Putting the ‘Bar’ in Bardejov – Travels in Eastern Slovakia, Part 1

Bardejov

Bardejov

Many years ago, in deepest, darkest Slovakia, there was a small village named Dejov. As the village grew, the demand for proprietors of fine alcohol grew with it, and thus, as the village developed in to a town, the authorities deemed it necessary to re-christen the town ‘Bardejov’, fittingly representing the ever-growing number of watering holes appearing therein.

No doubt the council website doesn’t tell quite the same story, but go and read it, if you fancy, and tell us which history you think is best. For us, Bardejov would hold the key to our weekend as it was to be the first stop on our Great Eastern Slovakian Mystery tour, covering what felt like most of the East in two days. First though, we had the small matter of actually getting there to contend with. We began our journey, as we often try to do, with two pints of Policka, gratefully consuming them on this occasion in the smokey basement atmosphere of Brno’s ‘U Sedlaka’. From here we hopped on the bus at 11.30 in the evening, hoping to sleep through most of the 7 hour journey to Košice. Ralph went out like a light, while I sat staring in to the back of my eyelids and worshiping every cigarette and piss break we made, before mercifully arriving in Košice around 6.30am.

Passing for a second time through Prešov we eventually arrived in Bardejov, full of energy and aching joints, mercilessly hunting down breakfast. As hungry and as knackered as we were, emerging on to Bardejov’s UNESCO-listed central square at 9 in the morning was simply breathtaking. The early morning sun was shining and slowly illuminating the beautiful Gothic and Renaissance buildings that surround the historic town hall and church of Sv. Aegidius (or St. Giles), casting a glow over the small, square gardens that welcome you to every shop door.

Bardejov town square

Bardejov town square

After picking up a panini and a coffee in a local cafe, we hung out for a while with the ageing worshipers who were getting ready to bash the doors in as time was ticking on in every respect. We weren’t there for the big man though, we wanted to storm that tower. Precisely because we weren’t intending put our hands together, the smiling overseer of this pillar of Godliness thought it proper we should put our hands in our pockets instead, and without fuss we happily passed him a full four euro for the two of us. We walked around the church quickly (it looking much like any other) to get our money’s worth and then went in search of the door to that tower. Having some trouble finding it we went back to the kind servant of our lord, and asked where it was. ‘Ah you want the tower.’ He replied, omnipotently ‘that’s another two euros each’. We looked at each other, and looked to the sky, but there you have it – ripped off by a man of the cloth.

No Klobasa No Party

No Klobasa No Party

We ascended the narrow, winding staircase that spun us in circles to finally burst forth among the heavens that rested over the glowing town of Bardejov for which, it has to be said, was a view worth more than euros (but don’t tell them that because if you have anything worth more than money, they’ll take it). The descent was a little more difficult (we’re not allowed to talk about that, I am told), but we finally rested on mortal ground once more and headed off to more familiar surroundings at Partizan Bardejov, where we enjoyed the view for a few moments before tasting the first beer of the day – a refreshing Šariš.

Partizan Bardejov

Partizan Bardejov

Time was against us, and so we headed back towards the bus station, marveling at the number of bars here for a relatively small town. We had time to try just one more, sitting outside in the midday sun with a Czech Bakalář. Ralph noticed that the sign hanging above the door was signaling that the place was also a hairdressers, so naturally asked for two beers and a haircut, please. The staff, already bemused by our arrival looked at him with complete confusion, asking him to repeat his absurd request. There are now at least two Bardejovians who think it’s common to get a beer and a haircut in your local British boozer.

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late”, said Shakespeare, apparently. Whatever the case it is a sentiment that Ralph lives by and thus why we found ourselves literally running through Prešov. I was told this town was boring, but my glimpse of it was – busy town, lots of people, lots of pubs, first brewery – Prešovský (not bad beer, good staff), second brewery – Mariannus (dull atmosphere, average beer), Tatran Prešov (stadium), bus, breath, bus, Moldava nad Bodvou, breath.

Prešov

Prešov

We stopped here in Moldava nad Bodvou long enough to grab another Šariš in a sports bar, but our main reason for stopping in the run-down town was football. FK Bodva were hosting Košice II in the Slovak 3rd league. Now, Ralph is convinced that if you speak Czech with a Scottish accent then you’re basically speaking Slovak and so made hilarious use of it at every communicative opportunity, and I am forced to admit it seemed to work, so much so that the ticket sellers at the gate believed he was Slovak – or at the very least, Czech (I’ve since tried this theory in the Czech Republic and no one can understand me, so maybe its true). His accent can’t work miracles though as we discovered when we tried to buy some food, a klobasa of course, and the response of the teenage girls in the kiosk was that of laughter, as they looked down the menu to see if they even sold them. We just waved the embarrassment away and thought we’d save ourselves for later. An entertaining game ended in a 1-3 home defeat with Moldava’s number 23 looking particularly impressive. The sun had lowered behind the hills at this point and left us feeling the cold. We sped off again to the bus station and made our way to Košice, where we would be staying in the Penzion Grand.

Moldava

FK Bodva

It was evening by the time we arrived in Košice, strolling along the bustling main street and past the striking St. Elisabeth Cathedral. We stopped off for a quick beer in a half decent cafe whose name escapes me now, before moving on to the originally named Mama Mia restaurant for a decent pizza but disappointing last pint – a uninspired Krušovice. Four towns and a multitude of beers conquered, we struggled to the hotel to sleep the days excitement off in anticipation of breakfast in Košice, and yet more of Eastern Slovakia to be explored…

FC Tatran

FC Tatran

 

"Follow your heart"

“Follow your heart”

 

Rajecko – away with Dosta Bystrc.

 

Cerna Hora Brewery

Cerna Hora Brewery

Saturday had been quite demanding. Blansko at home in the afternoon followed by Zbrojovka Brno v Sparta Praha, so unsurprisingly, I slept through my alarm and was woken up by the sound of my phone at 9.30. Having missed a couple of trips, Craggy was eager to get back on the horse and ride off to the South Moravian village of Rajecko (via the Cerna Hora brewery). Well, when I say ride, I don’t actually mean that as we don’t have a horse.

The Cerna Hora brewery dates back to 1298 and is one of the most popular local beers in South Moravia, which makes it strange that this is our first trip here. To  ease the delicate head, we decided to take the  30 minute walk from central Brno to the suburb of Kralove Pole, where a bus would be waiting to deliver us to out first destination of the trip. Things don’t always go to plan, but sure enough, upon arrival at the bus station, there was the 107 ready to drop us off at the brewery. The journey along the long winding road, up  and out over Brno took just over 25 minutes , but more importantly….directly to the brewery, an absolutely blooming marvellous service.

Stepping off the bus, we found ourselves immediately admiring the building from the bus stop (we do have a thing for Czech breweries as you may have guessed) before slowly making our way across to check it out in closer detail and to get our hands on the local pint. Now, in the previous paragraph, I had mentioned how well trip had started. Well, here’s where, in true TBK style, we hit our first glitch. The brewery was closed for a private function and we were pointed in the direction of a window. Not any old window, but one selling beer, local beer. “Two bottles of your finest 10degree lager, please?” The old man serving us immediately cottoned on that my accent was not local and in true 1990s style saw a chance to make a quick buck. “200k??!!” …Now… had this been a brewery in Scandinavia, I would have gladly handed over the equivalent and taken the two bottles. But this was not Copenhagen, this was Cerna Hora in South Moravia. “200kc?, are you sure” I asked, somewhat surprised. “Ohh, sorry, I meant 34kc” he responded, finally realising that my Czech was perhaps slightly better than my accent had first suggested. Without wishing to make a thing about this, as I love living in this area – this is the second time this season that somebody has tried to make a financial gain at hearing us speaking a foreign tongue. A month or so earlier, we were walking from the train station in Skalica, Slovakia and a local woman had asked us for two euros. The reason, quite simply she had heard us speaking English and that we “must” have it. Later we discovered that 2 euros was the exact amount needed to get into the local beer festival, if she had mentioned that I would have gladly paid her entrance.. Anyway, I digress.. it is merely an observation. So, beers in hand and with no pub in the village open, we went to find a map and to work out exactly where we were heading next. Most people would take a scenic route and  we had plenty of time to find a footpath, but as regular readers will know, we never do it the easy way. We took the main road, dodging oncoming Skodas and bemused cyclists as we made our way to the first village, Rajec Jestrebi, relieved to be alive and in search of a pub.

A person's pub is their castle, or something like that

A person’s pub is their castle, or something like that

Rajec Jestrebi is well known to me (but unfortunately, I can’t share the details publicly) and is also famous as it hit the news worldwide last year, when a local man, who had perhaps had one two many, was hit by an express train and survived. He did lose a shoe and possibly hopped home, but he was otherwise unharmed. Some of you might call that a miracle. (link to man and train -http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/czechrepublic/10780649/Pensioner-hit-by-train-at-level-crossing-but-only-loses-shoe.html )

After successfully navigating our way out of the pub and crossing the the train track without being hit by the 14.05 express to Prague, we were back on the road to Rajecko.  Making good time, it wasn’t long before a TBK sticker had been  planted on the sign welcoming us to the village.

“Now, where’s the ground?” Craggy asked.

I was about to ask google maps for an answer, but we saw a definite sign that we weren’t far away. A couple head to toe in Dosta Bystrc’s green and white were asking a villager the same  question and naturally we followed them, hoping that they weren’t heading to Aunt Maureen’s for a cup of tea before the game started.

At the turnstile, we paid the 30 crowns entrance, bought a beer and a sausage and made our way around to ground to the small stand and now home to about 30 Dosta Ultras for the day, a couple of former players and a huge drum.  Shortly after taking our seats, the first cry of “Dostaaaaa Bystrc” greeted  the players as they made their way to the centre of the pitch for the obligatory  pre match wave to the fans.

Armed to the teeth with Kofola

Armed to the teeth with Kofola

The game itself was how we  expected, Bystrc dominating the game and very quickly taking the lead with a goal from the prolific Petr Musil and then missing a hatful of first half chances… much to the frustration of Petr Sip, their ex defender sat in front of us.

“Those first half misses might come back to haunt them” Sip said at half-time and he was right. The second half was a completely different story with Olympic Rajecko camped in the Bystrc half and after some dubious refereeing decisions, they  managed to grab an equaliser with little over 10 minutes left on the clock.

Now, most of the crowd were expecting a grandstand finish, but the players had different ideas and decided that 1-1 was a fair result and on 89 minutes the referee decided enough was enough and blew the final whistle. Welcome to the Krajsky Prebor.

With the train back to Brno not due for a further half an hour, we used the time to grab a couple more beers in the old mill, close to the train station and for me to find a WIFI connection to watch the rest of the Swansea game. A good day out.

TBK

TBK

Policka Revisited

Boots and Ball of Policka

Boots and Ball of Policka

They say home is where the heart is – well the heart of The Klobasa currently resides in Policka. Policka (‘shelf’, in English), is a charming town nestled on the Bohemia/Moravia border, and is home to arguably the best pint of lager in the Czech Republic, accessible at the incredible price of 14kc. Need any further convincing to visit? You might be reading the wrong blog in that case, but stick with us and we’ll see what we can do.

Before we sprinted off to Policka we had a certain goal in mind. Close to Policka lies the town of Svitavy, not only famous for its importance to the Czech Esperanto movement (your guess is as good as mine), but also as the birthplace of Oskar Schindler. We arrived and meandered through the town, looking for signs of the aforementioned German industrialist’s home. Typically of Czech tourist information, it was quite hard work to find anything, and Svitavy had done as good a job at shielding his birthplace as he did his Jewish factory workers. So onwards we journied with little assistance in the way of navigation, passing a signpost to inform us we were exiting Svitavy and entering the middle of nowhere. We did not falter. Instead we enjoyed a long, scenic walk through a forest that felt a little more than sinister, stumbling only upon a hotel presumably making a killing out of Oskar’s name. Without luck, and without much time remaining, we trekked back on our footsteps, had a beer and some garlic soup in a moto-rest, and waited at the tiny station for the next train to Policka.

Searching for Schindler

Searching for Schindler

Last time we visited Policka temperatures were so low we were forced to seek warmth in the shelter of every bar we could find with a Policka pivo sign hanging above the door. For our return we didn’t have this excuse, but quite frankly we didn’t need it, and so our first stop was merely a few steps from the station to our favourite ‘pajzl’ (loosely translates as ‘pub with atmosphere’ or ‘boozer’). The smoked swirled around us as we entered the pub to the brief glances of sozzled locals. We took our place beneath one of the many Jawa motorcylces that hang upon the yellow walls and looked admiringly at the drinks menu. Yep, it was still 14kc for a beer. We waited with anticipation before finally getting our hands on that beer of all beers and sinking it mercilessly.

14kc

14kc

We edged closer towards the football ground, stopping in at another familiar bar where the price of a Policka reaches the heady heights of 18kc. The main square, with it’s impressive town hall, is a welcome site and gives the centre an attraction which goes beyond the simple delights of its lager. The same can be said for the old 14th century town walls which encircle the core of the town. We moved onwards, taking a snap of the brewery itself, and headed to the ground nearby.

Policka

Policka

Well from the stadion you can see the brewery through the trees, and like every good football ground should do, this one serves up the local alcoholic beverage. As we sank our first and watched the kick-off result in some cloud-searching of a right-foot, we knew this was to be a cracking game. After another one or two lagers, and a pretty decent klobasa, we found we were not wrong as the game ended in thrilling fashion… although the score escapes me now, like much of that day in Policka.

Policka klobasa

Policka klobasa

Brimming with merriment and rushed on by the encroaching cold we headed back in to Policka to find warmth in one or two bars around the town, the names of which have since disappeared in to the haze of the cold night. But what will stay with me is the falling off of ludicrously high barstalls, finding picture perfect locations for klobasa stickers, finishing the night with a 5 minute, 14kc, final Policka and waking up to find one too many pieces of beer paraphernalia stuffed in to my bag…

Jawa

Jawa

 

Dyje wanna go faster? Securing points in Znojmo and Tasovice

Wine over Znojmo

Wine over Znojmo

Now it goes without saying that The Blansko Klobasa trips are a cultured affair, and with FK Blansko making the Sunday away trip to Tasovice the Klobasa jumped at the chance to spend some quality time quaffing a range of vinos in the beautiful town of Znojmo (although they like to think of it as a city here in CZ), hanging elegantly above the Dyje river in the wine region of Moravia.

Rotunda

Rotunda

In little over an hour from Brno the sunny charm of the Znojmo bus station welcomed us and off we wandered in search of the Hostan brewery – which was closed. We were aware of this of course, as the brewery has in fact been closed for some time, bought up and shut down by that mammoth (in size only) of a drinks company, Heineken. As had been said, however, we were really only interested in wine, and after visiting the pretty little rotunda above the river, and being close to knocked over by a marauding dotto train full of Austrians, we snaked down a path to find our first glass of plonk and looked out over the river below. Culture point number 1.

Havelka

Havelka

Feeling pleased with ourselves we headed off in search of some fine dining and stumbled in to what appeared little more than a pleasant old house with a menu outside – Havelka. We thought we’d give it a go and stepped up to a door which opened before us and we were warmly greeted by the owner who invited us in to what felt like her front room. She switched off the TV she’d been watching and sat us down in comfort, surrounded by her artfully crafted paintings. We wolfed down the cream of garlic soup followed by wild pig in a dark wine sauce with dumplings (or roasters for Ralph) and both agreed determinedly that it was possibly the best meal we had ever eaten. We washed it down with a glass of red and toasted the owner this fine, and bargainous, establishment before heading out in to the rain. Culture point number 2.

Havelka's Wild Pig

Havelka’s Wild Pig

We were aware that it is a little early in the season for Burcak (young, partially fermented wine) but we wanted it and so we found it – at the next bar we walked past. Here we avoided the worst of the rain, supping the sweet, sugary drink much to our delight. Culture point number 3.

Burcak

Burcak

Still with some time to kill before our bus we grabbed another glass of red at the ill-monikered Cafe Paris. About as Parisian as beans on toast and with wine poured from the tap like in a branch of Wetherspoons, it didn’t maintain our company for long and soon enough we headed out to the village of Tasovice for the 4.30 kick off. Keeping to the day’s theme we uncharacteristically purchased a couple of vinos, braved the glances of the old boys and headed out to watch the game, only to be told our glasses were not welcome in the stands. I’m going to assume this is because of the glass and not the beverage, but whatever the case we downed them and headed off back to the bar. With beers in hand and our drinking plan in tatters around us, we sat steadfastly through a game of little entertainment beyond the decisions of the referee until the final whistle blew for a 1 – 1 draw.

Tasovice

Tasovice

We left the ground hastily to catch the final bus out of town. As we waited a horn blew and the hand of the owner of FK Blansko waved at us out of his car window, which was nice. We eventually wound our way back to Brno that evening, once again happy with The Blansko Klobasa’s cultural achievements.

Things we liked:

– Havelka (we can still taste the food
– The wine tasting and the beautiful location
– The performance of David Juran – best keeper in the league
– The owner of the club slowing down to give us a wave before speeding off

Things we didn’t like:

– Honza being benched
– The quality of the game

Tasovice V Blansko

Tasovice V Blansko