When in Prague last month I went on a beer tour and I was very proud of myself, it was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone. While the evening ended on a wonderful note it was certainly a long day. This was the earliest morning of my entire trip, I got on a 7am train for the four hour journey from Vienna to Prague. And the best part? I slept for most of the train ride which was amazing because after my experience a few days before it was a night and day difference. One thing I did find amusing, there was a lady who pushed a cart up and down the train aisle with all sorts of treats for sale, a bit like the Hogwarts express.
I had planned this trip months before I left the States so I had actually forgotten where exactly I was staying and was pleasantly surprised when I saw the view from my room – it absolutely stunning. I stayed in Hotel Lippert in Old Town Square in the heart of Prague which could not be more central or more convenient. Since my hotel was only three minutes from the start of my tour and my train got in on schedule I had time for a burger.
When my brother studied abroad in Dublin a few years ago he visited Prague and highly recommended the free walking tour so on my first afternoon I took one. My guide was spunky Australian girl who had married a Czech and her take on the city was amazing. At the start of our three hour tour she explained there are two things you need to know about the Czechs, they always get invaded and they do cool things and no one notices including the invention of the propeller and soft contact lens. (Thanks Czechs, by the way, they are the best. )
Of all of the guides I had on my trip she was perhaps the most witty throwing in much appreciated comments into her monologues such as, “then there were rulers for 600 years with unpronounceable names so don’t worry about them.” Why couldn’t she have taught one of my high school history classes? Her top four must-sees in the city were the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, and the Astronomical Clock and I made sure to see all four in my visit to Prague. On the tour I saw including the famous clock, Mozart’s concert hall, the oldest cubist building in the city, the black powder tower, a ton of squares that were not square.
During the break in the tour we stopped for refreshments and I spoke to a couple from Brussels who strongly recommended a trip to the Hemingway Bar by the Charles Bridge while I was in town. I made a note to go the next day and then enjoyed a delicious glass of homemade lemonade for less than $1.50. Then the tour was off again to visit the Jewish Quarter, including the home of Kafka and I marveled at how well the area had been preserved only to learn Hitler demanded it remain untouched so it could be the example of an extinct race. *shudder* My tour of the Jewish Quarter also included a walk by the oldest running Synagogue in Europe and the famous Pink synagogue. My afternoon tour ended with a great line, “Happy is a nation whose history is boring to read!” The Czech Republic can definitely not say that.
If you know me well you know I don’t drink beer but I signed up for a beer tour in Prague because that is what you do when you are in the City of a Hundred Spires It turns out the average Czech person drinks 160 liters of beer a year and beer was first created in Czechoslovakia by a monk in 822 who figured out hops. Over the course of the beer tour, which started only an hour after my walking tour, we visited three establishments and drank a beer at each.
The first stop was a Russian establishment where they brew their own two hours away. The first beer I had was 10 degrees and 4.5% alcohol. Each of the three beers I drank was 0.5 liters, that is how it is served, and then the foam is extra. While at the first place the two couples, loan gentleman, and I learned traditional Czech drinking customs including the fact that you need to use coasters, that when you cheers and look in people’s eyes, and that you should not cross your arms while drinking. I also found it quite interesting that they passed a law in Prague that there must be one non alcoholic drink cheaper than beer on every menu.
At the second bar called V Vejvodv I had a traditional Czech Pilsner that was 12 degrees or 5.2% alcohol in the beautiful basement of this massive bar. The people watching was amazing and I was surprised when we learned about the three ways to serve it, all beer, half beer / half foam, and all foam. The crazy thing? They are all the same price!
The last stop on my beer tour in Prague was Konvikt and had a dark beer called Master which was 18 degrees or 7%. As someone who does not like beer, especially dark beer, I was very surprised I liked this one so much, however, as I learned the higher the alcohol the more sugar and this one tasted of caramel, maybe that was it. The establishment also served traditional Czech food which was a must after the beers. With my new friends we ordered the three most popular appetizers the pickled sausage with cabbage, a Moravian smoked sausage and cheese in cranberry sauce.
After the third bar and the end of the tour my new friends and I went to the Prince U Hotel where I had in my notes to get a cocktail on the roof. They were not economically priced but you paid for the view and I enjoyed an Aperol Spritz, a great light alternative in contrast to all of the beer, and the view.
A great first day in Prague!