Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ancestral village visit & Pilgramage to pilsner beer origins

I guess it was appropriate that our group made Saturday the 16th a day of pilgramage. First to the birthplace of Pilsener beer at where else but Pilzen, Czech Republic. Then on to the ancestral home of our Czech relatives. For those of you not in the know, this is where Mary (Robel, Hrabi) Wilebski's grand parents were from. Even though she was actually born in the Ukraine, she and the group of pioneers she was with never considered themselves anything but Czech.

Well, time to get started and tell you about yet another power travel day. First off was the securing of a van/taxi to take us on this day trip to Pilzen and Klenci. Frank worked his international travel magic and got a 7 passenger van with driver for the day. Although it worked out well, the day did not start exactly on "plan" as they say. We were supposed to have Joe (our driver) pull up to the B & B by 11am. When he didn't show, Frank called him again and found out they miscommunicated and he was expecting to stop by on Sunday. A few words were exchanged in both languages and by about noon our dedicated, though sometimes quite anal driver Joe, showed up and packed us into the van.

We immediately headed out to our first stop of the day, the Pilzen brewery. This is the city which holds the claim to first inventing Pilsner beer. It's the stuff most of us drink every day. Well, I mean to say what we usually drink over here, although some of us are true to our roots and do drink it every day. Perhaps the most recognizable name, and the Czech Republics most drunk beer is none other than Pilsner Urquell. I think you will recognize it when you see the pictures.

Anyway, Frank took the co-pilot seat with our driver Joe. And since Frank is pretty much deaf at times, he did not hear all of the warnings from Joe such as no drinking in the van, no touching the windows or doors, and no putting your hand on the back of his seat. Frank was oblivious, but cousin Sue took it all in and was a little concerned we would be put off by the side of the road.

Upon arrival, we took the tour of the brewery. Pictures included are those of the entrance, which kind of looks like something out of the first Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (the one with Gene Wilder)including old water tower. The modernized bottling floor also looks like something out of Laverne and Shirley, without most of the people.

Other than the big-ass spider on the wall in the beer process room and the sleeping control panel worker, the only other thing that struck me was how the entire tour would be a trial lawyer's dream. There were electrical cords and hoses everywhere as we made our way. And the floors were wet and in the caves there were huge potholes and uneven floors. Although our tour guide "Heidi" did give some sort of disclaimer up front to the effect if you need emergency attention, please let her know in advance. Apparently that covers most everything over here.

This was a recurring thought to me as we toured various areas. But, upon reflection I think I understood why. The justice industry has not had the time to grow and fester here to the extent is has across the pond. I mean a few years ago if you had a problem with something and wanted to take it to a higher level, you could. But, they would probably just take you out back and shoot you. So, you see that communismn thing wasn't all bad.

We ended the tour with our toast in the dank caves under the brewery. And then of course it was on to the souvenir shop. Joan was last out, but we all know she got the really great bargains. Oh, and by the way, it always seems to prove that it all comes back to beer, or pivo depending upon which country you are in.

From Pilsen we were headed to Klenci. It was another long trip that took many twists and turns. But after about an hour, we saw a huge white bird by the side of the road. For me it was a life lister and Nancy got the picture for me. It was a White Stork. As coincidence would have it, we were just a few meters from the sign welcoming us to the ancestral village of Klenci.

I've included some pictures of the church, which is called St. Martin according to the tourist bureau there. It was originally built in 1481 but appears to have been reconstructed or added to in the years 1734-1746. It was erected by Count Filip Stadion and his family is buried in the crypt there. So, our ancestors most likely worshipped here.

In a nutshell, the village was quite beautiful, being situated on the foohills of the Cesky mountains. It is somewhat a wonder why the familys moved from this idyllic setting to that of the Ukraine to establish a new town which translated into place of many mosquitoes. But then again, the Catholic church as the sponsor of this migration may have had something to do with it.

After touring the town and their small museum, the 7 of us went across the street for dinner and a few Pivos. The meal was absolutely great. We dined on mountain goat, venison, salmon, and other protein shapes I can't recall at this point. It was a great way to end our trip to Grandma Mary's ancestral village.

On our several hour trip back to Prague, Susan stepped up to the plate and offered to ride up front with our driver Joe. It was slow going at first, but after about one hour and a half, she and he were talking up a storm. Granted they both were carrying on 2 different conversations, but with the flailing of arms and hands, all seemed to be improving in terms of our relationship with Joe. Susan was careful to abide by the rules of Joes' road.

Anther great day which ended with more pinochle, a few more pivos, and leftovers from Hanna's delectable breakfast buffet. The only thing we seemed to be missing were a few containers of fruit flavored yogurt.

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