciences, and the Social Sciences faculty of Charles University all suffered damage in the blast – many of them are still closed.

In all 43 people were injured in Monday’s explosion, two of whom remain in hospital, one is in intensive care. Police are guarding the building against looters; the owners have decided to brick up the ground floor. And there’s still no news of what exactly caused the gas leak and subsequent blast; and who, therefore, is responsible.