FACT FILE

The Press - Escape - - CZECH REPUBLIC -

bal­cony, to her­ald the Vel­vet Revo­lu­tion to the crowds be­low.

Not far away is Cestr, a su­perbly thought-through mod­ern restau­rant themed around the cen­turies-old Bo­hemian cow breed that pro­vides the beef at the core of its menu: en­tre­cote steaks, braised neck with gin­ger­bread, golden mus­cle and shank slowly cooked in goose fat and the quite bril­liant beef ‘‘sashimi’’ in amirin and ap­ple dress­ing.

Like nearly ev­ery bar in town, Cestr also serves Pilsener Urquell. Here, it comes as the pre­mium ‘‘Creme Urquell’’, drawn un­pas­teurised from bulk tanks which must be drained within a week while the beer is fresh. Same beer, dif­fer­ent de­liv­ery.

Our evening meal at an­other mod­ern restau­rant, Min­covna, brought an­other sur­prise: the Czechs make wine now, and some of what we sam­pled from the long wine list, both red and white, was re­mark­ably good.

But it’s still about the beer. There are dozens of places call­ing them­selves beer mu­se­ums in Prague, and some, like the Prague Beer Mu­seum, near the Old Town Square, are re­ally more like pubs. Among the 30 beers on tap there was a Czech ver­sion of an IPA – the ar­che­typal New World beer pre­sented in the Old World set­ting. It was the last place we vis­ited be­fore fly­ing out – it seemed fit­ting our last taste of the Czech Repub­lic’s brac­ing col­li­sion of the an­cient and the mod­ern was to be found in a good, cold glass. The quick­est way to get to Prague from New Zealand is to fly Emi­rates from Auck­land via Dubai (with a brief stop in Bris­bane) or via Seoul on Korean Air and Czech Air­lines. There are myr­iad other op­tions with var­i­ous air­lines – more stopovers lower the price. Pilsen is about an hour from Prague. All parts of the coun­try are served by ef­fi­cient train and bus ser­vices, but staff may not speak English out­side the main tourist cen­tres. Typ­i­cal car rental costs are about NZ$50 a day. New Zealand cit­i­zens do not re­quire a visa to en­ter and stay in the Czech Repub­lic for up to 90 days. Pass­ports need to be valid for at least 90 days from the date of de­par­ture from the Czech Repub­lic. The kiwi has ap­pre­ci­ated strongly against the Czech crown in re­cent years: $1 buys about 18.50 crowns, mean­ing that food, drink and ac­com­mo­da­tion are rel­a­tively af­ford­able by New Zealand stan­dards (sub­stan­tial main meals at Na Spilce ranged be­tween NZ$5 and NZ$15). Eu­ros are also ac­cepted, but re­tail ex­change rates may vary con­sid­er­ably, so spend­ing in crowns is more re­li­able. Pilsner Urquell Brew­ery: praz­dro­jvisit.cz/en Dou­ble rooms at De­sign Ho­tel Josef in Prague range from NZ$140 to NZ$250 a night depend­ing on sea­son and con­fig­u­ra­tion. Dou­ble rooms at Ho­tel An­gelo in Pilsen range from $120 to $150 a night depend­ing on sea­son and con­fig­u­ra­tion.

High point: The pretty old wa­ter tower at Pilsner Urquell.

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