Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Tue February 23 2016

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | February 23, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Catacombs and Breweries in the Czech Republic

    Catacombs and Breweries in the Czech Republic

    Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    When it comes to travel in the Czech Republic, Prague gets all the glory — and rightfully so. Few cities can match the well-preserved historical beauty and cosmopolitan interests that Prague offers.

    But believe it or not, there is actually a lot more to explore in the Czech Republic than Prague. I hopped a bus to travel about an hour-and-a-half to Jihlava, the center of the Vysocina region that borders Bohemia and Moravia.

    Fairytale prettiness doesn’t stop at Prague. Its medieval cobblestone streets and mixture of Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture was in evidence at Jihlava and in most Czech towns we passed.

    VIDEO: Interview with Michaela Palkova-Claudino of Czech Tourism

    Jihlava was the headquarters for silver mining during the 13th century and it grew into a wealthy trading city, attracting miners and merchants from all over Europe. I strolled by churches, chapels and fountains to get to the town’s most notable feature: the catacombs. A 40-minute guided tour of the underground tunnels, which cover over 530,000 square feet under the city approximately 32 feet below the surface, is a must do excursion.

    First of all, there’s the aura of danger that clings to the catacombs. A sign above the entrance proclaims, “enter at your own risk.” There are three stories and they are all dark and eerie. The first tunnel was dug during the 14th century and the other two, during the 16th century. Historians believe that the tunnels may be remnants of old silver mines and here there are display cases of miners’ tools and 14th century archaeological ceramic samples, along with characteristic mineral and rocks from the area.

    However, the undisputed highlight was the infamous “shining corridor,” which is covered with a greenish coating that glows in the dark.  Local scientists and historians don’t know what to make of it, but the guide explained that there is local speculation that during the German occupation (1938-1945), Nazis used the tunnel to experiment with gases that they eventually used in concentration camps.

    There are also rumors about mysterious shadows in the tunnels, which I was not eager to witness. It’s a chilling thought and the entire catacombs gave me heart palpitations before I even learned that tidbit of info.

    Dalesice Brewery, a short bus ride from the catacombs, supplied a welcome respite after my scary catacomb adventure.  The brewery was established in the 16th century and lasted all the way to 1977, when it was shut down for mismanagement. It served as a beer warehouse until being was purchased by its current owners in 1999.  The 20-minute tour guides visitors through the museum section where wood-fired, wooden vats and a manual bottling setup are displayed.

    READ MORE: Cesky Krumlov: Budget-Friendly Czech Enchantment 

    Of course, the best part is when the brew master explains the modern brewing process for light and dark lagers and offers beer tastings. Surprisingly, Dalesice Brewery doesn’t sell to stores. “Beer culture is drinking together with friends at a pub or restaurant, not buying beer at a store and drinking it at home in front of the TV,” explained the brewmaster. The on site restaurant facilitates things with a hearty selection of Czech dishes and a beer hall set up. 

    I was lucky to observe a group of miners at the restaurant who sang songs throughout the night. It was a great glimpse of Czech culture outside of Prague.


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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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