Before we went to Bohemia last month, we had the preconceived notion their foods would be merely edible. Internet articles told us their breakfasts were cold cuts, their lunches heavy and their dinners mainly soup and sandwiches.
That was far from the truth!
We stayed in five different hotels during our two-week tour of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and each hotel’s buffet was lavish. Every morning we could look forward to: at least five kinds of juices, a coffee machine that brewed a choice of cocoa, espresso, cappuccino, regular coffee or servers who brought the choice requested; several kinds of breads including gluten-free; a variety of rolls; scrambled and fried and boiled eggs; bacon and sausages; fresh fruits and vegetables; cooked hot vegetables; muesli and dry cereals; nuts; yogurts; butter and jams; cakes and strudels. Their butter is so rich and delicious I forgot about my cholesterol numbers and liberally spread it on breads and rolls. It was tempting to pig out, and on the first day we tried to sample as many different kinds of food available, though by the third day we concentrated on foods we liked best.
Lunches and dinners often began with a hearty soup or salad of mixed spring greens, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, with light vinaigrette instead of the creamier ranch and caesar dressing Americans favor. We had turkey rolls, eel, goose, duck, pork and chicken, and only once had a beef pot roast that was served with a big blade of bone. Gravies were thick with vegetables such as eggplant, mushroom and carrots.
In Hungary we were served their famous goulash and even given the recipe by a chef at a small cafe. I likened goulash to our beef stew except it’s flavored and colored red by sweet paprika, while I cook stew with tomatoes or brown gravy.
On days when we had to purchase our own lunches or dinners, we found the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants, McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Subways in all the capital cities, including local hams, kielbasa and other sausages. Two men in our travel group claimed, “We had the BEST Chinese meal we’ve ever had here in Prague! Really?
And to my surprise, sushi has found its way to Bohemia. A sidewalk billboard advertised California Rolls and nigiri and other rolls similar to that in the U.S. Curiously, my friend and I approached a sushi cafe, expecting to see an Asian sushi chef, but like many sushi venues in the U.S., it looked as if local persons had learned to roll the delicacy. We. however, tmerely looked in without sitting down to order.
Wine tastings allowed us to sample their white and red wines; we enjoyed one in a cave cellar in Savornice,Czech Republic, and another in a cave-restaurant outside of Bratislava, Slovakia. We also had a visit to a vineyard in Slovakia.
We also had a tour of the huge Budweiser Brewery in the Czech Republic that is as modern as any brewery we’ve toured in the United States. It produces millions of bottles of beer annually and were informed the average consumption of beer per capita is about a bottle a day. No samples were given us, however.
While I am sure the local citizenry do ot eat as we tourists did, it is rather amazing that just two decades of their freedom from Soviet rule, Bohemia is thriving, their people appear to be prosperous, foods plentiful, and we enjoyed their wonderful cooking.