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Pilsen - Cold war, cold beer and European capital of culture

By Andre Vltchek (People's Daily Online)

09:19, March 28, 2012

Main square at night. (People's Daily Online/ Andre Vltchek)

Almost quarter of century ago they used to call it Pevna hraz socialismu a miru – “Sturdy hedge of socialism a peace”. The city of Pilsen (called Plzen in Czech language) was then an industrial center at the Western extreme of what was then Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (CSSR).

It might have counted with only 180,000 inhabitants, but Pilsen used to produce just about everything: from VVR turbines for nuclear power plants designated for almost all countries of Soviet block, to electric locomotives, sugar mills, steel mills, paper products and of course some of the best brands of beer in the world, including the legendary Pilsner Urquell.

Czechoslovakia used to be one of the richest countries in COMECON, and Pilsen was the second richest city in the country, after its capital Prague.

Its proximity to the West (the city is located only 60 kilometers from the border with Bavaria, a state in former West Germany, and just 120 kilometers from Austria) made it cosmopolitan and open, at least by Central European standards. Its breweries and proximity to the West brought tens of thousands of visitors from Western Europe and the rest of the world even at the height of the Cold War. Although behingd the ‘Iron Curtain’, the shops of the city were always relatively well stocked and its teenagers were rocking and rolling to the hits flying from FM radio stations of Radio Luxemburg and Bavaria 3.

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