Pilsen – beer and culture (in that order)


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Europe » Czech Republic » Plzen Region » Plzen
July 28th 2016
Published: July 29th 2016
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Still full from last night’s gargantuan meal, we start the day with a light breakfast of coffee and a pastry. This proves surprisingly difficult to find. The cafes on the main square all seem to sell either coffee with massive cream cakes, or beer, neither of which feels quite right at 9.30 in the morning. MittelEuropa does not seem to do croissants or pain chocolat.

The Great Synagogue is the third largest in the world. It was built in the 1890s and can hold 2800 worshippers, but fell into disrepair during the war and has only recently been renovated. It is currently housing a display of photographs taken in the USA during the Depression. Many were striking pictures, despite the contemporary comment by the great photographer Anselm Adams that these were not photographs but merely images captured by sociologists.

After this short burst of culture, it’s time for the highlight of any trip to Pilsen, namely the tour of the Pilsener Urquell brewery. We eat bratwurst and bread for lunch with – you guessed it – a glass of Pilsen while waiting for our tour to start. It’s a massive site, with both the old 19th century brewery, replete with gleaming copper cauldrons, and the 20th century brewery, with a glass exterior but still featuring copper cauldrons. The bottling hall is massive, with lines for bottles of different sizes and cans. Each of the four lines can fill 60,000 bottles or cans per hour, which is slightly mind-boggling. The tour also takes us into the massive maze of underground tunnels, which were used until 1987 to keep the beer at a steady temperature during part of the brewing process. Our tour group includes a party of Americans on a stag trip, who seem to be well refreshed even before reaching the brewery. Best question of the day: ‘Say, do you use corn to make beer?’ Have they not listened to anything during the past hour?

We return to the main square for a quick viewing of the cathedral, and the Renaissance town hall with a frontage adorned with beautiful sgraffito. Sadly, like so many other potential shots, it is impossible to take a photo of it without at least one bright blue traffic sign intruding. And you cannot actually go into either, which is disappointing.



Tonight we are enjoying the ‘beer package’ offered by the hotel, which includes the brewery tour tickets and unlimited beer for the evening. Oh dear, more beer. It is very nice beer though. We have one drink, pop out to the same restaurant as last night for a slightly less enormous meal, and then back to the hotel. Maybe a beer or two before bed.......

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