Results of the Radio Prague Competition
729 Radio Prague listeners took part in the competition. The task was simple - to write a short text answering the question
It was very difficult to decide but the winner has finally been chosen - it
You can read her letter as well as
the runners-up on this page.
The prize for the winner is a week-long trip for two in the Czech Republic.
The winner and a friend or partner will be accommodated in family style in the heart
of Prague, at the hotel
Falkensteiner Maria Prag, while your flight will be courtesy of Czech Airlines - your travel partner to the Czech Republic.
The runners-up will receive Radio Prague souvenirs.
You can find the details about the rules of the competition here.
Agnes Simoni, France
The first person to tell me about Czech beer was my aunt Miluska - my father's half-sister. She told the little French girl - that I then was - about a country where you find hop gardens instead of the vines of my native Provence, a land where men and women take pleasure in putting great crocks of frothy beer to their lips. What a marvel, this beer! In my adolescent mind it became a synonym for liberty and independence. For I imagined these Czech women defending their ideals and their rights in the same spirit as they downed a glass of beer!
Some years later I read a book which reinforced this idea in my mind and acquired something of a cult status for me. It was "Cutting it Short" by Hrabal. The heroine fascinated me with her energy and spontaneous spirit, with her joie de vivre, with her sensual appreciation of good food and above all the way she drank her beer, as if refreshing herself from a spring - avidly until her thirst was quenched. How I loved this heroine. And I would have loved to hold up her cropped hair as a standard to the world, a symbol of a life full of simple and beautiful joys. For me too Czech beer became the expression of these joys.
As I continued my wanderings through literature, I discovered the cafés of Prague, which distil the spirit of the nation as much as the beer itself: "When the great actor Norinsky walked into the Café National opposite Prague's Czech Theatre at three in the afternoon?" (Reiner Maria Rilke, "King Bohush").
How I dreamed of these "hospody", these taverns that are so special to Prague, of these "kavarny", where you could sit at the same table for years, of all these places where Czechs put the world to rights over their favourite beer. I could almost make out the shadows of the Golem and the Good Soldier Svejk dancing in the thick fug of smoke!
A few years on, when I was studying languages, and Czech in particular - for my childhood dream had never left me - I discovered other facets of Czech beer, less romantic but just as important.
To start with, there's the quality of the hops (considered among the best in Europe) and the savoir faire of the brew masters who have made the Czech Republic (along with Great Britain, Belgium and Germany) one of the four biggest beer producers in Europe. The country has numerous breweries, most of them in Bohemia. I shall share with you some of the names that come to my mind, magic names which evoke a world of colour and conviviality and the pleasures of the palate: Staropramen (with its Smichov beer, a great classic), the biggest brewer in the country, founded in 1869; U Fleku, the oldest tavern-brewery in the world (dating back to 1499), a true paradise for beer connoisseurs, where you find a classic beer, amber in colour and with no brand name (as it is never bottled); Pilsen, which is one of the three corners of the "Golden Triangle" (the others are Munich and Vienna), where the brewing of lager dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. The town has even given its name to the lightest of the lagers, known the world over by the words on its white and golden label: Pilsner Urquell. This beer has won awards at numerous international fairs, is widely exported and its contribution to Czech foreign trade is by no means insignificant, something that is also well worth noting! My memories would be incomplete if I failed to mention Ceske Budejovice and its Budvar brewery, founded in 1895, which produces one of the greatest beers in the world, Budweiser.
I shall never forget my first Czech beer, in a shaded beer garden in the heart of Prague! As the shadows of the leaves of the tree above played on the big, light-coloured wooden table, a beer glass - at the time it struck me as huge - was placed on a cardboard beer mat in front of me. I stared into it, with its honey and amber hews, its head tickled my lips, its sudden bitterness was swept away by my quenched thirst, and finally the flavour, that came as such a surprise to me as a foreigner - unforgettable. And then around me the happy faces, young and old, from all different walks of life, some even from abroad. As I lifted my glass I understood that there was something magic in this drink and that it brought us all together. I even thought for a minute about the champagnes and the great French wines that my compatriots love so much and which only the privileged can afford. Czech beer is different, it is for all. National unity.
The head gently caresses
The deep taste on my palate,
Czech beer is like a kiss!
How can I forget you,
You who gave me this love!
Jonathan Murphy, Cork, Ireland
Alon K Raab, Oregon, USA
Zdenek Kutac, Canada
Deirdre Murray, Belgium
Yaron Kidron, California, USA
Chinenye Odika, Nigeria
Allan R. Loudell, Delaware, USA
Roy Kitson, N.Ireland
Peter Rohel, Ontario, Canada
Peter Osicka, Ontario, Canada