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Published: August 16th 2009
I was naive in thinking I wouldn't be leaving Prague until I head south for Ljubljana on the 17th, as this plus the general absence of any company at the moment led me into an absolutely comatose hermit week since finishing the metro challenge on friday, over which my sleeping pattern became progressively less defined and my energy levels falling into oblivion like a baby on a tightrope. The turning point came last night when I found I couldn't even get to sleep, even as the sun had fully risen at 7am, so I decided to give up on bed, but knew staying in the house another day would be a bad idea.
So I glued myself to a map of the country and decided to go back to Plzeň for the day. I had an epic fail coming to Plzeň last summer on no sleep for over 48 hours, going straight from the hlavní nádrazí to a pension and passing out all evening, and then moving on the next morning for South Bohemia without seeing any of the town. So not too far off the story of today, really, except now I did have time to see the place.
Plzeň is one of many places on my long list of "places not to go because they're shit and/or there's nothing to see there" drawn out for me amongst the various Czechs I speak to about my travels in their homeland. Considering this I felt it was quite nice to me today. The museum of West Bohemia had a Salvador Dali exhibition on which kept me laughing and wtfing my head off for at least an hour. I had to relive one wall three times before I was bored of it, which was of his paintings of Dante's Divine Comedy, some of the depictions of inferno by Dali offer an absolutely mad new perspective on many of the canto's, but my guess (from what I could actually remember of them) was that the pictures were still completely true to the text in every way they could be. For instance, a few of the drawings showed the punished beings as these completely inhuman demons, whereas from reading the book you would automatically assume that they still had human form, even if it didn't say so.
My favourite picture in the room, however, was of a "woman with a head of roses" - perfectly simple, it was a woman and in place of her head, she had a bunch of roses. And she was standing on a big flat yellow piece of land accompanied by several chairs made out of human bones and a walking skull. God bless the expressive power of surrealism.. you've made your point, the rest of the work is whatever the hell you want it to be. Anyway, that done, I took a stroll down through this park next to the museum which had some pretty impressive blown up wildlife photography on display, all footed with some environmentalist propaganda.
After something to eat (ice cream was generally a good idea today), I took in the one attraction you can't really leave Plzeň without having seen, the Pilsner Urquell Brewery. The next English tour left an hour after I found the place, which I spent laughing at all the memorabilia they were selling in the souvenir shop and drinking the stuff itself with some tyčinky by the fountain, as I watched coach load after coach load of Germans unload behind us.
I thought the tour itself was a bit annoying.. it was done by one of these irritating types who insists on abstaining to say place names and uses "our country" and "our city" in place of the names of said country and city to accomodate for this imaginary populace who were somehow on the tour yet didn't know where they were, and there was this inexplicably pointless bus which we were shepherded onto to drive distances just around the corner, which would have taken less than five minutes to walk. After one such ride, we were treated to a video which intended to explain to us about Pilsner Urquell's "unique" brewing process, which as far as we were told is basically: find out how to brew beer and add the word "unique" before every other noun, e.g. "Beer is made from hops, Pilsner is made from UNIQUE hops!" After this enlightenment our tour guide branded us all "experts" on the subject matter.
It was definitely worth the hassle to be able to see the inside of the packaging plant, thousands of bottles and cans all rushing through cleaning and filling machines, which brought back memories of that legendary Simpsons episode where Homer and Barney visit the Duff brewery - I was really hoping to see a czech equivalent to the Duff "quality inspector" checking each bottle with something along the lines of "dobrý, dobrý, myš, dobrý, myš, kryš, dobrý, střikačka, dobrý, nos, dobrý..." Luckily for Pilsner, no such employee needed to exist, the only people working there were just running around switching machines on and off. The other part which is definitely worth doing the tour for is the cellars - right at the end of the tour, you get a free taste of the beer straight out of the barrels. Amazing!
After this it was getting late in the afternoon, I felt really tired and slept for an hour or so on the train back. I have to say I liked Plzeň though. It's currently a candidate for European Capital of Culture in the year 2015, and well, its cultural features certainly kept me awake for a day.
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