In our journey from Cesky Krumlov to Marianske Lazne, we had a few hours to spend in the centre of the Czech Republic’s fourth largest city – Pilsen, or as they say in Czech, Plzeň.
Pilsen Tourism had organised a guided tour for us and we learnt so much about this West Bohemian city in just a few hours. A recent mural has done an excellent job of bringing the most influential historical figures in Pilsen together in one place.
The dapper chap on the bottom left with the bowler hat is Emil Skoda. Yes. THAT Skoda. Over the last 150 years, his company’s factories in Pilsen have built munitions, locomotives, aircraft, steam turbines and most famously in recent times, cars. The rapid expansion of the city in the latter part of the 19th century, was largely due to the industrial revolution that Emil was guiding in this corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The other industry that really put this city on the map back in the 19th century was brewing. The King had granted brewing rights to citizens of Pilsen, but the quality of the output was, shall we say, variable. But in 1842, a group of Pilsen citizens decided to set up a communal brewery that they could all be proud of and imported master brewer, Josef Groll, from Bavaria. Together they produced the first lager beer in the world and at the Pilsner Urquell brewery, they use the exact same method developed by Herr Groll to this day.
We had a great tour of the brewery, rounded off by drinking unpasteurised, unfiltered Pilsner Urquell beer straight from a wooden barrel. I’m not a huge fan of most of the lagers that we get in the UK, but this proper, Czech premium beer is the real deal. Na zdravi!
Prior to the rapid expansion of the city over the last 170 years, Pilsen was a contained, handsome, prosperous town, as shown in its stunning architecture.
We thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Pilsen and will ensure that we spend longer next time.