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Bev Cohn: Czech Republic 2

The Czech Republic – A Little Jewel
Part 2

Text & Photos by Beverly Cohn

tour guide at a distillery in Ponesice
A tour of a local distillery and a lesson on how the liqueurs are brewed.

Day 4

till 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 charm.

a view of Prague with the Vltava River in the foreground
Prague is like stepping into the land of Grimm's Fairy Tales.

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 Grimm’s 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.

friendly police officer posing for a photograph
A friendly police officer poses for a photo op.

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 clock’s 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 you’re strolling, check out the awesome neo-Renaissance post office built in 1890 but don’t take out your camera as it’s 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 Prague’s exquisite skyline.

the Ceremonial Hall, the entrance to the Jewish Cemetery in Prague
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. George’s Basilica.

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 Andel’s Hotel, located in Prague’s 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, it’s only fitting to hold the Czech Beer Festival which offers a wide range of brewers, smokehouses, butchers, delicatessens, and pastry chefs.

Day 5

Chef Vaclav Eric demonstrating the art of egg cracking
Chef Vaclav Eric demonstrates the art of egg cracking.

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.

roasted duck with red cabbage and potato dumplings - chef Eric's signature dish
Chef Eric's signature dish – roasted duck with red cabbage and potato dumplings (Kachna).

Other dishes included the chef’s 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 Eric’s 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 “busman’s holiday” is cooking at home on the weekends.

Day 6

a variety of cheese for sale at the town of Olomouc, Moravia
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 Prague’s 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 wife’s 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.

English-style labyrinths with colorful flowers at the Kromeriz Flower Garden, Kromeriz
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.

Day 7

After a visit to the Archdiocesan Museum located in the Archbishop’s 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 lined avenue.

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 morning.

the writer's tour guide: Jirina Vokrouhlikova
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: tourinfo@pis.cz.

Related Articles:
The Czech Republic - A Little Jewel: Part 1, Innsbruck, Austria, Bavarian Odyssey, Slovenia, Vienna


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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA



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