The Czech Republic
A Little Jewel
Text & Photos by Beverly Cohn
A tour of a local distillery and a lesson
on how the liqueurs are brewed.
smiling from the Renaissance dinner blast the night before, which you
are encouraged to experience for yourself, we headed to Ponesice to
visit the local distillery that produces plum, pear, apricot, carrot,
honey, and black current spirits, and liqueurs. After a delicious sampling,
the historic town of Pisek, with the oldest stone bridge in the Czech
Republic, was our next stop for a brief guided tour and a delicious
lunch in the Hotel Biograf.
Beautifully served, we started with tomatoes with Mozzarella
followed by baked trout from the Otava River with garlic and spring
onion, boiled potatoes with parsil, followed by a luscious dessert,
(Postre) Panna Cotta with fresh fruit.
Remember, because the country is small,
you can cover many towns in a matter of one or two hours from Prague
and we were now headed back to that famous city known for its old world
Prague is like stepping into the land of Grimm's
Located on the right bank of the river Vltava, the Old
Town, framed by historic townhouses, Prague Castle, and the green dome
of the Church of St. Nicholas with its spires soaring into the sky,
Prague is like stepping into a Grimms Brothers fairy tale. With
its winding cobblestone streets filled with shops that sell anything
you could possibly desire, including their famous Bohemia Crystal and
authentic marionettes, Prague is truly a magical experience. Stroll
along the famous neo-Renaissance stone Charles Bridge that will be was
crammed with tourists who linger to take pictures and walk along the
Royal Road that leads from the original city gate called the Powder
Gate which led to the powder tower used for storing gun powder.
A friendly police officer poses for a photo
At night Old Town is ablaze with lights and having a
glass of wine in one of the elevated cafes will add to your enchantment
as on this night, a full moon crowned our sensory delight. Not to be
missed is the mechanical astronomical clock on the Gothic tower of the
Old Town Hall. This historic technological masterpiece displays the
time as well as the lunar cycle and the position of the planets and
every hour a procession of 12 apostles appear in the clocks windows
to the delight of the throng gathered below in the square. Prague is
to savored. Explore the hidden streets, enjoy lovely gardens, stroll
along the river, stop in a café for coffee or beer or a glass
of wine or treat yourself to an exquisite Bohemia crystal piece of jewelry.
Oh yes. For you shoppers please note that although the Czech Republic
is part of the European Union, the Euro is not widely accepted so do
have Czech Korunas handy as some of the smaller stores do not accept
credit cards either.
While youre strolling, check out the awesome neo-Renaissance
post office built in 1890 but dont take out your camera as its
verboten and you will upset one of the guards. With lots of marble benches,
it is set up like our DMV where you take a number and wait for it to
flash on a screen. Very orderly and very civilized. Also not be missed
is the Cathedral of St. Vitus, another church that adds to Pragues
The ancient Jewish cemetery in the famous Jewish
Quarter, crammed with 12,000 tombstones dating back to the 15th century.
One of the highlights of a visit to Prague is the very
famous Jewish Quarter, ranked among the most valuable Jewish historical
monuments in the world. It houses the Old Cemetery and the famous Gothic
Old-New Synagogue. The cemetery, which is crammed with 12,000 tombstones,
the largest in Europe, dates back to the first half of the 15th century
and is one of the most important monuments as it is the final resting
place for poets and scholars. The Jewish Museum has the most comprehensive
Judaic collection in the world and is a cultural center for lectures,
concerts, and exhibitions.
For music lovers, free concerts, from classical to pop,
are offered daily in many of the churches as well as ticketed concerts
in such historic locations as The Prague Castle St. Georges
After a wonderful day of sightseeing and yet another
lovely dinner in the Botel Restaurant Matylda, it was time to bed down
for the night in the very modern, four-star deluxe Andels Hotel,
located in Pragues new business and entertainment district Andel
City, just a five-minute ride by metro or tram to the city center.
Prague abounds in festivals throughout the year including
the celebration of spring which welcomes the new season with music,
and concerts featuring all types of music from classical
to jazz. Being the beer capital of the world, its only fitting
to hold the Czech Beer
Festival which offers a wide range of brewers, smokehouses, butchers,
delicatessens, and pastry chefs.
Chef Vaclav Eric demonstrates the art of egg
One of the joys of travelling is experiencing the ethnic
food and you can find a culinary adventure at the Prazsky Kulinarsky
Institut (Prague Culinary Institute) where award-winning Chef Vaclav
Eric conducts cooking classes in the Czech and Moravian traditional
cuisines hearty, rich, and tasty. Although on the road to a healthier
way of eating, including the use of organic farm products when possible,
the typical national meal is roast pork and sweet-and-sour cabbage with
dumplings (knedlik) or the very popular roast sirloin in cream sauce.
Fun-loving Chef Eric conducts his class like a fine
ballet, sipping wine or beer as he tends to several pots of food at
once stirring, tasting, smelling, and adding more salt or other
spices to enhance the flavor to his liking. For those faint of heart,
do not recoil from the large vats of pig or duck lard used in his cooking
for the resulting taste is something to die for (too much of this and
you could.) Like so many chefs the world over, Eric reaches back into
his childhood to recreate some of the dishes that he grew up with saying
all moms are good cooks. Moving about the kitchen like a
well-rehearsed dance team, his Sous Chef, Doman Vanek assists in the
stirring and tasting, and aids in keeping all surfaces clean, disposing
of pots or pans when they are no longer needed.
After participating in the preparation of each of the
dishes, which were prepared one at a time, our eating pleasure began
with Kulajda crème soup with lost egg. We returned to
the kitchen and as the day progressed, our chef whistled and hummed
as the next dish was prepared - sirloin of beef with Karlsbad dumplings.
The combined ingredients for both dishes included bacon, fat, butter,
carrots, celery, parsley, onions, applies, bay leaves, allspice, pepper,
sugar, vinegar, mustard, white wine, beef bouillon, flour, fresh crème,
parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, black pepper, lemons, eggs, and milk.
The result, was well, quite delicious.
Chef Eric's signature dish roasted duck with
red cabbage and potato dumplings (Kachna).
Other dishes included the chefs signature dish
roasted duck with red cabbage and potato dumplings (Kachna) that
he serves at home for company. Surprisingly, the duck was almost fat
free and had a delicious sweet taste. The dessert, Bohemian cakes with
plum jam and cottage cheese, was well worth waiting for as it was truly
a spectacular taste sensation.
Having one master chef in the house would be enough,
but Erics wife is also a professional cook who prepares their
meals during the week so that when he comes home from work, a delicious
supper awaits him. His busmans holiday is cooking
at home on the weekends.
The town of Olomouc is known for its delicious cheeses.
No trip to the Czech Republic would be complete without
a visit to Moravia, which you can reach by taking a train from Pragues
Main Train Station. A UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site,
Olomouc is charming town that is known for its cheeses. Visit the Cheese
Museum where a delightfully funny film will give you the history of
Alois Wessels, the visionary who despite his wifes objections,
started the cheese industry making the Freud inspired Phallic
Cheese. By all means do stop in the nearby charming cheese shop
and pick up something to snack on as you continue your journey.
There is much to see in this charming town including
an assortment of beautiful churches, its famous astronomical clock where
every afternoon figurines of peasants and proletarians move to the sound
of the chimes, and the famous St. Wenceslaus Cathedral, which has the
second highest tower in the country and is the seat of the archbishop.
The stunning Kromeriz Flower Garden.
Restaurants abound including Moravska where we ate lunch
and then headed to the town of Kromeriz, designated as an UNESCO World
Natural and Cultural Heritage Site where we visited the visually stunning
Kromeriz Flower Garden, a huge carpet of colorful flowers and its haunting
English-style shrub labyrinths.
Try to overnight in the Hotel Octarna where you can
experience authentic Czech cuisine including fried cheese balls and
be delightfully entertained by a local folk group who will play traditional,
spirited folk music while you sip some of the amazing local wines.
After a visit to the Archdiocesan Museum located in
the Archbishops summer residence, we had a divine lunch in the
Hotel Alley Restaurant consisting of Pea Cream Soup, duck breast, cherry
latke, and potato gnocchi followed by a sumptuous dessert of hot raspberries.
The nearby town of Svaty Kopecek is home to the Baroque
Church of the Visitation, one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations
in Moravia. With its highly visible picturesque onion cupolas jutting
into the sky, the approach to his structure is a beautiful lime-tree
Alas, this most wonderful journey was coming to end
and it was time to head back to Prague where we overnighted in the most
elegant Crowne Plaza Hotel for departure back to the States the next
A farewell toast from our very delectable
guide, Jirina Vokrouhlikova, a.k.a. as Georgina, who wishes you
"Ahoj" - hello and goodbye
The Czech Republic has come a long way since the gray
days of the Soviet occupation. Slowly the infrastructures are being
restored and the emerging hospitality industry is growing. Your tour
guides, if you choose one, will be full of Czech charm and will make
your journey as easy and pleasant as possible. And remember, because
the country is so small, one could stay in Prague and take a number
of day trips by car, train, or bus to some of the towns and villages
covered in this feature.
With spring and summer vacations plans being made now,
the Czech Republic should go to the top of your list for a very unique
travel adventure as you can choose from a broad range of activities
and accommodations ranging from luxury hotels to guesthouses, holiday
camps, hostels, and private homes. Toward that end, to set up a tour,
either work with your travel agent and/or go www.Prague-info.cz
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Czech Republic - A Little Jewel: Part 1, Innsbruck,