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FEB-MAR 2013

Everywhere you want to be







P rague On the Road to


ISSN 1908-7276





190.00 5.00 600 40.00 8.00



he Czech Republic is a fascinating combination of old and new. Along with ancient, medieval towns and storybook castles exists a dynamic and cutting-edge culture with foundations in art and music.

Over two weeks, the Travelife team crisscrossed the country in search of the historical, the fascinating and the wonderful. We discovered exactly why the Czech Republic is rapidly becoming one of the most visited destinations in Europe, and we’ve put together one of the most comprehensive guides to the best of the Czech Republic for you in this issue. Travel back through the centuries with us, and then speed along to the 2013 for cool new Prague, all in one issue. Get set for one amazing journey.


Photographed by Christine Cunanan and Sandee Masigan. Modeled by Andrew Masigan. Special thanks to Czech Tourism Board.

LIFE REFLECTS ART The Czech Republic may be an ancient country, but much of its art is firmly grounded in the 21st century. Everywhere we went, we observed these thought-provoking combinations of old and new, displayed seemingly without effort or artifice.

In medieval Cesky Kru mlov, we chanced upon this contemporary art installation while exploring one of its quietest back alleys. This was merely the front door of someone’s cru mbling old house in what is perhaps the least trodden street in the whole town – and yet it was quirky and beautiful.

MEDIEVAL STORIES The picturesque town of Cesky Kru mlov is a Gothic Renaissance town with a lovely river running through it, that is centered around its castle. The castle of Cesky Kru mlov is the second largest in the Czech Republic, second only to Prague Castle. After Prague, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the second most visited destination in the country.





The TRAVELIFE TEAM explores a country, on the way to a city


ur long journey to Prague really began in Munich. We arrived in Prague on a hot summer day, rented a car at the airport, and then driven straight to Germany without even stopping for a coffee in the Czech Republic. After several days in Munich, we raced back down the autobahn towards Prague airport after breakfast to meet our contracted driver and guide at noon; and from there we headed out again towards the historic Czech town of Cesky Krumlov, near the Austrian border. From that point in Munich, it took us two weeks to finally reach Prague – an idyllic period that we spent traipsing around the Czech Republic, visiting cities and towns few people have heard of, in our earnest desire to cross a handful of UNESCO World Heritage sites off our bucket list. The results of our efforts are included in this special feature.





The houses of Telc


PRAGUE CASTLE This castle was originally built in the 9th century. For 11 centuries, it has been the residence of the princes and kings of Bohemia. Since 1918, it has been the official seat of government. On the castle grounds are the old royal palace, the St. Wenceslas and St. Aldabert cathedral, St. George’s Basilica and the summer residence of Queen Anna.


CHARLES BRIDGE Construction on this bridge began in 1402, and it has a set of towers on each side of the Charles River: the Lesser Town Bridge Towers and the Old Town Bridge Tower. The best views of the Old Town of Prague can be seen from the middle of the bridge.

The squa re of Olom ouc

The castle of Ces ky Kru mlo v


MUNICIPAL HOUSE This is an Art Nouveau building from the early 19th century. In the summers, its massive concert hall is used as a venue for musical performances including the Prague Spring music festival.


POWDER TOWER This 65-meter tower is the gateway to the Old Town and it connects to the Municipal House. It was once used to store gunpowder in the 17th century.


LORETA This famous pilgrimage church and holy shrine was consecrated in 1631. On its grounds is a 17th century tower with a famous chime and a vestibule of valuable treasures from the 17th and 18th century.


OLD TOWN HALL AND ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK This 14th century tower has a famous clock from the 15th century. Twelve apostles appear on the upper portion of its face every hour between 9 AM and 9 PM. On the lower portion of the face is a calendar board containing zodiac signs.


5 OTHER UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES YOU SHOULDN’T MISS Romantic Prague is the country’s top UNESCO World Heritage site. It offers design lovers an interesting visual landscape and a feast of architectural styles: from gothic and baroque churches to Renaissance palaces and modern Art Noveau buildings. However, there’s so much more to the Czech Republic than this city, beautiful as it is. TRAVELIFE gives you the best destinations outside of Prague.


OLOMOUC The Holy Trinity Column – which is the monument that placed this town on the UNESCO World Heritage list – is right in Olomouc’s vast town square. It’s a living testament to one man’s devotion to fulfilling a dream. Vaclav Render was the builder, architect, and stonemason behind this 35-meter creation that was meant to be “unparalleled in any other town.” It truly is.





CESKY KRUMLOV The ancient structures in this quaint town, including a medieval castle, a Renaissance-style town hall, gothic churches, and a baroque theater with original costumes, serve as a jaw-dropping backdrop for this picture-pretty town. KUTNA HORA Kutna Hora was a rich silver mining town in the Middle Ages; today it’s a lovely place that’s perfect for a stroll back in time. The highlight of your visit should be the historically significant St. Barbara’s Church, which was built for the cause of miners. Don’t miss the cemetery chapel in Sedlec, either, for a fascinating but macabre experience.

KROMERIZ Kromeriz was a thriving market town where traders and merchants converged. One of its notable landmarks is the Kromeriz Chateau, the summer residence of the bishops of Olomouc. However, today, it is the chateau garden that is the real attraction here, and the main reason for its UNESCO World Heritage status. TELC Telc is one of the Czech Republic’s loveliest small towns. It has a massive town square, with the baroque Marian Plague column at its center, surrounded by rows of colorful and quaint burghers’ houses. Today, the town square is surrounded mostly by souvenir stores and a few cafes; but it’s still an incredibly pretty sight, especially on a sunny day.



FASCINATION AT FIRST SIGHT When we eventually drove into Prague, it was on a clear and crisp summer afternoon, and my first views of a city that has enamored so many were of Prague Castle, which is the castle with the largest grounds in the world, and of the picturesque skyline dotted with church spires and red roofs. It was a scene straight out of a fairytale, and one that I discovered only improved with closer inspection. The city in June was full of life and beauty – a testament to the character and the culture of a highly musical and artistic people. Town squares and cafes were bustling with customers and celebrations, while shops displayed artfully arranged wares that added even more vibrancy to their neighborhoods. We also saw flowers, crafts and artworks on the windows of private homes, and we heard singing and witnessed performances in almost every open space. Musicians nonchalantly occupied church entrances and bridges and played all day to anyone who would listen, as if these were venues that were theirs by birthright.




THEATER IN THE DARK Black light theater is a hybrid form of storytelling that includes mime, dance, animation, and puppetry, mixed with special lighting effects, on a pitch-black stage. Brightly colored fluorescent costumes are illuminated against a black backdrop, and the story unfolds with almost no dialogue but with dance-like movements. The effect is magical, with inanimate objects coming to life. Popular stories for the black light performances include “Alice in Wonderland,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Excalibur,” and “Joan of Arc.” /

MUSIC IS THEIR LIFE One day at dusk, we walked through a garden on the way to a famous restaurant up a hill. Locals were seated on park benches or just standing around, as if they’d merely stopped by on their way home from work. And on a rather rundown but still gracefully elegant stage, under lovely awnings with medieval origins, an opera performance was going on with a full scale orchestra. We were completely enamored with this scene, but our guide seemed nonplussed. “We have this everywhere in the summer,” she said, as if everyone she knew could get up on stage and hum a tune, and opera performances occurred every night as regularly as dinner.

AN EVENING AT THE OPERA Of course, you can’t go to Prague and not spend an evening at the opera. There’s a musical performance taking place practically every night in some auditorium or theater in the city, especially in the summer. Pay homage to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the Estates Theater ( where he premiered “Don Giovani” in 1787. Opened in 1783, the neo-classical Estates Theatre has been preserved in its original state to this day. The neo-Renaissance-style National Theatre (, on the other hand, offers performances in opera, ballet, and drama, from both a classical and contemporary repertoire. For contemporary and progressive operas, the neo-Rococo Prague State Opera (www.state-opera. com) is the best option.




CITY OF BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS Our experience of Prague blossomed even with the onset of darkness. By the time night set in, we had climbed up the hill and were seated on the restaurant terrace on a ridge, drinking wine from ancient vines just a few meters away, admiring the unintentional light and sound show taking place before us as Prague called it a day and slowly turned on its lights. It is beautiful in the daytime, but it is simply magical at night when the shapes and shadows almost take on a life of their own and capture the imagination. It is indeed a setting worthy of magical stories. We loved Prague at night. If I didn’t have to sleep, I would have sat until morning on a little step on the Charles Bridge watching the lights glow, and then fade, and then come on again on the walls and roofs of a city of stone, brick, slate and a million tales. n TABLE FOR TWO, PLEASE Order a mug of Pilsen Urquell with some of these hearty Czech dishes. A Czech meal usually starts off with a bowl of polevky or soup, most commonly made with a broth of garlic or onions, and sometimes flavored with meat and vegetables. APPETIZERS A popular appetizer would be the smazeny syr or “fried cheese.” This is a slice of Edam or Hermelin cheese, breaded and fried to golden perfection and dipped in tartar sauce. Meatlovers can pair their mug of Pilsen with utopenci, a sausage dish drowned in a mixture of vinegar, oil, red peppers and spices. MAIN COURSES Roasted meat dishes are the usual fare in the Czech Republic. These are typically served with a cream sauce and a siding of knedliky (dumplings made of potato or wheat flour), and sauerkraut (finely sliced cabbages fermented to produce a sour, tangy flavor). Then there’s the local favorite, svickova na smetane, which is a marinated sirloin dish with cream sauce, dumplings, and cranberry sauce. Another classic Czech dish is the gulas (goulash). This is a stew made with meat that’s slow cooked with vegetables in a tomato-based sauce. For a lighter yet just as satisfying meal, grivolane klobasy are grilled sausages served with mustard, horseradish, and brown bread. DESSERTS To cap off a savory meal, palacinky is a favorite way to end a meal. These are crepelike pancakes with fruit or jam, rolled up and covered in whipped cream, powdered sugar or chocolate sauce. The Czech Republic is also famous for its rich cakes and pies.





99 BOTTLES ANDREW JAMES MASIGAN drank his way over two weeks in the Czech Republic



ast summer, my wife and her best friend invited me to join them on a crosscountry expedition across the Czech Republic. With the duo’s penchant for marathon shopping, I somehow knew my role was to revolve around driving our rented Skoda and being a handy porter for their six man-size suitcases. Still, I accepted the invite as I had a secret agenda of my own—beer!

In Prague, we checked into a beautiful luxury hotel that was once an Augustinian monastery back in the 13th century. In its basement is a vintage brewery where the Augustinian monks used to make beer (yes, they drank it too), and that’s still functional today. It’s now the centerpiece of the hotel’s pub. In celebration of our arrival, I ordered a bottle of Pilsner Urquell, arguably the most significant brand among the hundreds of Czech brews available.

I wasn’t going to pass-up on the opportunity to enjoy my favorite libation 24/7, without fear of being judged as a wino. So off to Bohemia we went.




After travelling 6,300 miles across the Pacific and then driving across a significant cross-section of Europe before finally reaching Prague, this was exactly what I needed: a cold, refreshing beer with a slightly buttery aroma. It had a burnt caramel sweetness to it much like sticky toffee. The taste lingered in my mouth before a crisp snap of hoppy bitterness kicked in after swallowing. I downed the bottle rather quickly as I fought to equalize the 39 degree heat outside. Its alcohol content was moderate at 4.4% ABV (Alcohol by Volume) so I did feel a slight buzz—the kind that puts you in a good mood. It was invigorating and surprisingly light.

A RIB EYE AND A BEER That night, we enjoyed dinner at Villa Richter, a restaurant set on top a hill with superb views of downtown Prague. Getting there involved a long uphill trek, so I decided to reward myself with a rib-eye steak and a bottle of Budweiser Budvar Svetlé (light) beer.

TOP OF THE CLASS The Czechs consume more beer per capita than any other people in the world—the Germans and Irish included. A typical Czech consumes an average of 161 liters annually of the frothy brew from its 45 commercial breweries and hundreds of microbreweries across the land. For a nation with a population of only 12 million, that’s a bottle of beer for every man, woman, and child every day! In these parts, it would be unthinkable

So my steak arrived and it went very well with the beer. The beer’s deep flavors of roasted grain, coffee, and bitter chocolate – deceivingly bold considering its light, amber color – held its own against my steak cooked rare. The alcohol was on the heavy side at 4.8% ABV which gave me a good buzz.


to enjoy a local meal of roasted pork, cabbage, and dumplings without a pint of beer on the side—and that includes breakfast!




MEDIEVAL BEER, ANYONE? The following day, we made our way to Kutna Hora, a small town just three hours away from Prague. Kutna Hora is home to the famous St. Barbara’s Cathedral, a world icon in gothic architecture built in 1388. Our timing couldn’t have been better as there was a medieval festival going on, and practically every resident was in costume or sporting some sort of medieval implement. Numerous kiosks lined the town plaza, selling a whole range of Czech specialties including freshly stuffed sausages, smoked meats, and barbecued cheeses. We enjoyed bottles – yes, plural, because it was a hot day – of Gambrinus Svetlé Beer to wash it all down. This beer was light, slightly limey with hints of spice. It wasn’t the most refined beer I’ve tasted but it offered good refreshment for an afternoon like this. That night, we had supper at the Dacicky Beer Hall, an iconic restaurant in Kutna Hora known for its medieval-style dining hall. The restaurant was named after Sir Mikulas Dacicky, a writer from the 15th century infamous for his love of libation in its many forms, and women, also in their many forms. We ordered a no-holds barred medieval feast consisting of game sausage, pickled gherkins, Tyrolean ham, goat cheese, marinated pork knees, smoked goose breast, wild boar goulash, and goose breast. All these were paired with a brew made by the restaurant itself called Dacicky Lezak Svelty. The beer had a golden amber color with a slightly yeasty aroma. It tasted of malt and hops, and the bitterness was only evident in the finish. It was also served at room temperature, which I didn’t particularly relish, but that this is how the locals like it. The beer held itself well with the gamey flavors of our meal. The taste and hit of the alcohol was a non-event at only 3.8% ABV.


The next day we drove to Cesky Krumlov, a small and picturesque 13th century town in south Bohemia, and checked into the historic Hotel Ruze, a building constructed in the 16th century as a Jesuit monastery. Inside the hotel were paintings, sculptures, and pieces of art from the Jesuit era. Luxurious as it was intended to be, my wife and I found it eerie. There was a “Damien” feeling about it—it was almost like we were on the set of The Omen. Tired from the long journey, we opted for a traditional Czech dinner of roasted pork, dumplings, and gravy at the hotel. The food was nothing to write home about, but this was more than compensated for by our extraordinary beer choice. We had the Velkopopovicky Kozel Premium, a beer awarded the coveted Monde Selection seal in 2006 and chosen Czech “Beer of the Year” in 2009 and 2010. The beer had a sparkling amber color and a heady, grassy aroma. The first mouthful tickled our palate with its fantastic balance of fruit and hop flavor. It had a pleasant bitterness to it, just enough to make you want more. We enjoyed it so much that we went for a second round—and a third. Its alcohol content was on the high side at 4.8% ABV which knocked us out into a deep sleep where Gregory Peck even made a cameo appearance.

SO MANY CHOICES The Czech Republic is the spiritual home of beer given its 800year history with the brew. In fact, the world’s benchmark for Pilsen or Pilsner beers, which are golden hopped lagers with crisp carbonation, is Pilsner Urquell, a brew first created in the town of Plzen, 88 kilometers southwest of Prague. Over the centuries, more than 470 permeations of beer have been created, each being the pride of whatever town it was made in.

THE CZECH BUDWEISER The Czech version is original and not to be mistaken for its American counterpart made by Anheuser Busch. In 1876, an American brewer named Adolphus Bush reportedly toured Bohemia and found himself addicted to a local beer he’d discovered in České Budějovice. That beer was Budweiser Budvar. Adolphus Bush returned to America and made his own version of the beer. He even copied its brand name and advertising slogan, “The Beer of Kings.” (The Czech Budweiser was known around Europe as the “Beer of Kings” as it was the favorite of Bohemia’s King Ferdinand.) A legal battle over brand rights followed which rages on even today. This is why Budweiser of America recently rebranded itself simply as “Bud.”



Eggenberg takes its name from the Eggenberg family, which acquired this Cesky Krumlov-based brewery in the 16th century. It’s a strong, dry beer with 5% ABV and strong flavors of malt, cooked grains, and hops, along with high carbonation. This is a man’s beer. I enjoyed two bottles before calling it a night.

THE ORIGINS OF BEER Before the mid-19th century, beer was dark, turbid, and inconsistent in quality – so much so that the people of Pilsner, avid and passionate beer drinkers, regularly disposed of barrels of poorly made beer into the city’s sewers.

DOWNING THE LAST MUG The last leg of our trip was to Brno, the second largest city of the Czech Republic, where stayed at the luxurious Hotel Grandezza in the middle of town. It had an upbeat feel and so many restaurants worth exploring.

When a modern brewery was finally built, a Bavarian brewer named Josef Groll was tasked with creating a much-improved version of their beloved beer. This was the first time that the single strand of yeast was used to produce the said lager, and it was supposedly smuggled out of a monastery by a runaway monk.

We dined at the Palazzo Restaurant, the flagship outlet of the Barcelo Hotel that served Italian cuisine with a modern flair. I was hungry from a whole day of walking, so I ordered a strip steak with chicken cannelloni on the side and paired this off with a bottle of Starobrno Beer, the self-proclaimed “Best Beer in the Whole of Moravia.” The beer was crisp and high in alcohol at 5% ABV. It was light in color and tasted of corn and grass. I enjoyed it a lot mainly because I got a buzz halfway through the first bottle on an empty stomach.

To differentiate itself from other beers, which are bottom-fermented, the Pilsner brew was named Pilsner Urquell, which means “the pilsner from the original source.”

Brno was the last leg of our Czech adventure before finally returning to Prague. The trip turned out to be a gastronomic adventure rather than the shopping spree I originally thought it would be. The food was good but the beer was better. I’m so glad I went. n

THREE STARS AND A DARK BEER After a few days in Amityville, we headed for Olomouc, the Czech Republic’s second oldest historic preservation zone. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Goldie, a restaurant inside the Hotel Nautilus in Ceské Budejovice. Goldie has a three-star Michelin rating which made it a destination in itself. I ordered a slow roasted pork shoulder in red wine sauce and polenta that I paired off with a Krusovice Dark Beer. The pork was good but it fell short of what you would expect from a threestar restaurant. But since the chef made an appearance and entertained us for a bit, the food somehow tasted slightly better. The girls were even treated to a kitchen tour. The Krusovice Dark went well with the pork. It smelled like nutmeg on toasted bread and had a distinct taste of licorice, although its sharp bitterness was slightly too heavy for me. The alcohol wasn’t much at 3.8% ABV, but I couldn’t go for a second bottle as my waistband was growing tight.

A MAN’S BEER Meanwhile, in the city of Olomouc, we stayed at the modern NH Hotel, which was a welcome change from the many historic hotels we had previously stayed in. It had a great café where the girls enjoyed light tapas and sangria while I had a burger and an Eggenberg Beer. FEBRUARY-MARCH 2013




NEED TO KNOW Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic with a population of just over 1.2 million. Famous for its romantic atmosphere, it has kept its unique historical appearance with a labyrinth of winding, medieval cobblestone streets, and beautiful palaces and churches. It is becoming one of Europe’s most popular destinations with over 4 million visitors annually.

TRAVELER’S CHECKLIST A Schengen visa is required of certain nationalities. Inquire at the Embassy of the Czech Republic: 30/F Rufino Pacific Tower 6784 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Tel (63) (2) 811-1155, 811-1156.

Aria’ s roo ftop resta ura nt Th e lob by of the Au gustin e Ho

CURRENT EXCHANGE RATE 1 US$ = 19.56 Czech Koruna


TIME DIFFERENCE The Czech Republic is seven hours behind the Philippines.

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL One of the Czech Republic’s top luxury hotels and a favorite choice of heads of state visiting Prague, it’s located along the riverbanks with easy access to both the Old Town and the New Town. AUGUSTINE HOTEL This former medieval monastery is the embodiment of Prague’s history, culture and beauty, and its rooms are all designed with uniqueness and comfort in mind. The hotel’s garden restaurant is a great place for breakfast.

PHILIPPINE EMBASSY IN PRAGUE 8 Senovazne Namesti, Prague Czech Republic Tel (420) (2) 2241-6397, (420) (2) 2241-6385

HOW TO GET THERE Visitors can fly from the Philippines to the Czech Republic, with stopovers, on Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Qatar Airways.

WHEN TO GO Spring and fall are the best seasons, along with early summer.



ARIA HOTEL This classic boutique hotel is designed with music in mind, and many of its rooms are named after previous occupants such as Mozart, Elvis Presley and Billie Holiday. With a resident music director and iPods loaded with the music of 51 composers in each room, Aria Hotel is highly recommended for music lovers.



GOLDEN WELL Located just below the walls of Prague castle and surrounded by the castle’s rose garden, this quaint boutique hotel offers proximity to the castle and lavish views.

WHERE TO EAT V ZATISI There’s no better place to celebrate Prague’s local delicacies in an upscale way than in this cozy restaurant full of interesting design. Try their goat’s cheese and pumpkin soup for appetizers and their famous lamb chops as your main course. LEHKA HLAVA This institution began as a tea room in 1996, and now it’s a delightful restaurant to every vegetarian in Prague. Located just five minutes from the Charles Bridge, Lehka Hlava (which means Clear Head in Czech) is famous for tasty vegetable meals like aubergine soup with yogurt and romaine salad with basil pesto, in a city of meat eaters. MLYNEC Marek Purkart, the only Czech chef with three Michelin Bibendum awards turns out traditional recipes with modern twists. His menus are all rooted in Czech’s local ingredients. SVATA KLARA This fine dining restaurant on a hill overlooking the city, also has an ancient wine cellar and vineyard dating back to the 14th century. Dine al fresco with amazing views of Prague or amidst antique furniture and baroque statues inside. Restaurant specialties include duck liver terrine with pistachios and caramelized pear, and lobster bisque with ravioli and lobster meat – and make sure to pair these with Svata Klara’s own wonderful wines.

WHAT TO SEE PRAGUE CASTLE Prazky Hrad This is the most visited monument in the Czech Republic, as well as the largest castle complex in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. See the various large-scale and ecclesiastical buildings with architectural styles ranging from 10th century Roman to 14th century Gothic. OLD TOWN Stare Mesto This medieval settlement is filled with houses, churches, and other structures dating back to the 13th century. Don’t miss the Old Town Square, the Old and New Synagogues, Clementinum, and Kinský Palace. CHARLES BRIDGE Karluvy Most Right in the heart of Prague, the Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River and serves as the most important connection between Prague Castle and the Old Town. Formerly known as the Stone Bridge, it FEBRUARY-MARCH 2013

is 621 meters long and 10 meters wide. Protected by three bridge towers, the bridge has a good panoramic view of the city on both sides and is furnished with different long-standing statues that give it a medieval look. WENCESLAS SQUARE Vaclavske Namesti Being the center of business and commerce in Prague, this city square is lined with hotels and shops, and it’s always full of people. It’s named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. Czech’s National Museum is also on this square. LESSER TOWN Mala Strana Mala Strana, a district known as the “royal town” because of its many noble palaces, is home to the Wallenstein Palace, the St. Nicholas Church and the famous statue of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague. HOLY INFANT JESUS CHURCH Locals believe that the wooden statue of the Infant Jesus inside this historic and beautifully baroque 16th century church is miraculous, and that it has been instrumental in protecting Prague against destruction and oppression.


Travelife Magazine Feb-March 2013  
Travelife Magazine Feb-March 2013  

On the Road to Prague