Have you ever thought, “you know what I’d really like? A butcher knife shaped like a pig.” Or, “I’ve always wanted the inner workings of the old Modrany clock tower.” Well you’re in luck. The world famous Bric a Brac antique shop has exactly what you’re looking for and more. A whole lot more. In fact, Bric a Brac will transport you to a world of nostalgia that will make your jaw drop. Imagine stepping inside the brain of a genius (or a madman) and seeing the things they love, their interests, and like the old Modrany clock tower, the things that make them tick.
Miloš Gavrilović’s love of collecting began as a boy in Yugoslavia. His father, too, was a collector and had a horde of “junk” that young Miloš loved to sift through. His father filled the storage room of their home with his treasures. So much so, Miloš’ mother begged for a small space in the room just for coal and wood. Obligingly, he tunneled back to a corner to create a little pocket for fuel. If you get the chance, ask Miloš to tell you the story of finding a WWII German Luger at the bottom of their pile of coal. It’s a classic “boys will be boys” story, but with a police interrogation and being saved by the neighbor at the end. It’s a doozy.
The story of how Bric a Brac came to be is actually quite the love story and one of “coincidence” according to Miloš. He and his beloved wife Sonja escaped the war in Yugoslavia in 1991 with just their suitcases and dreams of settling down in Italy. But, while planning their departure, a friend suggested Prague. “I’d been to Prague in 1980,” says Miloš. “But it was so gloomy.” Their friend said Prague was changing, booming in fact. So they came, but now what? Sonja, though trained in law and philosophy, was a talented designer and together they opened a dress shop in Old Town. Sonja’s dresses (made from hemp!) became quite popular, even attracting the attention of foreign designers. But as Miloš puts it, “the men were bored. This was a ladies’ shop after all, so I thought, ‘why not bring in some toys for them to play with while the ladies look for dresses?’” These “toys” were from Miloš’ private collection and were amusing and delightful to the bored men. “How much?” they would ask. But, Miloš loved his toys just as much as they did and refused to sell. Miloš and Sonja began to expand the offerings from their dress shop, and brought in a beautiful collection of pearl jewelry. Unfortunately, these exquisite necklaces and bracelets attracted the attention of thieves. In the dead of night, the thieves lifted the door from its hinges and took the jewelry…along with all of Miloš’ beloved toys. “After the robbery, I was filled with regret,” Miloš tells me over coffee and shots of Croatian brandy. “There were many times I could have sold those things, but I always refused. From then on, I decided to sell.” And thus began the collecting that would lead to the fascinating, bizarre, and wonderful world of Bric a Brac.
Miloš doesn’t see the number of buyers he used to. Now, tourists come in mostly to browse and find little trinkets from their trip to Prague. “Even if they walk out with handfuls of items,” Miloš says. “It doesn’t even make a dent in the collection.” Though for others, spending an afternoon in Bric a Brac makes missing concerts, boat rides, and pub crawls a worthwhile sacrifice. Unfortunately for them, it is impossible to see the entire collection in one go. You could spend days and days finding treasures you didn’t know existed. With a little bit of a brandy buzz, I decide to set forth a challenge before I leave, “Miloš,” I said. “I would like a…hmm…an antique book of matches for…let’s see…100kc.” He looks at his desk, “I have one right here!” he smiles. “It’s even in a special metal case!” He turns the matches over and the price sticker reads 100Kc.
Bric a Brac
Týnská 627/7, Staré Město