Plzen

Trip Start Oct 04, 2007
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Trip End Nov 23, 2007


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Today I planned to visit Plzen - another 3 hour train ride, but this time it was supposed to be a direct train without the hassles and stress of connecting trains that you aren't sure of anyway.  My UOP chief recommended that I do not go to Plzen.  He said that it was not worth the 6 hour train ride.  I decided I would rather go than rot away in my hotel room watching the Shield.  
 
First of all, I overslept and missed my train.  I was pretty mad, but then, by the luck of the Europeans, I remembered that we went into daylight savings time the night before and I was able to catch my train.  When I got on my train I was just sitting there reading.  Announcements in Czech kept buzzing in and out but a little more frequently than usual.  Of course, I couldn't understand what was being said so I just kept on trucking along in my book.
All of a sudden we hit a stop and tons of people start to get off the train.  I keep watching and I notice that everyone is getting off the train.  I don't know if it is a coincidence or if something happened that was explained in all those cryptic Czech phrases.  So I am just sitting there contemplating to get off the train or not.  I decide fuck it, this train is supposed to go to Plzen, I look at my time table and I confirm the stop we are at.  I come to the conclusion that I should just sit on the train and wait. 
 
So as I am just sitting there a younger girl speaking broken English tells me that I should get off the train.  I am confused as hell but I decide.  She then quickly runs onto a bus (there were 2).  As soon as she gets onto the bus it drives away.  I have no way to ask questions, I just get on the other bus show the driver my ticket and he blurts some phrase at me.  It didn't seem like a no, so I just sat down and hoped it all works out.  In the end it did, the bus left shortly after I got on ended up transporting us to the train station at Plzen.  I had to take a bus from Plzen to the same city again to get home as well.  I am not sure why we had to get off the train; I assume there was working being done on the track. 
 
I was so lucky that this chick came back on to tell me.  I don't understand why the train conductor didn't prod my ass out.  Maybe eventually he would have, in either event not knowing what the fuck going on sucks, but it also makes it kind of cool and exciting!
 
Plzen as a city was okay, it was nice but not spectacular.  There was a major site to see in the town square - St. Bartholomew's church, but it wasn't impressive at all compared to St. Vitus' Cathedral in Prague or St. Barbara's Cathedral in Kutna Hora. Otherwise the city was pretty large and was modernized with tidbits of history interlaced.  
 
What made the trip worthwhile was a visit to Pazdroj Brewery where they make Pilsner Urquell.  One interesting thing is that SAS Miller (from Milwaukee) owns this brewery!  I was able to take a tour of the brewery paying attention to key engineering details like capacity, throughput, process descriptions etc.  The facility was pretty cool.  It has 124 fermentation tanks each with a capacity of 2,500 hecto-liters (hecto is 100).  The filling rate for bottles is 60,000 per hour and for cans, 38,000 per hour.  The yearly throughput is 1.8 million hector-liters of beer, but the brewery can increase capacity up to 2.8 million.   The tour ended taking a trip into the old cellar where beer used to be brewed.  The cellar had paths totaling over 9 km!  Unfortunately, most of the space is unused and empty now, but there are about 50 barrels of beer that brewed for 2 very important reasons:  1.  To check that the modernly brewed beer was still comparable to old style quality. 2.  To please tourists.  

At the end of the tour we had a beer tasting from beer brewed in the cellar.  This was unfiltered, un-pasteurized and absolutely delicious. It was worth traveling 6 hours to taste this one cup of beer.  It was unbelievable; I have never met a beer that tasted so good.  Dominic had told me had tasted the best beer of his life in Plzen, I can understand and wholeheartedly agree.  Looking back on the beer, I would probably step over my own mother to get another one.                        
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