We had breakfast in the cosy room on the lower ground level and then headed into Plzeň on the tram. We passed the grand synagogue which looked bright and shiny against the clear blue sky, but our focus today was on Plzeň’s prime attraction – beer! – and we omitted sightseeing of the more general kind, except for some pictures of the main square before we continued to the brewery museum, on a side street off the main square.
The Pivovarské Muzeum (www.beers.cz/muzeum) was housed in a building that originally served as a Gothic malthouse, and later as a pub. It featured several rooms and cellars with old brewing exhibits, from maltshovels and the like to a little gem of a curiosity, a fully featured miniature brewery capable of turning out a couple of litres of beer. We toured the pleasant museum and then walked over to the much larger main brewery, the Pilnser Urquell brewery, which was a bit away from the immediate centre, across the river Radbuza. I tried to get a good shot of the monumental ornate arched gate. Inside there was an open square with various brewery buildings, an open-air terrace, a visitors centre and, on the right, the entrance to the very large Na Spilce pub, Czechia’s largest pub.
We had timed it well to be here in time for the two o’clock tour, bought our tickets and had a beer on the terrace while waiting. Then we went inside to join the start of our tour, along with another twenty people. The tour started with a great video, described quite accurately in our Rough Guide as “gloriously tacky”, with soft-focus shots of people glowing as they looked approvingly at a poured pint of beer. Then followed the rest of the tour, which took in a model cooper’s workshop, a viewing gallery by the gleaming copper mash tuns, and a visit to the extensive cold and damp system of underground cellars which extended over many kilometres, but of which now only a small section was still used, mainly just to store the beer brewed “in the old fashion” for the tourists who visit the brewery.
At the end of our tour we were offered a glass of this brew. It tasted exactly like the normal stuff as far as I could tell (maybe enhanced by the big drop of water that plopped into my glass from the ceiling?) We sort of got talking with two young travellers, Brendan, a Kiwi, and Logan, an Aussie. Logan was still recovering from previous days (or weeks?) of drinking and was now trying to detox. After the end of the tour we had our drinks at the open air bar and continued to chat with Brendan and Logan. Both were typical down-under backpackers, here mainly for the beer. Brendan did seem interested in travel and culture, but Logan seemed mostly concerned with drinking. They had just spent several days at the Munich Oktoberfest and, having had their fill, had on a whim headed to Plzeň in an effort to get away from beer and drinking, which I found fantastically amusing that of all the places they could have picked they had come here, more or less the home of beer!
After a couple of dinks, we (the four of us) headed over to the nearby Tesco. By now we had established that we probably wanted to go separate ways and we left them to go ahead on the excuse of me doing more pictures. In Tesco we bumped into the briefly while shopping for some bits and bobs, including a replacement razor – I had left mine behind in Prague – and some snacks, Czech pastries, which we munched as we walked back across the canal and then through the gardens with colourful flowerbeds full of brightly coloured flowers.
It seemed like a busier area than the rather empty main square, as this was where the main focus of town life was, with smarter grand buildings. We stopped at a very grand café, a mix of a Viennese grand café setting with the atmosphere of a local bar, and it felt homey and relaxing. In a room behind us games of chess and billiards were being played. We had coffee and eggs and played cards and then returned to our hotel, where we ended up staying in for the rest of the night, me nodding off pretty quickly but Ness not until much later. We woke up later and were quite happy to just stay in bed, which we did. An excellent day of beer-sightseeing!