June 18, 2014

Pilsen Disaster

Normally, when travelling in Europe, I have nothing but great things to say about our trips. The places we visit, the sites we see, the food, the people, the sites, etc. This time, not so much. Maybe when I go another time on my own with my family it will be a different story, but for now, the real deal about Pilsen.

Pilsen is the fourth largest city in Czech, and just over an hour away from our home in Germany, with a Roman history and a very famous brewery to even Americans (Pilsner Urquell). Last Friday, my office took a "Cultural Outing" to visit the brewery and city for the day. We do a different trip yearly, voted on by employees, and last year we did these two breweries. Pilsen was the winner last Friday, and so at 7:30 in the morning, we headed on a bus to the infamous brewery for a tour.

Now, I'll tell you my real thought about the trip. All I've ever heard about Pilsen from Soldiers and even training instructors I've had in Grafenwoehr, is how easy it is for men to get "lucky" in the city. From clubs to even worse, because in Czech, it's all legal. Which freaks me out and almost makes me hate the city just on principal. Abused and used. Czech freaks me out in general for this reason. The nearest city of Cheb took me off guard years ago when I couldn't understand why women were standing at a  bus stop (?) in the middle of no where looking so cold and helpless. Reality set in, and ever since, sympathy replaced other emotions.

Needless to say, as the bus drove in, I was wide eyed and a bit judgmental looking around the city. A bit like the rest of Czech. Worn down buildings, graffiti everywhere, garbage and a dirty feeling unlike Germany, but a beauty and color unlike other places I've visited. The architecture is amazing. Each building still with so much artistic character and style. Baroque steeples, cobblestone roads, and beautiful colors every where you look. Try to see the positives I told myself driving past casinos, Thai massage shops, and plenty of Nonstop this and that's.

We arrived at the Pilsen Brewery around 9:30, entering through a gate similar to the Brandenburg gate in Berlin. Wow. The grounds of this brewery are really amazing and huge. However, you have to pay for a license to take photos! And once again, based on principal, I wouldn't give another 4 euros on top of the hefty 16 euro tour price just to be able to take photos. At least you can see below what the entrance looks like. However, the place goes on for miles. You have to get on a bus, with shaded out windows to even start the tour. Super secret stuff.

The tour was pretty awesome, but in German, so I kept bugging my coworkers to translate the pieces I couldn't understand and think some might have gotten lost in translation. Double translation at that. However, I did understand that over 1000 bottles can be cleaned and bottled with new beer in just 1 minute!!! That blew my mind. They built this crazy new 40 million euro facility the size of 5 football fields to clean and bottle/can 4 types of beer. I was astonished and loved watching the conveyor belts and machines doing their magic in awe of the engineers who were brilliant enough to create these systems! Germans in turns out. You know what else? They have this underground system of tunnels that is 8km overall in length that was hand dug out. I think that blows my mind even more than the engineering feats! The underground tunnels were used from the late 1800s until just a few years ago to "finish" the beers/keep them at a perfect 6 degrees centigrade. Cold and wet and a bit creepy, but the highlight of the tour because they let you taste an unfiltered, unpasteurized delicious glass of Pilsen in the tunnels before finishing your tour. Pretty awesome, and yes, I recommend the tour if you go.

However, the rest of the trip went downhill fast. Our tour guide, very quick to tell jokes you know he's repeated thousands of times, took us to a Czech restaurant close to the down town that was down right awful. Over three hours later, starving (because lunch was literally inedible) and grumpy, all 25 of us were looking forward to our downtown 90 minute tour of Pilsen. Twenty minutes later, our guide left us at the church, with no facts, or information other than dates and jokes about the old town hall and church. Thanks buddy. You just made over 300 euros to tell us nothing. I could have provided a way better tour jut using Wikipedia! Seriously.

This is the cathedral in the center of the city. Excited about the market, I anxiously checked out all the wooden neat toys for kids! Unfortunately, all of them were crap. I couldn't find a single musical xylophone that actually played in tune. Probably all made in China. So disappointing. Since our lunch took so long, we actually had no time to explore the city, and back on the bus it was after a quick drink. Of course, we passed by this sign while walking through the main square. My colleagues figured they had no idea on the English double meaning. I seriously doubt that considering the city's clientele.

Oh Pilsen! I had such high hopes and tried so hard to like you. Perhaps if I come again to visit the zoo and Dinosaur world with my kids. Although, I must say, I am a bit afraid to return. Each time I'm in Czech, I'm scammed in some way. Better luck next time I say. And any day away from the desk is a great day in my book.

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