We were on our way to Lucerna Kavarna, a cafe in the Lucerna Passage when we found the paternoster.
Unprepared for such a discovery, we were forced to shoot with the video mode on our tiny point and shoot camera. Sorry for the shakiness.
If you ever come across a paternoster, you should ride it.
Of course, ours was behind a glass security door and not open to the public – residents of the building only, we assumed. But luckily for us, someone came out just as we happened to be looking in.
Without hesitation Amy lept through the closing door and held it open for me. I voiced a few syllables of resistance, but Amy’s disregard for rules rendered them useless. I followed her in.
I’m glad I did. The machine before us was incredible. We marveled at the tiny elevator compartments as they slowly passed – up on the right, down on the left. The rhythmic grinding of gears echoed throughout the corridor, and beckoned us clank by clank to step inside. What genius created such a brilliant yet crazy device?
Once inside, however, my sense of awe was overwhelmed by a feeling of impending doom. At some point, this thing had to go back down… and the mechanism for how that happened was not clear at the time. What if we missed the last floor? What if one of us tripped? What kind of bone grinding calamity awaited us if we didn’t maneuver this death trap just right? What lunatic convinced a building to install this thing!?
Did you happen to notice my nervous muttering throughout that video? Yeah.
So what was it?
Wikipedia defines the paternoster as “a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. Passengers can step on or off at any floor they like.”
They were invented in 1884 by a Londoner and became popular for a time in continental Europe. Wikipedia lists 17 active paternosters in the Czech Republic. Find out more fascinating details in the Wikipedia article.
Judging by the picture to the right, it’s likely we could have stayed on after the sign that said ‘Get Out!!!’ and been ok. But, as the Wikipedia article notes, at least one person in recent history was accidentally caught up in the drive chain during an ‘up and over journey’ in a paternoster.
I wonder if they were muttering nervously?