Czech Republic: Day Five

Posted: under 2011/04 - Czech Republic.

Our first day trip out of Prague…and of course its raining.

First off I get Abe set for his trip to the Terezin concentration camp. In the beginning I had planned on going with him, but the schedule just would not let me. I know it would have left me mentally drained too. When I visited the Holocaust museum last year in DC I felt numb for a couple of days afterward, I can only imagine what going to an actual concentration camp might do to me.

I had hired us a car to take us to the town of Plzen and the Pilsner brewery. The drive was nice in the morning rain and took about an hour to get us to our destination. Watching the countryside go by certainly gives you a bigger sense of where you are in the world. I would have just as easily been driving in Missouri or California. Trees, farms and little hills dotting the horizon. If it wasn’t for the iconic red roofed medieval buildings every now and then, I would have felt duped and still in America. The traffic was certainly better here though. Not only less, but when we came upon a construction zone people just normally moved to the shoulder and kept going. I could get used to this.

We arrived at the gate of the brewery and I was impressed. First off the gate is an actual gate…like what you would see at the opening of  a movie studio. The complex sprawled behind and you could tell it is vast. I have toured many breweries around the world, but most were just one maybe two buildings, very self contained. This looked far more like a factory complex.

We were a little early for the tour so we checked out the gift shop and then the onsite restaurant. Figured before we start our 2 hour tour it might be good to have a meal.

Their restaurant is quite nice and very large. Bier garden style with long tables for groups. I had the Gulasova polevka & preclik with a Koval beer. The Koval is dark and delicious but this was my first time with the Gulasova polevka. Its a thick beef soup/stew that was AWESOME! And the preclik is a big Bavarian style pretzel. Perfect for the setting.

At the beginning of the tour there is  a nice exhibit area where they show how they used to make beer onsite in the old days. We had some fun with the section showing a man enjoying his beer and sausage. Great photo op area, if you go then relax and take advantage of the surroundings. It seemed like we were the only ones doing so while waiting.

The tour was interesting, I won’t go into much detail because one brewery is very much like another. Some interesting sites were the old water tower, which looks more like a fortification tower, the old railroad train and car which they used to use hauling in materials (hops, wheat, barley, etc) and taking out fresh brewed beer. They had two different ‘breweries’, one was the old building with the big copper vats and a little education area on the brewing of beer. The new one is all glass and steel with stainless steel vats.

Shared between the two is the entrance to the underground storage area. This is where they ferment the beer in huge wooden casks and store it before bottling it. We only got to see a little bit of the huge complex, most were off-limits to the tour groups. It was neat seeing the old ice room, a big 4 story tall room where they would dump ice in during the winter and then through the year it would slowly melt…the icy water would then run in groves made in the floor throughout the whole complex. The closest I ever came to something like this was visiting the Yuengling brewery in Pennsylvania.

We got to sample the Pilsner Urquell straight from the giant kegs. Unfiltered and unpasturized..boy was it good! I had tried this same beer back in Prague and wasn’t to impressed with it, but the unfiltred version certainly hit the spot. After the tour we had a proper lunch and then caught our ride back to Prague.

Once back we meet up with Abe and hear about his trip. It was not to rosy, but I think he got what he needed out of it. His camera ran out of battery power just over half way through his trip, but he doesn’t feel like he missed anything. After awhile taking pictures of such a grizzly place gets to even the most steeled of men.

Allison had a destination for us this evening, she wanted to check out the Art Nouveau cafe in the Municipal House. Someplace I had not heard anything about but apparently my rock is quite comfortable and I live under it well.

The Municipal House is a sprawling complex standing on the grounds of the former Royal Court palace. This building was built in 1911 and at the height of the Art Nouveau craze. It houses a large hall used for concerts and balls, there are also numerous other halls and rooms made up of restaurants, cafes and conference rooms. We looked around but did not partake at any of the establishments. This will be a must visit for another Prague trip.

After that we kind of all went our seperate ways. An early night with only one more day left before heading home.

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