This article can be listened to in a form of a podcast. Click here: The city of cable-netted sky
When in Czech Republic, you can expect at least two things to happen to you. The first one, that you will be ripped off, mainly by taxi drivers. The prices in hundreds of Czech Crowns may confuse the best mathematicians… Let’s say however you managed to escape this one and found yourself in a bar.
Unlike in Paris, where it is worth paying for everything straightaway as prices go up as the night goes down, here, in Czech Republic there’s no need to worry about the price (unless the waiter decides to rip you off of course). The waiter brings you a little piece of paper that stays with you for the night somewhere in the middle of the table. You will not run away ‘cos the drinks are big and strong, they know it 🙂
Every time you order a pint, which in fact is almost a litre, you get a line drawn on that piece of paper. At the end of the night, your lines are simply added up and you get what you asked for. Only here, if you cannot afford it, you will clean the toilets instead. Funny or not, worth the beer!
Czechs are addicted to beer. Here note that there are Czechs and Moravians there. Those latter drink wine and are much friendlier in fact 🙂 I dare to believe it is due to the closenes to the Polish borders 🙂
While driving around you will notice plenty of fields of hops spread on the wooden constructions. Apparently Europeans drink 342 mln hectolitres of beer annually and so there is a good reason behind the new trend that has recently emerged, namely – beer tourism. And if that, where, other than Octoberfest, would you go? Of course to Plzeň (Pilsner), where one of the tastiest world beers has been produced since 1842. As the one of the first golden lagers, it conquered the world and gained the golden beer 70% of all beer lovers.
The construction of Pilsner Brewery began in mid-September 1838, when a talented Bavarian brewer Josef Groll was hired to brew a new liquor. On November 11, 1842, the first barrels left the new brewery. And very quickly beer from Plzeň became a hit – not only among the inhabitants of Plzeň. The first batches of beer from the municipal brewery in Plzeň were soon sent to Prague. The pub where they were served quickly had to be resized. From 1856 it was exported to Vienna where it spread its wings even more among both, the many Vieniese Czechs as well as the aborigins.
The peoples of Plzeň were so intoxicated (wonder why!) by the success of their golden pilsner that they completely forgot to name it.
In 1859 the trademark “Pilsner Bier” was registered. In 1898, the brewery went a step further by registering its beer as Pilsner Urquell – meaning in translation “the original source/ spring of pilsner”.
Right now even beers brewed in Berlin and Amsterdam are called pilsners.
The popularity of the new beer continued to grow in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Soon, the brewery from Plzeň established the first subsidiary company, in which 20 well-known entrepreneurs invested. One of them was Emil Škoda, a prominent Czech investor and entrepreneur. That’s the one from Škoda Auto now produced by Volkswagen Group along with Audi.
Taking the opportunity I cannot stop myself from sharing this very common in the Czech Republic joke: Je to Škoda pane Škoda, že ta Škoda nepojede – lit. ‘It’s a pity Mr. Pity that this Škoda will not move off’.
To this day Pilsner Urquell, popular all over the world, is brewed only in Czech Plzeň in the same way and with the same 100% Czech ingredients since 1842. Its unique taste is determined by the Plzeň water, Moravian barley, SAAZ type hops and the unique Pilsner H yeast, which are “descendants” of the original yeast culture from which Josef Groll, brewed the first Pilsner Urquell in 1842. They are so valuable that their samples are stored in refrigerated safes around the world: in Prague, Paris, London and Johannesburg.
Every Easter the brewery in Plzeň brews a special party Pilsner Urquell, which is blessed by local priests, and then sent to the Vatican, where it goes to official events related to the celebrated holiday.
Vaclav Havel used to sip Pislner Urquell with The Rolling Stones, American State Secretary Madeleine Albright and with Bill Clinton, althouth l think Havel does not smoke cigars…
It was a very sunny autumn day when we hit the road for Plzeň and the moment we neared the city I noticed something most fascinating. Being from Poland, I am very well used to trams and electric buses in the cities. Plzeň however welcomes you with a net of cables above your head. Anywhere you look, cables. Pretty fascinating and at the same time giving you a totally weird feeling. After all, we usually look at the sky without anything in between, of course unless it is a window or glasses….
And I have instantly fallen in love with this town. The traffic was unreal and very chaotic, caused by the presence of these cable trams and buses. It felt a bit fairytale-ish in fact. A bit like in an old fashioned amusement parks where something is turning around, something else goes up and down, other things swing, so here, you look left and there comes a car followed by a bus but they must suddenly stop because another one is coming, then the tram, etc etc. And majority of them attached to the cable! I only wonder how oh how can they not get tangled!
This was a few years back and now the city has a new fleet of modern vehicles but it all looks equally fascinating. It is best experienced while driving though, you simply have to get onto that carousel and allow yourself to… feel dizzy…
After visiting the museum we strolled through the city admiring some truly fascinating architechture from across the centuries. There are a good few buildings to stop by and marinade over for a while, even just to absorb the beauty of the finishes, the old building techniques or the materials used to construct these edifices. Mesmerizing and decorative.
There is one more building there that is pretty special. Built between 1890-1893 Velká Synagoga, the Great Synagogue, the largest in Czech Republic, is the 2nd largest in Europe and the 3rd largest in the world.
The building was used for religious purposes until the IIWW when of course it was destroyed entirely. Later returned to the Jewish community, however during the Russian occupation it was given to the public. Only in 1995-98, it underwent an overall renovation and restoration and is now used for concerts and events. There is still a small room there left for the prayers of the local Jews.
My favourite places in Plzeň were two, one was the total kingdom of embroidery floss 😀 and I stocked up for years to come. The other one was a little clothes shop run by the Korean ladies. I still have a dress I bought in there. I have never worn it yet in all 13 years or so but it is absolutely beautiful and I do not regret buying it 🙂 (if you are a woman, you know what I mean).
Being international, you got friends or acquaintances everywhere. So we do in Plzeň. As such, the rest of that day was spent in a very good company of a lovely man who made a fortune selling army clothes and collectors stuff. I was not in the subject but after a huge pint or two of Pilsner you just don’t mind the random men talk.
And the cable-net sky seemed even cooler after that pint. Of course I was not driving.
A mějte se krasně!
Zas brzo naschledanou.
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