Plzeň, Czech Republic

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This weekend was spent in Plzeň enjoying brewery tours, beer, and the festival celebrating Plzeň recently being named the European Capital of Culture for 2015.

On Saturday morning we left early on a train and got to the city around 11:30.  It takes about an hour an a half to get there from Prague.  When we arrived, we realized that a lot of celebrations were going on due to the new cultural title.  Everyone in our travel group was so excited to see what this city of culture had to offer us!

Upon our arrival, we went and found a cheap hostel/hotel that had a nice room for the four of us that would be staying overnight.  It was a really well equipped hotel room with nice beds and a bathroom of our own and it was very reasonably priced.  We checked in and then headed to see what was going on in the nearby city center.

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We started off the day at the brewery.  When we arrived, we saw the famous arches above and walked through them into the area devoted to the brewery.  Special tents were set up due to the celebrations, so after buying our tour tickets, we went inside the huge green tent with giant Pilsner Urquell logos that was set up there.

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Inside there was traditional Czech dancing and music that was a lot of fun to watch.  It seemed like all of the performers were really enjoying themselves, and their enthusiasm was catching.

IMG_2800We all grabbed a beer from the taps they had set up in the tent and then made our way over to the food area.  There they had a catering style lineup of dishes where you could ask for what you want and they would dish it up for you.  I got a meal that would soon be remembered as one of my favorites that I have eaten here in the Czech Republic thus far.

IMG_2795It was pork with pickled cabbage and potato dumplings with caramelized onions.  All of the flavors blending together were amazing, and the dumplings were some of the best that I’ve had here.

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There were various bands playing traditional music.  This one was particularly good; I stood up near the front to get a good view and enjoy the music.

Soon, it was time for our brewery tour to start.  We left the tent and headed next door to the brewery where we began our tour.  The guide brought us through rooms displaying artifacts of history of the brewery, as well as rooms that held the vats and other machinery things needed to brew beer.  We watched a couple of different videos on the brewing process as well.

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This was the actual tank room where the beer is heated.  It was pretty warm in here because the process was happening as we were taking our tour.

IMG_2821The next and more interesting part of the tour was walking through the damp and chilly beer cellars where we could see beer fermenting in tanks, and some huge wooden kegs that were ready to be tapped.

IMG_2834In the final leg of our tour, we got to taste some unfiltered beer right out of the keg in the basement.  It was so fresh and delicious — I don’t know if I will ever have another beer like it again.

When we stepped outside after our tour, there was a large crowd congregating outside the brewery.  There were men on stilts standing in the crowd as well as a giant Angel statue manned by a few people.  One leg of the parade was starting right in front of our eyes.  We decided to join up and walk with the parade through the city and into the city center.

IMG_2846There were four different parade routes that met up in the middle of the city.  We walked with a giant mass of people through streets that were shut down and blocked off to traffic.  People looked down from their windows and watched from bridges.  The parade consisted of a giant mass of people, various bands (one man walked with his band playing an upright bass violin), flame throwers, and people on stilts.  At one point, we walked right next to some huge Clydesdale horses towing a few fake kegs on a flat bed.

IMG_2850We made it to the city center with our parade group and waited for about an hour in the cold for the festivities to start.  In the mean time, there was music playing over speakers and an interesting light show playing on the buildings in the square.

IMG_2853The show finally started.  It included a giant metal puppet partaking in some theatrics I can only describe as “art,”  as well as a man walking across a tightrope to the top of the cathedral.  He was walking that route in order to signify the returning of the bells to the bell tower that were stolen in World War II.  He made it across the tiny wire that hung directly above our heads and by the time he finally made it, we were all freezing.  So we went to a nearby restaurant and had some dinner.  I had chicken stuffed with blue cheese, spicy peppers, and bacon.

After that, our some of our friends had to leave to catch their train back home, while others headed back to the hostel.  Jordan and I decided to check out the night life around Plzeň which we had heard many good things about.

We started at the Funky Money which was a cocktail bar where we ordered some interesting drinks.  Then we went to a music bar where they were playing a lot of American dance music.  We ended our night at Music Bar Andel, an alternative music bar where a DJ was spinning vinyl record of 90s music (both American and European).  We really enjoyed dancing the night away with tons of locals in this unique atmosphere.  Oh, and, they had Discovery Channel playing on the screen behind the stage… 😉

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After our long night out, we went to get Kebabs on the way back to the hotel.  They were huge!  We headed back and hit the hay in our comfortable hotel bed.

The next morning, our compadres left early, as Jordan and I got some extra sleep after our late night.  We woke up and got ready for another day of exploring the city.

IMG_2863Today we enjoyed a relaxed day of sight seeing throughout the city and visiting all the sights that we hadn’t yet seen.  We discovered a nice small park with ice statues.  I had never seen an ice statue like this up close, and it was an awesome discovery.  There were actually 4 separate statues with one really big one (shown below).

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They were starting to melt a little, but, still very cool.  We also checked out the Jewish Synagog which is the third largest in the world.  This month, it is closed for tours, but we got to see the outside and later viewed a picture of the inside, so we thought it was close enough!

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IMG_2875The picture above is the Town Hall.  The outside of the building has amazing carving drawings in it.

IMG_2895Our wanderings led us to stumble upon some other really interesting things like the hand made boat art projects shown above, as well as a photo exhibit of the city’s culture.

Finally, we had lunch at the Beer Museum and decided it was time to hit the road back home: hopped on a train and back we went to the city of stories – Prague.

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