Read what's new at the VOGT Family TreeHouse in the BLOG... See what's in the family scrapbook... Visit the newest part of the Family TreeHouse...


The Whole World Over

There are two Budweiser Brewing Companies in the world. One is the one we all know, and the other is a local brewery in the Czech Republic.

Flash!  Budvar is now imported to the United States under a different name - Czechvar!  The Czechvar web site has a hilarious explanation of the copyright fights they've been battling, but the bottom line is - it's HERE!!  If you live near the Family TreeHouse, Giles Liquors (Cambridge Road, on the Woburn-Winchester line in the Horn Pond Plaza) sells it!!

In April of 1994, three of us from the MITRE Stuttgart office (Al Moyer, Jerry Goulet, and myself) went on a beer pilgrimage to the home of the European Budweiser; Çeské Budêjovice (also know as Budvar, or Budweis in German), in the Czech Republic. It turns out that the St. Louis Budweiser brewery was formed a couple of years before the Budvar brewery here, so from an age perspective the US brewery has been using the name longer, but I suspect there were other breweries in "Budweis" whose brews in German would be known as "Budweiser" in the same way that a beer brewed in Stuttgart would be known as a "Stuttgarter," etc. I guess the lawsuits will end over the use of the name, though; USA Budweiser bought a 30% stake in the Czech Budvar brewing company in 1995. There is no comparison in the beers, by the way.

This part of the Czech Republic (Bohemia) was settled by Germans, and their settlement was even encouraged by the Bohemian queen, in the late 1800's. As an aside, Schindler (as in "Schindler's List") was from Czechoslovakia and is viewed there as a traitor, not as a hero. He evidently collaborated with the Nazi's when he was young and turned in a bunch of Czech citizens for "treason" against the German government.

On Thursday evening we boarded an overnight train in Stuttgart; destination: Praha (Prague), Czech Republic. It's not Czechoslovakia anymore. Czechoslovakia split into two countries in 1993; The Czech Republic, and Slovakia. We three shared our sleeping compartment with two young men from Czech Republic, leaving one berth empty, which was fortunate, because Al Moyer is so tall he kept hitting his head on the bunk above, so we folded up the unused bunk and that gave him enough headroom. Although the train was bound for Praha, we three got off in Plzen (Pilsen) at 4:30 in the morning, to wait for a connecting train to our destination and the home of the brewery; Çeské Budêjovice. It was a good thing that we were awake when the train stopped in Plzen; we had to wake the conductor-ette to recover our tickets and get off. Apparently we were in a car where everyone else was going through to Praha (2 more hours) and she thought we were, as well. Our scheduled train to Ceské Budéjovice was for 6:20 AM, but it never showed up on the display board or at the station, so we convinced ourselves to take the 6:40 AM train listed to Çeské Budêjovice. It turns out that, because of repair work on the tracks, we highly suspect that our 6:20 AM train was canceled.

The Friday morning 6:40 AM train was a very slow train (it stopped at every village; in some cases you had to look hard for the village - there was no station, only a crossroad leading to a village a couple of km away), and the 9:30 AM appointment we had for a brewery tour was missed. It turned out that ALL trains had to stop about 20 miles from Çeské Budêjovice and the passengers were bussed the rest of the way. We found this out by abandoning the slow train and hopping a fast train, only to have the fast train stop ten minutes later, with everyone boarding busses that waited for the slow train to arrive before continuing for the remainder of the trip.

We arrived in Çeské Budêjovice around 10:00 AM, and headed for our hotel, the Hotel Zvon, right on the town square. It is an excellent hotel, recently renovated and easily up to western standards, with amazingly low prices (990 Krowns for a single room, about $35, including breakfast). We called the brewery from the hotel and found out that the person we were to meet with was occupied until 12 noon, so we decided to unpack and settle in for a few minutes, then take a taxi to the brewery, and try to meet up with him there.

After waiting an hour at the main gate of the brewery, we succumbed to our hunger (no breakfast) and left to eat lunch in the brewery restaurant around the corner in the same building. While we were there we were informed that the person we were to meet was no longer available, so we were offered a personalized (though somewhat simplified) tour by the man at the gate (whose name was Sika, we think). We had a great tour, including the bottling area and the cellars, and I captured it all on film. Sika spoke German, and had visited the States for two months a while back, so we had lots to chat about while we walked.

After the tour, we walked back to the hotel (~4 km) from the brewery, and roamed around the enormous market square for an hour or so before heading out to eat. Our roaming included two stops at the Budvar gift shop they run downtown (away from the brewery) to buy glasses, mugs, and other "souvenirs."

Public transportation is used extensively in Czech Republic; you see few cars parked on the streets. The ones you do see are old; the nicer ones are housed in locked garages. The advice given in the tourist literature is to park only in guarded parking garages, and the nicer hotels seem to have "safe" garages for their guests. Otherwise the car is stolen and from what I gather moved further east to where there are fewer cars and a big demand.

Around dinnertime, we were "adopted" by a local guy named John, who was in his mid-fifties, and claimed to have learned English from listening to the radio (shades of the old United Nations joke!) and enjoyed the chance to practice with visitors, but all three of us agreed afterwards that he was probably a lower echelon "operative" in the old communist regime and was either still trying to scoop info, or was looking for free beer and maybe a meal. He got the latter, because he was so entertaining.

A Budvar DeckelWe ate at the other Budvar brewery restaurant, Masne Kramy, built in an old enclosed meat market near the town square. John joined us (after only a tiny bit of coaxing) so there were four of us. We each had two half-liters of beer (Budvar, of course), dinner (Zvitchkava, marinated beef in sauce with Bohemian dumplings), dessert (Palischinken, peach crepes with sour cream and sauce), and coffee, and the bill came to 480 Krowns, about $15!! Not for each, TOTAL!!! And it was good!!!

On Saturday, after breakfast of cheeses, long thick sticks of bread, sliced meats, liver pate, and eggs fried in a poacher (and coffee, of course), we headed off to the bus station to take the bus to Cesky Krumlov, a medieval village about 30 km south of Çeské Budêjovice. Cesky Krumlov is an intact medieval town, with ancient cobblestone streets, a palace with tower up on the hill overlooking the town and the River Moldau, and lots of shops and restaurants. It's a lot like Rothenberg ob de Tauber might be with only one third the tourists, and it has a Bohemian flavor to it, with a certain architectural style and decoration on the buildings.

We arrived in Cesky Krumlov after about an hour's bus ride (12 Krowns, about 40 cents), and walked though the town (I filmed a lot of the town, too). We bought CD's of Czech folk music and other classical CDs (around $5-$6 each), crystal champagne glasses (570 Krowns for 6, about $19), picture books of the town (hard-cover glossy ones with great pictures, about $4; paperback ones telling the story of the town, about 50 cents), and of course lots of postcards. We ate lunch late enough (and the cook was slow enough) to delay our departure until 6 PM instead of 3 PM (busses run reasonably frequently but not hourly on weekends), so to kill more time (not difficult in this town), we climbed the hill to the old palace grounds, and found more gift shops and spectacular views of the town, the river, and the surrounding countryside. I bought a pen & ink sketch, a Nazi coin from 1939, complete with swastika, and more postcards. Lunch, by the way, was overlooking the Moldau River with the palace in the foreground behind the river.

The bus ride back was as uneventful as the one in the morning, and we found another restaurant to eat at in Çeské Budêjovice, which was not as good as the first one, but not bad. At this restaurant I tried to buy the half liter Budvar mug that I was served my beer in. I asked the waiter how much it would cost to buy the mug, and he made a face and finally said 130 Krowns. I knew the same mug was in the brewery gift shop for 117 Krowns, so I said thanks but no thanks, it was too expensive. After he finished taking our dessert order, he then asked if I wanted to buy the mug for 100 Krowns, which I agreed to. He took the mug away to wash it, and came back with the mug, deckles, pads of paper, napkins, and a deckle holder, all to go with the mug! These folks may be new to capitalism, but they catch on quick!!

On Sunday, after an earlier breakfast in the same style as the previous day's, we headed out for one last walking tour before beginning our journey home. We tried to find the Horse-Drawn Railroad station, but all we found was a little non-descript building that looked historical. On our way, though, we did find the Koh-i-noor factory, where all the great pencils and drafting supplies are made. To our surprise, we found out that their headquarters are in Çeské Budêjovice.

We finished our tour with a walk along the river by a Boy Scout and Girl Scout jamboree of sorts, and then to the Black Tower near the market square. After checking out of the hotel, we schlepped our bags (now bursting with "souvenirs") to the train station to catch the 10:00 AM train to Plzen.

Our trip back to Plzen was nowhere near as adventurous as the trip down, but it was again via slow train, so we didn't get into Plzen until around 1:30 PM. The scenery on the way was spectacular, with alternating woods and "carp ponds" left over from medieval times.

On arriving at Plzen, Jerry and I stuffed our things into lockers and made a dash (of sorts) to the Pilsner Urquell brewery, a few hundred yards from the train station (Al chose to stay behind). We bought more mugs and glasses, and posters, and postcards, and then we scurried back to the train station in time to collect our bags and dash for the train to Nürnberg. In Nürnberg we caught another train for Stuttgart, and arrived home around 9:00 PM.





Copyright © 1973-2023 by Eugene F. Vogt. All rights reserved. Last modified 02-Jan-2023 1:24 PM ET. Send questions or comments to the Family TreeHouse WebMeister. View our Privacy Policy.