Well since leaving France we’ve come quite a long way (now about 3,500km on the clock in fact). We shifted across Germany pretty fast, eating nice fresh apples and sticky spätzle by the Bodensee and then great griesenschmalz in the Bayrisches Wald. But we wanted more – spätzle only get you so far – so we crossed over the mountains into the snowy Böhmerwald and the Czech Republic, immediately being rewarded with the first dumpling sightings of the journey.
This was only the beginning – we soon made our way to Bohemia and Český Krumlov, where we learnt all about why Czech beer tastes so good, and about its ideal accompaniment in the form of (imagine the excitement) the stuffed dumpling. Next to Moravia …
I’d known the Czechs liked their beer, but I’d had no idea they were so good at making wine. Until we happened to visit Kroměříž, an unpronouncable old market town in southern Moravia, Czech Republic. In the centre of town there is a huge archbishop’s palace, complete with peacocks in the gardens and hundreds of barrels of aging wine in the cellars. It turned out they’d been making and storing wine here for 800 years, and it tasted pretty fantastic too. In fact we’re drinking a bottle of their rulandské šedé right now.
The Czechs certainly like their beer – in fact, they drink more of it than anyone else. One of the world’s best-known beer styles, pilsner, is named after the Czech town of Plzeň; and the name of one of the most famous brands (deservedly or not) derives from the brewing centre of České Budějovice (or as the Germans call it, Budweis).
They’ve also been brewing it for a very long time. In Český Krumlov, they’ve been brewing since at least the 1300s, with records showing they were granted a charter to brew and sell beer in 1336. And at the Eggenberg brewery, they still make beer the same way – local organic ingredients, secret recipe and all – producing a rich, tasty, slightly yeasty brew known for its dramatic effects on the youthful appearance of the local womenfolk and on the digestive systems of tourists.