The Staroměstský orloj, one of Prague’s most beloved landmarks, attracts millions of yearly visitors. However, once a month, this iconic clock becomes a disruption for tourists. The reason behind this disturbance is a regular siren test in the Czech Republic on the first Wednesday of every month since October 2002. Lasting for 140 seconds, the siren’s long and fluctuating tone echoes through the streets, alerting everyone nearby.
Before the test begins, a pre-announcement can be heard: “Test of sirens, test of sirens, test of sirens. Test of sirens will continue within several minutes. Test of sirens, test of sirens, test of sirens.” This serves as a warning to locals and tourists that the test is imminent.
Although the siren test is a well-established practice, there have been a few exceptions. In March 2015, the sirens sounded a day later than usual as a tribute to the victims of a tragic shooting in Uherský Brod. Additionally, last year’s siren test was canceled due to the situation in Ukraine and the influx of refugees, aiming to prevent potential panic among the population.
While the disruption caused by the siren test may be temporary, it does impact the experiences of tourists in Prague. The Staroměstský orloj is exceptionally crowded during the hourly appearance of the twelve apostle figures, captivating the attention of visitors from around the world. However, the simultaneous sound of the siren test often catches tourists off guard. Some find themselves startled, even though the pre-announcement is also made in English.
“We can come back in an hour,” shrugged a man in a larger group of tourists, taking the interruption with a sense of humor. Many tourists swiftly switched from recording videos to capturing photos of the clock, adapting to the unexpected moment.
Despite the occasional disruption, the Staroměstský orloj remains an architectural gem that continues to fascinate and enchant visitors from all corners of the globe. Its fame surpasses even the renowned Orloj in Olomouc. While the Olomouc clock has implemented changes to mitigate disturbances caused by the siren test, the Prague clock still adheres to its regular schedule.
The siren test serves as a reminder of the importance of preparedness and safety measures in society. As tourists witness this monthly event, they become part of the unique experience that blends history, tradition, and unexpected moments. So, if you find yourself in Prague and witness the siren test under the Orloj, embrace the interruption and capture a memory that showcases the dynamic nature of this iconic landmark.