Finding beer and castles in Plzeň and Švihov

Thursday 29 June to Saturday 1 July

Our first stop inthe Czech republic was Plzeň (in English ‘Pilsner’). Of course the name of the style of beer comes directly from here. Or quoting Wikipedia:

Pilsner (also pilsener or simply pils) is a type of pale lager. It takes its name from Plzeň (Pilsen in Czech Republic), a city in Bohemia, then in the Austrian Empire, now in the Czech Republic, where it was first produced in 1842. The world’s first blond lager, the original Pilsner Urquell,[2] is still produced there today.

Pilsner is a nice small town with a very big square, one of biggest in EU. In the centre is the St Benedictus cathedral with a massive spire. 

Pilsner is the home of the brewery Pilsner Urquell. We walked down to brewery which is popular with tour groups. 

We walked around the gardens that were once the ramparts of a protected city. There are permanent and temporary statues and lovely buildings. The skies are grey with some rain although patches of blue suddenly appeared  on the second day.

The main square became a funfair on our second day. Clearly it was aimed at the children, with merry-go-round rides and bouncy slides and face painting. With a brighter day, it seemed that the whole world was happy.

Every now and then we visit a museum – you can’t possible see them all, but in Pilsen we chose to visit the puppet museum. There was a little bit translated into English from which we discovered wonderful stories of key families who made puppets. At the turn of 20th century a puppet school was set up in Pilsen for disadvantaged children – quite a wonderful initiative.

The puppets Spejbl and Hurvinek are enormously popular here in Czech Republic. There is a lovely statue to honour them in the rampart gardens. 

There was also Rakvičkárna the Czech version of Punch, a satirical character who especially made fun of the Austrian royalty, who were hugely unpopular at the time. 

Our next destination was Český Krumlov, but as we travelled south east we stopped at Švihov to see the castle there. We were quickly learning that the skies in this part of the world change very quickly from the bleakest grey to the brightest blue. We walked around the castle, juxtapositioning our cameras to capture the best light as it moved quickly from dullest dull to brightest bright. We were starting to understand how the stained glass windows in the churches here showed such brilliant skies.

We made another stop on our journey to Český Krumlov for a lunch break at Klatovy. As we entered the square e were greeted by a a parade of cars with their horns blowing. We quickly realised this was a wedding parade, but not the only one that was happening in Klatovy on this Saturday. Wedding parties arrived at 30 minute intervals, along with the horns blaring, the cars decorated and the onlookers lined up outside the Town Hall.

The drive from Klatovy through hilly country with rich forest growth was beautiful. Sadly, when we reached Lipno Lake the sky was dull again. But the sun doesn’t always shine for the tourists.