"War Horse" Statue on the Hotel Budweiss
Beer is big business in Ceske Budejovice. The large red letters of the name Budvar - Budweiser Pivar - appear prominently on the right of the train, as we approached the town. We would visit the brewery. When in Rome and all that! The train arrived bang on time from Brno. The heavy rains of the journey had largely ceased. A light drizzle fell, as we made our way out of the train station. A renovation was underway thanks to EU money. The Austrian's, who ran the show round here for many years, certainly knew how to build monuments to rail. The temperature was ideal for a stroll across town to the hotel. The route was largely pedestrian, which came in handy. The town was springing to life, after the rain storms of the morning. The route was fairly nondescript Eastern Europe, but becomes pleasing on the eye as you hit the main square. A cross between Holland and Poland was the first thing that came to mind. Poland because it reminded me of a recent trip to Wroclaw. Holland because there were canals. The town is built on a series of little islands, although it does not become apparent until
you see an aerial photo. Whilst this makes for a scenic vista, the photos around town how that it can be a double sided coin. In 2002, the water level decided that it would leave the canals behind and crept over town through to the main square.
The walk to the hotel took 20 minutes or so - short enough to prevent complaints from the Other Half about poor hotel choices. The hotel was called Budweiss - the German name for Ceske Budejovice. The majority of the guests were German or Austrian's, but no omelette poaching was found. The hotel was a converted mill building just off the Square. We concluded that it was an excellent choice, save for a rather tricky shower control that took a couple of days to master. The bus tour guests possibly never mastered it. In view of the special occasion, I had asked for a room with a view ..... and a splendid view of the canal it had too at the front of the building. There were no bathrobes or slippers, but a girl can't have everything every time.
We went straight out to explore. The Other
Half was amused by finding a branch of Marks & Spencer on the pedestrian shopping street, complete with a small food hall. I had inadvertently brought our Sparks card by mistake, so we were prepared. It seems a bizarre expansion plan in a small south Bohemian town, given that they have happily closed smaller UK stores. One of the few things to disappoint the Other Half about Brno had been the lack of cake shops. She still harps back to splendid establishments in Budapest and Vienna, that were fitted into the football match plans. Ceske Budejovice passed the cake test within 100 metres of the front door. We would indulge more than once on these particular premises. The sun began to shine and by 6 pm it was a very pleasant evening. We camped on the terrace of the Hotel Klika, directly opposite our hotel. The Budvar went down well. I am generally not a big lager fan, but this was up there with the Jean Pivos of this world where continental lagers are concerned. I had another. England were playing in the UEFA 2016 in Saint Etienne, so we needed a venue with a TV and food. The prospects
were not looking particularly favourable from what we had seen - there was possibly even less interest in the tournament than there had been in Brno. Masny Kramy came to the rescue. A cavernous beer hall situated in the old meat market. The dark doors make it a leap into the unknown, but inside it was quite welcoming. It had TV tuned into football, food and beer. The boxes were all ticked. The service was efficient and unlike such venues we visited at the back end of last year in Munich, not designed to purely extract large amounts of cash from visitors. The food and the beer were good, but England spoiled the evening with a tepid show and then proceeded to look devastated by the 0 - 0 draw. The debate about leaving the EU was raging back home. On this performance, there seemed no appetite from the England players to "remain". We appeared to be the only ones in the slightest bit interested in events on the TV. As with our experiences in Brno in the few days prior, the Bohemian football fans were equally apathetic about events in France. Fortified by Czech dumplings, we had a night
time stroll. It was another big wedding anniversary the following day. Cesky Krumlov beckoned.
The longer we stayed in Cesky Budejovice, the more we began to appreciate the ambience of the place. There was an active outdoor Arts scene. It ranged from the down right obscure to the pretty good. A sort of pop up street theatre. Busking. Mime. Puppet shows for the kids. Music. The locals were very supportive of it. What would become one of our early evening refreshment venues in the little square behind the Obetovani Panny Marie Church was a hub. The Namesti Piaristicke Square was a hive of activity. An Irish Corrs type tribute band would have surely found work in any Irish bar. Who knows what will become of the guy doing a puppet show wrapped in a sheet? Still the kids loved it and he was having a good time too! The whole scene reincarnated itself another night in a street off the main square. We often settled in the Cafe u Zaby for a couple of Lobowicz beers. Premium. Large and small? The owner stopped asking, after a while. Betty was a visitor on our first night. Whilst her
owner sampled a beverage, Betty a small but long legged terrier, independently wandered around the square in search of tasty morsels. She occasionally cam bounding back at speed, after a subtle whistle from her owner.
As we strolled around town, a series of pieces of art detained and amused you. A large pair of silver legs. A rusted metal "War Horse" was mounted on our hotel roof. A sort of spinning top in a shade of pink was marooned in the canal in front of us. A series of people walking people in granite were sited at the end of the pedestrian street coming from the station. The Other Half joined in. There were more. All good. All thought provoking. There were pictures of a number in the hotel so the challenge was on to find them all. It transpired all were not even in town, but we stumbled on a couple more on our excursions. The pick of the bunch was probably the collection of rusted pianos in the main square. It was described as a tribute to Joseph Beuys, a German sculptor, although I am not sure of the exact relevance of the pianos.
Unlike Brno, Ceske Budejovice was not overly blessed with towers to get the aerial appreciation. The Black Tower offered the only town centre option. The entrance advertised the opening times and the price. However, there was no immediate evidence of a cash desk for anybody to take the said 30 Czech Crowns. We began to climb. There were bells half way up. One was called "Budvar". Fortunately, they didn't ring. The sting was at the top, although it was hardly an excessive entrance fee. A happy, cheery operative was ready to relieve the entry fee from us. Her walk to work up all those stairs meant fitness was a key attribute on the CV. The sun was in the wrong direction, so the photographic results were never going to be top quality. The clouds had not fully lifted either from the previous days rain. We spied that yet another outdoor stage was being constructed outside the Town Hall in the far corner of the main square. There must be a booming industry in outdoor entertainment infrastructure in the Czech Republic. We would return the following evening to check out the band.
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