Pilsen, Czechia is the birthplace of lager beer mass production. Besides Pilsner Urquell Brewery, the 4th largest city in the Czech Republic also holds the tallest cathedral in the country, the second largest synagogue in Europe, a brewing museum, and Patton Memorial Museum, covering the liberation of Pilsen by American troops during the last week of World War II before the German surrender in Europe in May 1945.
Kelley remarked on the colors and light on buildings in Plzen and Prague. Her only trip to Prague was in 2007. I have visited the Czech Republic five times since 2000. Pilsen is only the fourth city I have visited after Decin, Prague and Brno.
The church spire of Cathedral of St. Bartholomew is 102.3 meters (335 ft), the tallest church tower in Czech Republic.
St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral is on the north side of Namesti Republiky – Republic Square.
Pilsen Town Hall (1558) on Namasti Republiky, Plzen was designed by Italian architect Giovanni de Statia.
The Great Synagogue in Pilsen is the second largest synagogue in Europe (Budapest is larger) and third largest in world (Jerusalem has largest).
My first thought was ‘How did this synagogue survive through six years of Nazi occupation?’
The Nazis used the large interior space for war materials storage.
The Jewish population was around 3,000 in 1939. Today there are fewer than 100 Jews remaining in Plzen. The Great Synagogue is now sometimes used for concerts.
There is a greenbelt in Pilsen creating a large perimeter around three sides of the Old Town.
This was a place we gravitated to in the hot days of July when the afternoon temperature hovered around 30-32 C or 90 F outside.
Pilsen Great Theatre
Past the Great Theatre and outside the green belt we walked to find the ‘Thank You America’ monument on Amerika street.
A monument was designed soon after World War II, however, the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union prevented a monument to the American liberators of Pilsen from being built until the 1990s.
There were two pillars constructed for the monument to the American Armed Forces liberators of Pilsen, but they were removed in 2016 due to construction flaws and have not yet been replaced.
I came across this interesting NY Times article from 1990 stating children in Pilsen schools during the 60s and 70s were taught Pilsen was liberated by Soviet forces. Pilsen was the easternmost point in Czech Republic liberated by Americans.
Soviet World War II monument across the street from west Bohemian Museum, Pilsen.
Patton Memorial Museum is a small museum with detailed descriptions of the liberation of Pilsen by American Forces under the command of General Patton on May 6, 1945. The war in Europe officially ended on May 8 with the unconditional surrender by Germans. The museum was 60 CZK admission, about $2.65 USD.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the museum for me was watching World War II film footage of the street to street fighting up to the final day of war in Europe. The Nazi commander signed the surrender of Pilsen papers, then shot himself.
Also, I learned General Patton had been a competitor in the Stockholm Olympics of 1912, where he came in 5th place for the inaugural Modern Pentathlon.
Pilsner Urquell Brewery
The beer world changed in 1842 when the city of Plzen hired a brewmaster from Bavaria to create a better standardized beer. The result was bottom-fermenting lager. Within 30 years most beer in Austrian-Hungarian empire had switched from ale to lager brewing.
Locally known as Prasdroj Plzensky, Pilsner Urquell is the brand name from 1892 meaning ‘original pilsner’.
Tours of the brewery in English cost 200 CZK (about $9 USD). The only available tickets during our stay were during the pivotal Tour de France final mountain stage days, so we ended up not taking a tour.
Instead, we spent a couple of hours touring the Pilsen Brewery Museum across the street from Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Old Town Plzen.
The Brewing Museum gives the history of Pilsen brewing. The rapid growth of lager brewing basically offered an investment opportunity for wealthy Plzen residents to grow the local brewing industries. Over time, the company behind Pilsner Urquell acquired all its competitor breweries between the 1890s and 1930s.
Pilsner Urquell itself was recently acquired by Japanese brewer Asahi.
Pilsner Urquell Beer Is Now Officially Japanese (April 1, 2017).
San Francisco SFO – Copenhagen, Denmark – Stockholm, Sweden – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Prague, Czechia – Bratislava, Slovakia – London, England – San Francisco SFO (22 days-6 flights-20 hotel nights-6 bus trips)
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