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.