Story and photos by Tom Weber
towers around the "City of a Hundred Spires" ring out in unison
that it's now 5:30 p.m., the exact hour and minute that Insight Vacations'
Bohemian Rhapsody journey officially begins for a handpicked
group of international travel writers, bloggers, social media experts
and photographers invited over to where central meets eastern Europe
to experience the jewels of the old Habsburg Empire: Prague, Vienna
Pinching myself to make sure that this
is not a dream It's for real, whew! I start pressing the
flesh with the newly-formed "band of merry media" as it begins
to take shape in the lobby of Prague's Art Nouveau Palace Hotel for
Act I of what I hope will be an incredible week of live theatre starring
the sights, sounds and savors of Bohemia.
The ice breaks clear in a matter of seconds
as journalists and lens crafters from the US, Canada, Ireland, the UK,
South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia
and New Zealand quickly get acquainted and head straight away for the
Insight motor coach, skippered by Karoly, our Hungarian driver, and
parked just outside on the cobble.
Well, with the Czech Republic boasting
the highest per capita consumption of beer annually around 40
gallons or 160 liters per citizen it's only fitting that Insight
jumpstarts this Bohemian Rhapsody at a brewery, right?
A scenic ride through the Old and New districts
of Prague up to the hilly Strahov section of the city, with historical
footnotes of Praha's past like, defenestration (the art of throwing
a political foe through a perfectly functioning glass window)
doled out in rapid fire by Neira Milkovic, Insight's central and eastern
Europe tour director extraordinaire (she chats it up in eight languages
by the way, including her native Croatian), our 40-passenger, business-class
legroom Mercedes coach comes to a full stop outside an ornate archway
fronting the Strahov Monastery.
Walking down off the bus not hurled
through one of the windows we collectively grab our camera gear
and, suddenly, our band of merry media transforms into a pack of wild
paparazzi on the loose. It's every man/woman for his/her self.
Hey pal, you're blocking my shot!
Oh, I just love these media familiarization
trips; so much fun.
Through the archway we enter the sacred
grounds of the Strahov Abbey of the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians,
a Roman Catholic order of monks founded by St. Norbert in 1120. It is
here, above Prague, that the order put mortar to stone and built its
heavenly monastery in 1143.
The centerpiece of this religious institution
is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, where Mozart once put
the house of worship's pipe organ through its paces.
So, what does an order of monks have to
do with the Czech Republic's signature beverage? Well, it was these
same Premonstratensians who, in between vespers, began turning hops
into beer in a makeshift brewery all the way back in 1400.
Today, the Kláterní
Pivovar Strahov (Monastic Brewery) is a modern microbrewery, sans monks,
that creates the St. Norbert line of ten seasonal amber and dark lager
beers that are drawn and served alongside huge wooden platters of cold
cuts, salami, deep-fried artisan bread, crunchy-fresh veggies and tasty
A true Insight "signature" moment
one of many that will be sprung on us without notice our
band of merry media went behind the scenes of the brewery then put fork
to food and hand to mug. To add insult to injury, our waiters tossed
in a few complimentary shots of Becherovka, a smooth herbal liqueur.
Na zdraví! (Czech for Cheers!).
We went through the gates of the
saintly brewery as the sun was setting over the city and came
out, still able to walk a straight line, as night took over the
scene, to head down to Hell actually a wine-cellar restaurant
named Peklo (Czech for Hell) for part II of this epicurean
icebreaker on Insight's euro. Along the way, we got off some shots
of the fabulous panoramic views of Prague and a few illuminating
frames of the monastery.
Down the steep steps we travel into
the bowels of inferno. Peklo, a wine-cellar restaurant that occupies
the space of a 12th century grotto, lies directly underneath the
Beer mugs are exchanged for wine
glasses and there's plenty of grape to handle this band of merry
media. I get the initial pour and taste a Czech Sauvignon, and
Taking my place in the buffet line, I forgo
the sliced-to-order roast beef and, instead, indulge in the freshest
smoked salmon I've ever tasted along with a multitude of vegetables
prepped in a variety of ways. Dinner's final act is a delicious slice
of apple strudel drizzled with a creamy vanilla sauce. Mmm.
If this is Hell, then sign me up for the
For complete information on Insight Vacations'
premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody
and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
Join me tomorrow at first light as Prague
rubs the sleep from its eyes while I do my best to get the red out of
Rhapsody: Dobrý Den!; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Between Cairo and Berlin; Czeching
Out A Bohemian Rhapsody; Postcards
from Prague; The
Czech Republic A Little Jewel, Part 2; A
Brief Break in Brno