Dominican Cloisters – Town Square – South Bohemian Museum – Masne Kramy – Budvar Factory Tour – The road to Plzen.
The weather was cool and crisp and we had a chance to really enjoy the peacefulness of Budejovice as Shana and I walked around and just sort of absorbed the town. We walked through the local catherdal which had a photography exhibition that focused on woods around Ceske Budejovice. Also connected to the cathedral is the Dominican cloisters. These were a peaceful if not run down reminder of just how old the town really was. Despite being looking a bit worn I thought they were beautiful and full of experience.
After the cathedral and the cloisters we wandered essentially aimlessly around the town stopping here and there. Probably the best was the local bakery where just about everything in the glass case looks amazing and is under one dollar. Pretty much anything you could ever want from a bakery we ended up with: some cold cheesy bread with bacon baked into it and Shana got a giant chocolate dipped donut. We eventually made our way to the Museum of South Bohemia but found it to be closed for renovations. Our experience so far with the smaller Czech towns however led us to believe that all the exhibits would not have English translations and we would not get much from the museum any way.
We made our way back towards our hotel and decided to stop at the most famous restaurant in Budejovice, Masne Kramy. According to one of the brochures, no visit to Budejovice is complete without having a bite to eat at Masne Kramy. We found this to be a bit dubious in that the restaurant, while fine and certainly edible was not a life changing experience. We paid our bill and headed back to the hotel to get our car and drive out to the Budvar brewery.
Budvar was basically the whole reason we stopped in Budejovice. All Czech towns have two names, one in Czech and one in German. The German name for Budejovice is Budweis. As you can imagine the beer that is brewed in Budweis is called, you guessed it, Budweiser. This little brewery which is state owned by the Czech government has been in a lawsuit for over 25 years with the Anheiser-Busch company about the Budweiser name. Budvar was forced to fight a trademark lawsuit in just over 60 countries. In America the beer is called Czechvar, everywhere else it is called Budweiser. They also brew a lager beer just for the locals which keeps the traditional Czech name, Budejovicy.
The tour was awesome although not anything I hadn’t seen on any other brewery tour. We did learn some very cool things about Budweiser (Czech). First off Budvar uses an artesian well for all their water in production and is some of the cleanest water in the world. The company has also built the price of recycling into every bottle and almost all of the beer companies use a government standard bottle. A huge part of Budvar’s operation is to collect the used bottles, steam clean them and then refill them. The Budvar brewery still adds hops by hand despite producing over two hundred and fifty thousand hectolitres a year. Finally, lager style beer (light golden color) is much harder to make that an ale or stout beer. Lager (German for “cellar” or Lezak in Czech) beers have to sit for nearly one hundred days and sometimes two hundred at very cold temperatures before it is ready to drink. Ale fermentation takes a much shorter period of time and can be done at high temperatures. They poured us a sample right out of the cellar at 2 degrees celsius. It as the coldest beer I have ever tried and tasted amazing. After we wrapped up the tour with a walk though of the bottling facility we hopped into our ugly little Ford and started the drive to Plzen.
Throughout the Czech Republic we had been slowed down by roadworks of some sort and the drive to Plzen was a windy two lane free way with slow downs that took you though small Czech villages, road construction and getting stuck behind tractors in a no passing zone. One of the strangest things we’ve seen is the road warning signs for dager ahead; a giant yellow sign that has two grim reapers on it. These signs that in Czech (I’m just guessing here) read, “If you drive like an asshole your death is imminent.” or something like that. These signs are up with good reason. The Czech drivers themselves are not bad but the roads are narrow and are highly trafficked. The Czech drivers are not like the Greeks who sort of laugh in the face of danger and purposely dive like maniacs but given that a long line of cars forms nearly every five kilometers behind a large truck or van, the passing in the oncoming lane becomes a huge gamble. We made it Plzen just fine despite some rather tense moments on the freeway.
Plzen is a much bigger city that Budejovice and did not really have any of the same charm. We arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon and had a quick stroll to try and plan out our next day. We stopped at a restaurant called 12 Degrees where I had some fantastic roast rabbit with cabbage salad but Shana was a little disappointed with what she thought was going to be cuts of beef and vegetables and ended up with a greek style kebab which sort of looks like everything that you shouldn’t eat. We called in early night, tired after the driving and got some rest before we went out and explored Plzen the following day.