Making the most of Presov time in East Slovakia

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A free weekend upon us and a long one at that, I began to toy with idea of seeing East Slovakia again. It had been a while since we’d seen each other, so toy no further – I went ahead and booked myself on the midnight sleeper train out of Olomouc.

I am big fan of a train with a bed – last September I had met up with my Wales away companion, Glen ,for 14hr trip from Bucharest to Chisinau to watch our international team. This time it also includes a Wales side: the u19s were/are playing in the Slovakia Cup – any opportunity to watch Wales in Central Europe and I am there.. this time with Trnava-dwelling Matt LostBoyo.

The six hour journey ended early. Difficulty sleeping and a bit of early morning research gave me the option of disembarking at Poprad station and getting a 5,30 bus to Spissky Podhradie, a pretty town sitting beneath the beautiful Spissky Hrad, the 6th largest castle on the planet and a world heritage site.

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Everything was going according to plan, the SAD bus took me on 50 minute journey right to the foot of the hill I needed to hike. The only hiccup was that I knew I would be the only soul up there so early in the morning, and I was unsure whether the castle keeper (do they still exist?) would let me in. Undeterred, I began the climb and as I reached the top I saw the gates open – result. Of course, my excitement of having the whole place to myself was short-lived as I was greeted by the angriest Slovak in the history of Slovakia…
“What are you doing here?” she barked at me.
I walked a bit further pretending not to hear/understand her.
She raised her voice a bit more, probably waking the sleepy village below. At this point she took my arm and lead me back to gate, pointing aggressively at a sign with the opening hours. I wonder if that’s how it worked with the castle back in the 12th century.
“We’d love to commence battle now, but unfortunately the castle is closed until 9.00am. Could you come back a bit later?” pointing the attacking army in the direction of the nearest cafe…

I went into charm offensive – actually replace that with begging. I begged her to let me in for 10 minutes to have a look around and to take some photos. “Mrs Castle keeper, I have travelled overnight just to see this castle. Please, 10 minutes just to get a view from the tower…” Another couple of minutes of explaining my need to get in and suddenly I saw a chink in her armour.
“Ahh, you are not Czech?”
“No, I am from Wales”.
“Come on in, would you like a cup of tea?” Well, she didn’t offer me a cuppa, I made that bit up, but not being from a neighbouring country had gained me access to a castle well worthy of making it into UNESCO. She did follow me around for the entire tour, but I got a “hello” in English when we said goodbye.

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Whenever I am lucky enough to visit the region, I always try and fit in as much as possible. However, if I described the trip in detail, you would nod off before I got to the end of the first day. What I can tell you is that when you are next over here, go to Levoca. It’s a beautiful town with both Gothic and renaissance architecture dominating the main square.

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My first game of the weekend was a relegation battle between Tatran Presov and ZP Sport Podbrezova in the top flight. I had hoped the game would be played in the (I think) oldest stadium in Slovakia, but Presov are currently exiled 40 miles away in Poprad at the newest stadium in Slovakia. Disappointed, well not that much, I had lunch in Kezmarok and spent a couple of prematch hours in Poprad’s two breweries, which are both within walking distance from each other on the main drag. Now, at this point I don’t want to be critical, but it’s been noticeable that on previous trips to the region the customer service, although friendly, has been incredibly slow. I discussed this with a friend of mine recently and she described it as relaxed. My tip is, if you are in a rush, order your food and drink and get the bill. It’s not a rant, it’s an observation, honest. And I am sure we will review one of the breweries in the next month or so.

To the game… well, the quality was poor. The highlight of the game was the stadium, the backdrop is stunning and I often caught myself gazing at the High Tatra mountains rather than watching two teams struggle to play the game. Podbrezova took the lead in the 21st minute. However, I can’t really tell you whether it was against the run of play as there wasn’t much “play” to speak of. The handful of Tatran ultras banged their drum, sang a few songs to try and raise the performance of their team, but I can not recall the side creating a single chance until the 90th minute when they equalised through their substitute, a lanky defender named Maduka Udeh. Thrown up front as very much a last throw of the dice, Udeh somehow got on the end of a cross to head home with his first touch of the ball. The ref, probably aware I had a train to catch, blew his whistle not too long after. I swear he gave me a nod to say “take the train and head east, my friend” – And head east I did.

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I spent the evening in Kosice – the largest town in the East and with one of the largest central drags in Europe. Hlavna Ulica (translation “the main street”) is a bustle of activity with the people of Kosice taking up residence in many of the street bars, restaurants and cafes. I decided to take a left at the cathedral and find Golem, one of the three breweries in the city. Worth a visit, if you are ever in the area.

Sad to stay, I didn’t get much of chance to explore the city… the lack of sleep on the overnight train and possibly one too many beers meant I was in bed just a few minutes after midnight. A great day out.

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Brewery of the Month – July

While we are of course bound to the finesse of Czech brewing traditions, we do enjoy trips across borders to see what’s brewing in other lands. With a free weekend ahead of us we decided to travel to Slovakia’s capital city of Bratislava to see how many breweries we could manage, and to give you our second Slovak brewery post this year.

In fact, we actually managed 5 breweries but our first stop was our priority – we wanted to spend some of the warm summer day sat on the calm lull of the Danube (Ralph’s favourite river), at the Dunajský pivovar.

The most immediately striking thing about the Dunajský pivovar is simply that it is on a boat. Sitting on the deck, enjoying the morning sun with a fresh lager brewed on the flow of one of Europe’s most stunning rivers, is a gratifying experience. We did try to pick the perfect table but were immediately asked to move as there were only two of us and it was a big table. So we were shifted to a small table round the corner. No problem – we were still sat staring at the river and city before us.

Introduced in 2014 by it’s older brother, the Patrónsky pivovar, the Dunajský brewery sits on the Petržalka side of Bratislava, and doubles up as a ‘botel’. It also has a restaurant offering taditional food. We were only here for the beer though, and as neither of us are fans of the ‘tmavy’ (dark) beer we went for the standard 11,5 degree lager instead. Although perhaps not the best beer in the city, it certainly wasn’t bad, and a cold brew was certainly much welcomed on this fine summer’s day. The restaurant itself is a bit posh for our simple tastes, and the service was a relaxed pace, but the atmosphere of the Danube is second to none.

Brewery of the month – June

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Lanius Brewery – Mierové námestie 20, 911 01 Trenčín, Slovakia

A couple of months ago, I was on a jaunt around Slovakia and decided to make my journey to Senec (to watch Wales U19s!!) a little bit easier, I took a 4hr train from Kosice to Trencin. Now, it’s a town I know well – I’ve been to the Pohoda music festival a few times, it’s got the greatest football floodlights in the country, Klub Luc is where it’s at for evening entertainment and the castle, built on top of a steep rock is one of the finest in Europe… To add to that, it now has a brewery and Lanius is June’s pivovar of the month.

They brew their various kinds of beer at house number 20 on the main square, naming the brewery after the first owner of the house, a certain Thomas Lanius, who lived there in 1649…I am not sure if it’s any coincidence, but Lanius is Latin for Butcher.. and old Tom was indeed a butcher… What are the chances…

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To provide more background to breweries in the town, there was a time in 17th century when Trencin had 40 breweries, many of them private. Now for a size of the city, that seems a few too many and with the onset of the industrial revolution of the 19th century, these were replaced by large-scale production in the modern breweries close by. By the end of the century, the last brewer had brewed his last beer in Trencin…until Lanuis produced their first beer in 2014.

After taking in the AS Trencin v Zilina game, I made my way straight to bar for some beer and nosh and I was not disappointed. Lanius usually have a selection of beers on tap and an excellent choice of food on the menu. Conservatively, I went for the 12 degree Bohemian Lager, but in hindsight I should have gone for the tasting tray as previously in the day someone had recommended their Mandarina IPA…there is always a next time.

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As with all Microbreries the prices are a little bit more than the euro you could pay for a Corgon or Saris, but there’s a lot of love that goes into making craft ales and Lanius have added that to their various beers. So, if you are in Trencin and looking for a nice place to spend the evening, we highly recommend a visit to the brewery and grab some food if you feeling a bit peckish. You won’t be disappointed.

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Blansko “seas” the day in Trebic

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A few years ago as an icebreaker with one of my post-secondary school classes, I asked them all to prepare a joke. The following day, Petr stood up and asked me to name the three most famous beaches in the world. “Copacabana, Rhosilli and …..” , before I could name a third he shouted out “Trebic” (Tre beach) – a poor joke, but it got a lot of laughs and helped the lesson no ends.

Trebic is in a landlocked country and of course it doesn’t have a beach, but it does have a brewery and a football team… so, a perfect way to spend a Sunday.

This was our first away day of the spring season, I don’t really count Stara Risa two weeks ago as the game was played 27km away from their home ground in Jihlava on astro.

Blansko have started the second half of the season, much the same as they did the autumn, a bit hit and miss. The first game was cancelled, the second game we threw away a half time lead to lose 3-1 and then bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Velka Bites. So, we weren’t sure what to expect in Trebic, apart from a good day out.

The squad has been strengthened recently with the signings of the league’s top scorer, Tomas Sodomka, defender Vit Barta and the midfield trio of Dvorak, Kouldan and Petrik.. It looks as though the club had panicked at the thought of dropping down another division and bought a whole new spine of the team. Welcome boys.

We set off as we always do, from Brno Hlavni Nadrazi, Trebic bound with a couple of cans of Radegast to brighten up the trip.

The journey was a splendid one, the train takes you up and bit further up to the heart of the Czech Moravian highlands. We were met by a station guard and sunshine. Ahh, the sun where have you been for the past 6 months.. We were both pleased to see it and by the fact that we able to bask in it for the rest of our trip, we could say the sun was happy to see us too. Hip.. hip..

We always have a plan for days like this and Trebic is blessed with some wonderful tourist sights. The Jewish quarter is one of the best preserved in the world and rightly placed in the UNESCO heritage sight. So, over the river we went to the first port of call, Masaryk’s veiwpoint offering us a lovely view of the city. We are not sure why it’s named after the country’s first president, there’s not a town or city in the Czech Republic which doesn’t have something to remember Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, so Trebic built a view point.

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From there we took a walk past the city walls and down to the Jewish quarter to find the wonderful Cafe Art.

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After our first beer of the day, a delightful Dalesice 11, it was off to the brewery for some nosh and a quick look Basilica. Luckily for us, the kind folk of Trebic built the brewery right next to the monument, giving us the possibility to kill two birds with one beer.

Podklasterni Brewery will definitely feature in our brewery of the month, so I won’t bore you with the details. The highlight of our brief stay there was definitely the goulash soup, the lowlight was the gentleman on the table next to us. Obviously new to technology, he bellowed into his phone so loudly, my mother messaged me from her home in Cardiff to ask him to keep the noise down.

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Onto the game – the stadium in Trebic is one of our favourites in the league.. A covered terrace is a rarity at this level, but Trebic have one and it’s delightful. Our first stop was of course, the club house, where we were greeted by some familiar faces and the obligatory shot of slivovice, which we declined – work the next day, so we stuck to our beer and walked around the pitch to find a spot in the sun.

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As mentioned earlier in the post, Blansko had recently strengthened and it was our new striker, Tomas Sodomka who opened the scoring in 14th minute. Picking the ball up on the left-hand side of the penalty area, he neatly cut inside a bent the ball into the far corner.. If we’d had a song for him, we would have… honest.

The team continued to press and impress throughout the first half against a poor Trebic team. It’s no wonder they are adrift at the bottom of the table. We created chance after chance, but surprisingly couldn’t add to the Sodomka goal. We went in at the break just the one goal in front.

The second 45 was very much a brim full of Blansko on the 45..with us creating havoc with our two new wingers. The biggest surprise was that we finally clinched victory in 79th minute. A penalty gave Sodomka his second,Blansko 3 points and us, a celebratory pivo. Psikal wrapped it up with a 3rd goal with four minutes left to send us all home happy.

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One thing that I enjoy is that the players always come over to thank us for our support with a high five… I think it’s a nice gesture at the end of the game, only if we have won, naturally.

A couple of the players stayed behind to chat to us about holidays and the demise of Tisnov before being summoned back to changing rooms for their own private celebration.

For us it was a beer at the closest pub to the station and train home to Brno with the points safely tucked into our rucksack.

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