Monday, September 15, 2014

Dresden Day Trip

On Friday morning we took a short break from Czechland and went to Germany for the day.  The Student Agency bus only takes two hours to get to Dresden.

We got lucky that there was a market going on so my family kind of got the feel for what a Christmas market is like.

Frauenkirche alter

It was a bit rainy but we didn't let that spoil our time.  We stayed in the historic part of town and saw all of the main sites like the Frauenkirche and Zwinger.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More Prague Sightseeing

View of Praha from the castle
The original plan for Thursday was to go visit the Kopopíště Castle.  However, we decided to skip it and just spend more time exploring Prague.

Inside St. Vitus' Cathedral

We started off up at the castle and toured St. Vitus' Cathedral.

Later on everyone tried a few Czech delicacies such as trdelník and svařak.

At Klárov park we we saw the memorial for the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia which lasted from 1938 - 1945.

It's important to remember that with the annexation of the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia was one of the first countries occupied and among the last to be liberated.

Nearby was the new winged lion memorial that was unveiled on June 17th this year.  It is to commemorate the roughly 2,500 Czechs and Slovaks who fought with the British Royal Air Force during WWII.

Many people risked their lives to escape occupation and then went on to fight with the Allies in the British and French military.  After returning to Czechoslovakia at the end of the war, many were marginalized by the Communist government who saw these heroes, and their exposure to the West, as threats to the state.  The sacrifices these people made were never made public until after the Velvet Revolution.

Later on we went to the Communism Museum and mom had her first ever subway ride.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Plzeň Brewery Tour

Plzeň main train station
On Wednesday we took the train to Plzeň to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery
My aunt's foot was hurting her so we limited the amount of walking in town. 

So we didn't actually get to see the city which was a bit disappointing because I know that dad would have enjoyed seeing the Patton Memorial.  But the main goal was to tour the brewery which we accomplished.

They've changed the tour around a bit so it wasn't exactly quite the same as when I went last October which was a good thing.  It's still interesting to see the factory churning out all of that delicious beer.

And of course the highlight of the tour is getting to sample the unfiltered, unpasteurized beer.   

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kutná Hora Trip

On Tuesday we headed out to Kutná Hora to see the Bone Church.  The ossuary is actually in Sedlec which is a suburb of Kutná Hora.

Pictures of the church just don't do it justice.  No matter how much you tell someone about it, people are always blown away by it.  Honestly, how can you really describe human skull chandeliers?

After the Bone Church we headed over to the Cathedral of the Assumption of our Lady and St. John the Baptist.  It took 30 years to build the cathedral, from 1290 to 1320.

In 1421 it was burned out by Hussite troops and laid in ruins for about 300 years.  It was first renovated from 1699 to 1709.  The Roman Catholic church renovated the cathedral again from 2001 to 2009.  The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Random street in Kutná Hora
After lunch and more walking around Kutná Hora, it was time to go see one of the most famous Gothic churches in Central Europe.

The Cathedral of St. Barbara is the second largest cathedral in Czechland.  While construction began in 1388 it wasn't actually completed until 1905.  It too is part of the Kutná Hora UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This was a pretty full day as far as new experiences go.  My parents had never been to a cathedral before and today they visited too of them.  And an ossuary.  They are totally in awe of the amazing architecture over here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Terezín, Czech Republic

On Monday we headed to Terezín in North Bohemia.  The town has a population over 3,100 people and is 69 km (43 miles) from Prague.  It takes almost an hour by bus.

Terezín was founded in 1780.  Emperor Joseph II wanted a fortress built here to help defend the Austro-Hungarian Empire against Prussia.  The fortress was named Theresienstadt after, his mother, Empress Maria Theresa.

The fortress was used as a prison during the second half of the 19th century.  It was a political prison camp in WWI.  From 1914 to 1918, Gavrilo Princip was imprisoned here after being convicted of assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, in Sarajevo, which started WWI.  He died here in 1918 of tuberculosis.  

In 1940, the Germans turned the town in to a ghetto and concentration camp.  It wasn't an extermination camp but served as an internment camp and transit center.  More than 150,000 Jews, including 15,000 children, were deported here from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands.  Around 33,000 people died here of malnutrition and disease while another 88,000 were deported to Treblinka, Auschwitz, and other death camps.

The Ghetto Museum is housed it what was once a school and a former Nazi boys' home.  Inside are many powerful displays and original artwork made by detainees. 

There is plenty to see in the walled garrison town.  About 10 minutes away is the actual concentration camp.  Due to the weather we decided to skip the camp but I'll for sure go back another day to tour it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Český Krumlov Tour

After our brief stop in České Budějovice, we continued on the last 25 km (15.5 miles) to Český Krumlov.

Český Krumlov is one of the prettiest cities in the country.

The weather was great until the end when we got caught in a downpour.  Good thing you can always find a pub to weight out some rain.

Part of the film set
I noticed there was cheesy fake medieval market set up in front of the castle.  I assumed it was to lend some ambiance for the tourists because it wasn't there the last time I visited.  Come to find out it is part of a movie set.  The very next day, Adrian Brody begins filming Emperor which should be released in 2015.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Battle of the Buds

Czech vs. American Budweiser
There's been a "Battle of the Buds" going on for years.  It's more well known here than in the USA.  The battle is a trademark dispute over the name "Budweiser" between Anheuser-Busch and Budějovický Budvar, the Budweiser Budvar Brewery in České Budějovice.

Budweiser is the German word meaning from Budweis and Budějovický means the same thing in Czech.

Budějovický Budvar
Beer has been brewed in Budějovice since the city was founded in 1245.  In 1876, Adolphus Busch and a friend developed a "Bohemian-style" lager inspired by a trip to Bohemia.  Budějovický Budvar was founded in 1895.

In 1938, the companies agreed that Anheuser-Busch could use the brand name "Budweiser" only in North America.  In 1938, the Czech lawyers were probably more concerned with Germany invading the country than with fighting out the rights to "Budweiser."

Czechvar sold in the USA
The Battle of the Buds has only gotten worse since the fall of communism because now the Czech version is exported to +60 countries throughout the world.  In every country, the two companies have to fight out the trademark issue.

Czech Budweiser is sole in North America under the label Czechvar while American Budweiser in Europe is sold as Bud.

I'm an American and live in Czechland.  So which side am I on?  Honestly, I'm with the Czechs on this one.  For a few reasons...

It's like champagne or bourbon.  If it doesn't come from the Champagne region of France then it has to be called sparkling wine.  If it doesn't come from Bourbon Country, Kentucky, then it's whiskey; not bourbon.  It's odd that it's called Budweiser but the American beer isn't from Budweis.  Plus I've actually tasted both beers and the Czech version is better.

"Bud" is sold in the EU
Besides it really comes down to a David and Goliath thing.  Anheuser-Busch InBev is the world's largest brewer with 150,000 employees and it produces some 400 million hectoliters of beer.  Bedějovický Budvar and its 600 employees makes only about 3.5% as much beer.  Sometimes you just want the underdog to win.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

České Budějovice, Czech Republic

Today was a bus tour from Prague to Český Krumlov.  As part of the tour, we stopped for a half hour in České Budjěovice.

České Budějovice is 150 km (93 miles) from Prague and takes about two hours by bus. 

Přemysl Otakar II Square

České Budějovice was founded in 1265 by King Ottokar II of Bohemia.

With over 94,000 residents it is the 8th largest city in Czechland.  It is also the capital of the South Bohemian kraj.

The old town center has some lovely Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. 

Near the main square is the 13th century St. Nicholas Cathedral and the the 16th century Black Tower.

The Town Hall

A 30 minute rest stop isn't really enough to say that you've really visited the city.  It's just enough to see a few of the highlights.

Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth Office
The city is home to Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth.  This Czech company is one of the world's largest producers of pencils, pens and art supplies.  The company was founded in 1790 in Austria and production was moved to České Budějovice in 1848.

In 1802 the company patented the first pencil lead made of clay and graphite.  At the 1889 World Fair, they unveiled yellow pencils made of cedar which established how pencils are made and graded.

However, the city's biggest claim to fame is being home to Pivovar Budějovický Budvar - the Budweiser Budvar Brewery.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Karlštejn Castle

Yesterday was our first day trip from Prague.  We headed off to see Karlštejn which is probably the most famous and the most often visited castle in Czechland.  The castle, in Central Bohemia, is about 30 km (19 miles) from Prague.  The commuter train takes about 40 minutes to get there. 

The Gothic castle was founded in 1348 during the reign of Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor.  Construction was completed in 1365 and it was built for keeping the royal treasures safe.

View of the village from the castle
Karlštejn Castle sits on Kněží hill overlooking Karlštejn village.  The village is about a ½ km from the train station and then it's about about another ½ walk up the hill. 

On the way up to the castle is a memorial to honor the local men who died in WWI.  The monument was unveiled in 1928 on the 10th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Today was a really nice day and the weather was great.  Mom and Dad saw their first castle...ever.  Of course they will see lots more on this visit.  Today we're off to see České Budějovice and Český Krumlov.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Exploring Prague

Well the family made it to Prague, all safe and sound, and they seem to be over the jet lag.  The last couple of days has mainly been getting settled in to the flat we rented and exploring the city.

 So far we've done the usual touristy bits such as the Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, Old Town, and up to the castle.  I still want to take them back up to the castle so that they can see inside the cathedral.  The architecture is a bit hit as we just don't have buildings this beautiful back home.

Everyone seems to be adjusting well but I'm keeping a running list of the things that are a surprise for them.  For example, until this visit they had never had cucumbers and tomatoes served at breakfast.

Of course they now appreciate just how good Czech beer is.  Dad particularly liked the dark beer at U Fleků and is collecting coasters for all of the different beers he tries.  Mom has discovered medovina, the honey wine liqueur.

Mom & Dad at the castle complex

Now that everyone is getting acclimated to Prague it is time to start a few days trip to Karlštejn, Český Krumlov, Terezín, Kutná Horá, Plzeň, Karlový Vary, and to Dresden in Germany.