Czech Republic is landlocked right at the heart of continental Europe. It is surrounded by Austria, Germany and Poland, which is why the traditional food consists of a lot of meat and sauces. The most common meat is vepÅ™ovÃ©, or pork, and it is always served with knedlÃky, or what they call dumplings, to soak up the gravy. All dishes almost always come with zelÃ or sauerkraut.
Meats are often roasted or baked. We were lucky enough to enjoy a plate of roÅ¾nÄ›nÃ© selÃ¡tko, or grilled piglet. Thankfully, it came with a serving of vegetable salad. When we were hungry–which was more often than you can ever imagine–we ordered the combo plate of pork, Å¡pekovÃ© or duck, and sausages.
For a more homey meal, meat is stewed for hours to make goulash. We tasted a delicious one in thick sauce that used dark ale.
Game is usually served on special occasions. We had rabbit in sauce flavored with thyme and ostrich meat served with pasta. The rabbit was nice, but the ostrich just tasted like tough beef.
We even had baby octopus carpaccio served with arugula greens and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. We rarely had dessert but we spoiled ourselves with strudels and other pastries for breakfast or as snacks during the day.
Now all that food needs to go down, and if the Czechs are known for anything, it’s the way they appreciate their pivo, their beer. Pilsner, the most famous Czech beer, originated in Bohemia, a region in central Europe which occupies the western and middle thirds of Czech Republic. Pilsner was first brewed in a town called PlzeÅˆ and the same brewery that developed it still makes PlzÅˆskÃ© or what we know as Pilsner Urquell.
Another famous Czech beer is ÄŒeskÃ© BudÄ›jovice or Budweiser Budvar. Budvar and Anheuser-Busch are still engaged in numerous trademark lawsuits around the world.
Each pub is supplied by only one brewery, or pivovar, but different types are usually available. No Czech beer lover ever drinks it canned as it is usually made for export. (Something I learned in Ireland and their Guinness.) Together with PlzÅˆskÃ© from PlzeÅˆ comes Gambrinus.
Prague has its own, Staropramen, and there is also KruÅ¡ovice Light from KrÃ¡lovskÃ½.
All of the above are light and golden in color; foamy and refreshing at the end. I liked them fine, but my favorites were the dark lagers, VelkopopovickÃ½ Kozel and U FlekÅ¯’s own tmavÃ© brew.
If you can’t make up your mind, there is a combination of light and dark called Rezane, also from VelkopopovickÃ½. If you want the more familiar, of course there’s always the Belgian Stella.
When you enter a pub, you’re given a small piece of paper so that the waiter can tally your order. It’s a given that you’re going to drink beer, no matter what time it is. Beer will just keep coming to your table until you say something to your server otherwise.
We drank nine different kinds of beers each in three days! Not to mention the multiple quantities we drank of each kind. Just thinking of that feat deserves another beer!
Prague photos on Flickr
Day 3: Astronomical Clock, Havel Market, Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge
Day 2: Prague Castle, Lvi Dvur, Petrin Hill, Wenceslas Square
Day 1: Three Kinds of Beer, First Few Hours in Prague