We woke to sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures on Sunday morning. I was glad to see it. After breakfast and a walk with the dogs, we started to plan our day. We were about to leave for Plzen when Bill looked out the window and noticed a couple of guys doing yard work, blocking the gate to the yard. I guess it’s not a problem to do yard work in the Czech Republic on Sundays. They were done soon enough, so we headed back to Plzen, parking in the same garage we used on Saturday. Bill discovered a handy footbridge from the garage to the other side of the street. Like I said in an earlier posts, things are surprisingly civilized in the Czech Republic these days.
We wandered around the Main Square in Plzen and I noticed people were climbing the tower at St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral. I am in piss poor physical shape these days, but somehow I can’t resist climbing a tower, even if I’m sore for days afterwards. So that’s what Bill and I decided to do. We walked up 301 steep, narrow steps to get to the highest point in Plzen and the highest church spire in the Czech Republic itself.
I paused to take pictures of the bells… and catch my breath.
It costs 50 Czech crowns to torture oneself in this manner. You pay at a station about a third of the way up. Once you get to the top, you are treated to views of the city, which can be exhilarating, depressing, or terrifying, depending on your point of view.
Yes… it’s a very steep climb! There are pictures of the views from the top at the bottom of this post.
I found it harder and scarier to go down than to come up the stairs. Yes, climbing the stairs up was harder work and got me more winded, but coming down was really scary. You’re already tired from the climb up and the steps are really narrow and steep. I found myself holding on to the bannisters for dear life as I slowly made my way down each step, praying I didn’t miss one and take a fall.
On the way down the tower, we ran into a couple of police officers. I wondered why they were going up there– although they did look pretty fit. Bill said maybe they were taking a “break”. Or perhaps they were checking for snipers? I don’t know. If I had to walk up those steps every day, I have no doubt I’d be in shape in no time. However, two days later, I’m still a bit sore and the climb itself was kind of hard on my knees. I’m glad I did it once, but I’m not sure I want to do it again!
Just as an aside about Czech cops… I happened to catch a TV show that appeared to be inspired by our own Cops TV show in the United States. Although I didn’t understand anything that was being said, it was interesting to watch how Czech police officers handle their arrestees. I noticed the guys being arrested were cuffed, put in the back seat, and strapped in with a seatbelt. The cops didn’t bother buckling up. Somehow, I figure the seatbelt was used less for safety reasons and more for security. Or maybe they don’t wear seatbelts because they need to be able to react quickly. Who knows? Personally, I hate the damn things, but if I don’t wear mine, Bill turns into Pat Boone. Besides, cars today are like nannies and will beep at you incessantly if you don’t use them.
Inside the cathedral.
After the tower experience, we walked into the cathedral. Supposedly, you have to pay to see it, but I never saw anyone collecting money for admission. Anyway, there’s a gate at the front of the cathedral, so you can only peek in there. I’m not sure it’s worth the 35 Czech crowns they supposedly collect for that. I did manage to get a few photos.
Then we went searching for lunch. I thought we might try Buddha, an Indian and Nepalese restaurant I noticed near the Brewery Museum. It smelled delicious and they had an English menu. I also knew Bill would get a thrill because he loves Indian food and I don’t. Alas, they were closed on Sunday, despite their sign signifying otherwise. Oh well. If we go back to Plzen, we’ll have to try it. It gets great reviews on TripAdvisor. Even without the reviews, my nose told me it was a good place to eat.
It was okay that we missed Buddha, though, because I found another fabulous restaurant. I had actually noticed it as we walked into town. I am naturally attracted to alcoves when we travel. I like to explore things that aren’t on the main drags. This restaurant was actually on the main drag, but had its entrance in an alcove. Called U Makicke Brany, the outside of the restaurant looks distinctly Eastern European. The inside is very inviting, with cavernous ceilings and an upscale bar area. I was especially attracted by the great music they were playing… lots of classic rock! Good music, excellent beer, and delicious food is an invitation for me to pig out, which is exactly what I did.
Bill looks at the menu.
U Makicke Brany offers menus with German and English translations, which was a huge help. I can often figure things out in local languages, but Czech is a mystery to me. Our waitress and the bartender also spoke English and/or German, which was also helpful. Actually, speaking some German is useful in the Czech Republic, because even if someone can’t speak English, chances are they will know some German. I have noticed it on all of our visits. Bill can speak basic conversational German and it does come in handy when we go to the Czech Republic.
I loved the bar!
And the beer…
But I especially loved the garlic soup!
As we were looking at the menu, I noticed the restaurant offered garlic soup, which is apparently a popular hangover cure in the Czech Republic. I noticed the Brewery Museum restaurant also had it on the menu. I was intrigued by the ingredients, which looked really good to me. There was garlic, potatoes, barley, bacon, and croutons. It sounded perfect for cold weather. But I also knew I wanted dessert and I knew the main course would also fill me up. Thankfully, Bill was happy to order it with two spoons. Our waitress was adorable and beamed when I enthused about that soup. I think she and the bartender had some chemistry going on. I noticed they seemed to be enjoying each other’s company.
This garlic soup was delicious! I need to find a recipe. It wasn’t too garlicky, but had just enough of an essence. The croutons tasted homemade and buttery, which really added to the comfort level of the soup. It smelled amazing, too.
Bill sensibly followed up with a chicken Caesar salad. It also had bacon in it. Bacon makes everything better, right?
I went with smoked duck breast and gravy. I told you, I love duck… even though they are so cute and cuddly. I wish my tastebuds hadn’t evolved before my ethics did. The duck came with baked potato discs that absorbed the gravy in a most appealing way. Or course, I was thinking to myself that green vegetables had been missing from my diet while we were in the Czech Republic. I’ll have to make up for that this week.
For dessert, we shared cheesecake with blueberry sauce. This was just the right size. Not too big, heavy, or rich.
And I had one more dark beer for the road… a Master, which packed a good punch. Between us, we had five beers, a bowl of soup, a salad, an entree, and dessert. It set us back less than $40. Cheap!
A few shots of the outside. In the summer, they also have outdoor seating.
I noticed the street name as we waited to cross the street.
Views of Plzen on a sunny day.
Inside the tower as I recover from the climb.
We decided to go back to the dogs and watch more of the Olympics, since by the time we were finished with our sumptuous lunch, it was mid afternoon. Once again, we were too full to go looking for dinner. Instead, we had more croquettes. Even as I was cursing myself for being so lazy on this trip, I realized that with better planning, we could really fill our days up in this part of the Czech Republic. Not only is there Plzen, which in and of itself offers a lot to do, there’s also Karlovy Vary, which is a beautiful spa town, and of course, Chodova Plana, which offers Chodovar. If we’d wanted to, we could have spent a week and not done the same thing twice. Maybe that’s why we didn’t go out as much as we should have. There were so many choices that we were overwhelmed with making decisions.
Bill and I mostly stay low key on our trips, anyway. We kind of like to soak up the atmosphere, people watch, and do the odd activity, sandwiched with good food, beer, or wine. We also love meeting new people on our trips. We almost always have something interesting happen to us, if only because we’re less focused on seeing things and more attuned to simple experiences.
Sunday night, Bill discovered where he could find Chodovar beer in Plzen. It was available at Billa, a grocery chain in the Czech Republic. On Monday morning, as we were leaving Plzen, we drove to a really seedy looking part of the city, complete with communist era apartment buildings. I remarked that it will take a long time before those vestiges of communism will go away. Those buildings are ugly, but functional. I used to live in a couple of them myself, when I lived in Armenia.
I enjoyed a Chodovar last night!
Bill scored seven bottles of Chodovar and a few bottles of the awesome flavored sparkling water from there. I found myself planning another trip in my head. Next time, maybe we’ll return to Chodovar, which offers a good centralized location for notable cities in the area. Maybe we’ll spend a few more days, just wandering the beautiful countryside, touring breweries, and hitting the spas. That’s the life for me!
Those buildings aren’t going away…