This is the eleventh in a series of blog posts about our recent epic trip to Germany and the Czech Republic in search of food, castles, and of course beer. My travel companions included my wife Sarajo (Sj for short), as well as Jim and Lori Stroner. Jim is a seasoned beer geek (and part owner of Tin Whisker’s Brewing in St. Paul) as well as a great photographer. He did most of the organizational work for the trip, so he gets extra kudos! Our hero’s journey continues now with day 11…
We started the day with the traditional European breakfast in the creepy basement of the Pension. The place certainly had character! The night before I did not get much sleep. With the blistering heat and lack of air conditioning we needed to leave our second story window open for any vague breeze we could get. The back of the building, however, was under construction and a scaffolding was just outside said window. With us being in a “OK” part of a foreign country, with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment (as well as our money and passports) I slept quite poorly, starting at every odd sound or creak of the scaffolding outside. After eating, we quickly packing our gear and escaping, we gathered up the car and headed toward the town of Zatec.
We stopped off at Marianske Tynice, a large Baroque church out in the middle of farmland. There was construction on the building which cut down on its photogenicity. This is also a museum, but it was closed on this Monday.
This area is traditionally where Czech Saaz hops are grown and the town even has a hop museum (that was closed for our visit on a Monday). We expected to see tons of hop fields along the way there, but really only found a couple of them as we got very close to town. Jim felt that there had been many more the last time he came to the region (10 years ago at least). Now it was mostly cornfields. Progress, yay… We did stop off to take a few pictures of hops bines and of a few folks harvesting the hops. We also found a few WW2 concrete bunkers scattered through the area which was a little disconcerting.
And into town, where we discovered the closed hops museum. Next to it we found an amazing hop astronomical clock that on the hour would cycle through a variety of motions and bells. Next to this was the brewery and restaurant associated with the museum and Hop & Beer Temple: U Orloje. Here we feasted on a large lunch of rabbit in a creamy sauce with carrots and bread dumplings. It was only by walking incredible distances on this trip that we did not gain 1000 pounds. The brewery was small but in action and we could see a brewer working across the restaurant from us. The dark beer was very roasty, bordering on a porter, while the pilsner was slightly hazy and bursting with noble hop aroma and flavor. This was one of my favorite pilsners of the country!
From here we walked quite a ways in search of Zatecky Pivovar but found this to be a production only brewery with and attached store to buy off-sale beer only. We did manage to get information from the lady manning the store to a pub not far away that served their beer. We headed back out and through some mild construction to find the place. There we had a couple of beers that were not great but were refreshing in the near 100 degree heat.
Leaving the somewhat disappointing town of Zatec, we next found ourselves in a small rural graveyard that housed the remains of some of Jim’s Czech ancestors.
We took a quick side trip to the village of Olesna where one of Jim’s fabled ancestors used to be a brewer circa 1650. Jim had been in communication with a guy named Pavel who is opening the Olesna Brewery in one of the outbuildings of a large manor house in town and we stopped in to see the progress. We parked our SUV near the alley/road/path to the brewery building. A lady with a dog stopped nearby and kept an eye on us suspiciously until Honza (one of the other guys working on the project) ended up meeting us at the gate. We ended up having to communicate by sign language and the few words of Czech we knew, but got a little tour of the grounds and brewery by the good natured Honza. While not brewing on their own yet (the brewery still had a fair amount of structural work to go) they have been contract brewing with a regional brewery and happily sent us home with two unmarked brown soda bottles of their beer. This was a fun little stop and I wish them well on the rest of the work to finish the brewery!
Raknovik (The Town That Feared Dark)
We continued on our trek in our Ford Monstrosity SUV along windy one-lane country roads. Weaving between oncoming cars, bikers, and farm equipment Jim (with Sj navigating) managed to get us to our new home base of Raknovic (not in Iceland). Here we checked into our hotel, at the more modern Rozmaryn Apartments. These were quite nice and even had refrigerators in the rooms! While we settled in and came up with our plan, we cracked one of the bottles from Olesna and enjoyed a very crisp and hoppy pilsner! We stashed our other bottle in the fridge and headed out to explore the city.
We wandered the fairly small town of Raknovic, taking pictures and exploring as we are want to do. We found the Bakalar brewery, but it was closed like everything else today. We did get to try a couple of their beers at a nearby bar down an alleyway. We were certainly not the usual clientelle and felt a bit like we were intruding on the locals and the server. One and done, and then on to explore some more. This was an interesting little town, but not as picturesque as some of the others we visited.
We ended up getting dinner at one of the few restaurants still open on the main square: Salanda. We were seated outside on the patio, looking over the square with a good view of a large church and the fading sun. We tried a few Krusovic beers (owned by Heineken) which were all OK, but not amazing.
After finishing our very nice dinner we took another walk to try to find a few more of the Bakalar beers at a nearby restaurant that was supposed to have a good selection. We walked in at 8 PM and were shooed out of the place as they were closing. What restaurant and bar closes at 8 PM??
We despaired a bit as were now used to staying up carousing and making the most of our trip. Pretty much the entire town was closed down and empty of life by 9 PM. Giving up, we returned to our apartment where Jim and I worked on backing up our photos and finishing off that last Olesna beer. Party time!
Breweries visited: 24 (Almost 26!)
Bierkellers visited: 7
Cities visited: 21
Brewery Museums: 3 (Almost 4!)
Torture Museums: 1
Really high places that Eric is terrified of: 4
Places closed on us: lots
Mileage walked today: 6.9 miles