Our Favourite Stadiums of 2018.

In the world of social media and with it being the end of the calendar year, we’ve been seeing many “top ten” or “top nine” posts, so with a four hour train journey back to Brno from the mountains, we thought that we would compile our favourite grounds of 2018.. Okay, I am sure you would have guessed what this post was about by the title above.

2018 took us to some wonderful places, we’ve seen some great football matches and a lot of awful games too, so without further ado here are our football stadiums of the year. They are in no particular order. Happy New Year everyone.

  1. Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest.

Back in November and meeting up  for reunion with former work colleagues, I took the opportunity to visit the newly built  Hidekuti Nandor stadium in the Hungarian capital. I am not a huge fan of modern stadia, however this has a certain charm to it.

 

 

 

2. NTC Poprad football stadium, Poprad, Slovakia.

We’ve put this in our favourites, not because of the actual stadium, but because of the view behind. Slovak football is not always the most entertaining to watch and as the game I was there to see was particularly boring, I found myself looking out at the beautiful Tatra mountains in the background for 73 minutes of the match.

 

 

3. Alfred-Kunze-Sportpark, Leipzig.

As mentioned above, we are not huge fans of modern football stadiums, so it’s pleasing to see this beaut on the outskirts of the city.

 

 

 

4.Stadion v Hájku, Bucovice.

One of the wonderful things about Czech football is the season in the lower leagues goes well into June and to quell the tedium of  one summer afternoon in Brno, I decided to take a trip out to Bucovice, a small town about 30km away, I was not disappointed. How many grounds have nicely trimmed hedges in between the dugouts..? I know who gets my vote for groundsman of the year.

 

5. Štadión KFC Komárno, Komarno.

Komarno is a town on the banks of the river Danube, separating Slovakia from neighbouring Hungary and it’s home to the weirdest terracing I have ever seen..This goes in into our top 15 because of the terracing.. just take a look below. The capacity of the ground is 13,000, but I am not quite sure it would pass a safety check should they ever be in a position to fill the stadium.

 

6. Ynys Park, Ton Pentre.

Living abroad I don’t get the opportunity to watch the Welsh league very often, so in December I was so happy to finally get to Ynys Park, the home of Ton Pentre FC. Another traditional old ground with a beautiful view, this goes in our favourites, not only for the ground, but for the welcome we received and for serving tea in a mug.

 

7. Stadion na Údolní, Blansko

We couldn’t possibly make list  without including our second home. At the beginning of the season, money was made available to strengthen the playing squad and to tidy up Udolni. Gone are the wooden benches in the main stand, but we have seen a return of the grassy terracing that has been missing for many years and that for us is money well spent.

 

 

8. Sportovní areál, Drnovice

Built in the heart of the village of Drnovice, this stadium has hosted top league, European and international football matches. It has sadly fallen into a state of disrepair , but the history of 1990s Czech football is there for us all to see.

 

 

9. Stadion U Tržiště, Velké Meziříčí.

This is a personal favourite of mine, not necessarily for the actual ground, but I love a 10.15 k.o and FC Velké Meziříčí always kick off early Sunday morning. In addition to the early start there’s a pub next to the ground that does a lovely pint of the local brew.

 

10. Earlsmead Stadium, South Harrow.

My first game back in Britain this Christmas was Harrow Borough v Merthyr Town and although the result didn’t go the way of The Martyrs, it was a brilliant day. Highlight was the Merthyr away following who filled the clubhouse with cuddly toys for the Grenfell appeal. There is some genuine solidarity in non-league football and the people we me met on the day are exactly the reason why we love football so much.

 

 

 

11. Fotbalovy Stadion Loren, Kutna Hora.

Another wonky terrace, another 10.15k.o and another ground serving a local beer. It’s much the same as Velké Meziříčí really. However, Kutna Hora is a little prettier and is always a good day out.

 

12. Stadion Na Šlajsi, Lanžhot.

It’s very rare in Divize D to find a club with partizan support, well in our experience anyway. You get the odd chant, the angry man shouting at the referee, but to hear a crowd sing and shout for 90 minutes is something  very unusual. Step forward the fans of FK Lanzhot, it’s good to have you in the fourth tier.

 

13.Stadion pod Přehradou, Bystrc

Just like Udolni, we couldn’t create a list of favourite stadiums without including Dosta Bystrc. It’s a Sunday afternoon of pure pleasure.

 

14.Všesportovní stadion,Hradec Králové.

This could easily have been AS Trencin’s ground as we are adding this purely for the “lollipops”. The most spectacular floodlights in football.

 

15.  Stadion DuklaHavířov.

Outside of the top tier of Czech football, you don’t often see a ground with four sides. And just because of that, MFK Havirov is without doubt my favourite ground in this country.

Brewery of the Month – September

Pivovar Kamenice – 2 náměstí Československé armády, 394 70 Kamenice nad Lipou

Whilst on tour across the Czech Republic this year we had one particular stop in mind – Kamenice nad Lipou. The small town lies in the stunning region of Vysočina, not far from Pelhřimov. Now, if you look up the town on Wikipedia it will tell you the most important sight is the castle. However, we can tell you that there is also a very impressive brewery there…

The castle

After tasting the fine beer back in Brno we quickly determined that a trip to Kamenice was necessary. The brewery itself is vast and imposing. Located in the centre of the town close to the castle, the building was reconstructed after many years of inactivity: the beer finally began flowing again in 2016 – the first time since 1947.

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We made the first of of two stops on the way to Ceske Budejovice, picking up a couple of bottles for the trip and taking some photos of the grand interior. On the way back we opted to sit in the expansive beer garden and soak up the summer sun with a perfect 12 degree lager. We also ordered the goulash, which while visually as spectacular as the brewery itself, didn’t quite have the bite you want from a Czech-style goulash. For the lager though, it is hard to find a brewery that rivals it.

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That’s your Lanžhot

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Student: What are you doing this weekend?

Craggy: Going to Lanžhot.

Student: Why? There is nothing there.

Oh, how wrong could you be…

Last time my student and I had this very same conversation was about a forthcoming trip to the Slovak town of Myjava. That time he had been right, but our next trip was to be a completely different experience. One of the best things about a new season in the 4th tier of Czech football is anticipating the new arrivals to the league. This gives us the opportunity to go boldly in to the unknown; and in to pubs that others dare not tread. One such opportunity came early this year as Blansko’s second game of the season was away to Lanžhot, a small town resting on the Slovak border, and a reasonable walk away from everyone’s favourite train interchange of Břeclav.

We arrived in Břeclav with the summer sun rising slowly above us. Slightly disoriented from the heat of the train carriage we walked in circles before finding ourselves somewhat fortuitously on a dusty old trail heading in to the forest nearby.

It was not long before we came to an old looking pub sitting idly by the path. Normally, we go busting into any pub we see, no questions asked, but there was a sleepy stillness resting over this one despite the chalkboards being placed outside. We rang an old, bronze bell that hung in the doorway, but no one answered. We could hear murmurings somewhere from an open window and so paced around the pub earnestly, but delicately. We rang once more and finally a woman came down to greet us, bidding us inside and asking, cheerfully ‘can you not see we’re open?’.

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We sat inside the old wooden hut with a cold lager and drank happily with the landlady, before saying our goodbyes and heading back on to the road and deeper in to the forest. For a little while the road was quiet and the air still, but after some time we could see a few people up ahead and what turned out to be the archaeological site at Pohansko.

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From there we came across the first of several bunkers placed among the trees (just some of the many that were constructed between the wars by the Czechoslovak government due to the prospect of invasion). Before us was an large expansive, dry field leading up to early 19th century castle of Pohansko. This area offers up even more archaeological sites, revealing sections of the early medieval site that was situated here in the 9th century, and which was one the largest medieval strongholds in central Europe.

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The Pohansko Castle itself sits majestically at the top of the field, with it’s light-coloured walls shining brightly on a sunny afternoon. Luckily for us it also has at least three bars which you can swiftly grab a beer in a plastic cup to accompany you for the next part of the walk. We took a moment for a couple of photos before heading even further in to the forest.

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One thing that soon struck us was that some of the most recognisable trees here are given characters. Signs are posted in front of several, detailing their given names and characteristics. A nice touch we thought.

Out in the open, before dehydration took us and left us dead among the sunflower fields, we made it in to the small town of Lanžhot. Before us, like a mirage through fading eyes, was a pub, decorated in the flowery blue motifs familiar to this part of the world. We entered in search of sustenance.

Landlord: Can’t you read?

Ralph: Sorry?

Landlord: Members only. You want to drink. Drink outside.

And thus is the result of the smoking ban. He wasn’t unpleasant. Just rather direct.

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We had our beers and headed to another pub for some fantastic goulash soup. On each table was a plastic fly swatter, just in case you wanted to bash any flies, or your drunk mates. After some soup and some bashing we made our way to the Lanžhot stadium.

Stadion Na Šlajsi, the home of TJ Sokol Lanžhot is one of the biggest in the league, with a main stand and three terraced sides, we were quite excited to see it and by the size of the crowd (690) we weren’t the only ones. The home side were promoted to the 4th tier of Czech football for the first time since 1959, so this was obviously a big day for the locals.

And the crowd contributed so much to the game, cheering on every attack the home side had. It’s so rare that we see such a partizan crowd in the league, that I think both of us enjoyed it.

The first half was of course controlled by us, which is not surprising considering the spine of our team, Dolezel, Mezlik and Buchta have over 400 league games experience between them. However, the clear cut chances were created by Lanzhot. A header just wide and a shot which skimmed the bar were enough to keep the home fans excited and also sent us towards the bar. Half-time 0-0.

The second 45 went much the same as the first, with the home side attacking with purpose, but with no end product and with Blansko continuing to run the midfield, it was no surprise that we finally opened the scoring with 11 minutes remaining through the impressive Dominik Urbančok – who weaved his way between two defenders before hitting home from just inside the box. 1-0 Blansko and game over. We spent the last ten minutes controlling position and offering the Lanzhot no way back. Our second win of the season.

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So a positive and exciting exploration between two towns close to the border was topped off by some thrilling 4th tier football. If ever we needed confirmation of why we do what we do – this was it.

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Brewery of the Month – August

Pivovar Ogar – Kunčice pod Ondřejníkem

“Why don’t you come up to Čeladná and stay with us for a week? We can hit a few golf balls and there’s a great brewery a three wood away”

Now I still have no idea how far “a 3 wood away” is and I have no desire to be the next Rory McIlroy, but I was sold on the opportunity to try a new beer.

The brewery in question was the Ogar Brewery in Kuncice pod Ondrejnikem. It was founded in 2016 on the site of the old cinema in the village and after a year of renovating the building, it was opened under the name of Pivovar Kuncice with the original recipes taken from U Richarda, a brewery situated in Sobesice, near Brno. Over the year and with more expertise, the head brewer started to add more of their own recipes and boy, can we recommend them.

Earlier this year, the brewery settled on the name Ogar, with a focus on lager and ales. My recommendation is the very tasty amber ale; however, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices. For a place so young, they really have come up with some fine craft beers and ales in such a short time.

The one thing that did surprise us was that should be have a bit of spare time and cash, you can brew your own beer from start to finish under the guidance of the brewer. The beer style, colour, bitterness and fermentation are for you to decide… although we think the minimum you can produce is 500 litres.

In addition to the above, you can enjoy the selection of mighty fine beers in the brewery pub. There is a local food menu to go with it, served in a friendly atmosphere with a lovely view of the surrounding hills. If your are just looking for a snack to go with your drink, we recommend the homemade crisps and cheese dip or the pickled camembert. Both were perfect with our pints.

Finally, we have to mention the team – having enjoyed ourselves so much, we missed the last connecting bus back to Čeladná and with the local taxi firm an hour away, the head waiter took pity on us and offered a lift back our accommodation after he finished his shift. Now that’s what I call service.