In medieval Europe there always were villages around the castles in order to recruit men for important personages. These villages were gradually transformed into the cities.
The strange thing is that villages around the castles still have pretty provincial authentic look. But the so-called «free» trade cities, which had their privileges and an extensive trade, boasted each other by trying to show their tall bell tower, City Hall. Such trade cities hadn’t brought this nice medieval appearance to our time. Maybe because of the fact that they were trying to reach the progress.
The first Czech book «The Trojan Chronicles» was published in 1468 in Pilsen. And after 90 years Pilsen became the capital of the Czech Republic for nine months! So here is the story. In 1559 the plague was rife and rampant in Prague, and King Rudolf II moved to Pilsen in order to avoid epidemic. It was quite a strange choice, because the infection causes the most damage to great trading cities, where density of population is high. Strangers constantly come; they spread the infection through the remaining countries. So it is no surprise that the plague reached Plzen (probably someone from the royal court, following the master, had brought the infection from Prague), so the court headed by the king immediately run away from there, of course. But some pieces of memory about the king remained in the city: the town was free and hadn’t got a special palace or the castle, but king needed somewhere to live, so the king got a couple of houses adjacent to City Hall on the left. Merchants’ houses were not designed for balls and receptions, so these two houses were rebuilt into one, which is still called the Imperial.
Pilsen has always followed the progress.
In the XIX century in Pilsen were built two plants, which are known throughout the world: Autoworks Skoda (1859) and brewery “Pilsener Urquell»(1848).
As I said before, the local brewers were allowed to brew beer in 1307. But oddly enough, fame to the city was brought by beer, which were brewed only since the middle of last century when German craftsmen had been invited to the town (spiteful tongues say that local brewers had been trying to create something worthwhile for centuries, and finally when they invited the Germans, nice beer was made). Now “Pilsner Urquell” dominates the Czech restaurants and supermarkets.
I want to say a few words about the Skoda factories. This car now is produced in Pilsen and is perceived as «not the most expensive car of the middle class”. However, at the dawn of the last century when no one heard about Ferdinand Porsche the Skoda products could easily compete with Ford, Mercedes Benz, Daimler, and even Rolls Royce. In general, Pilsner auto industry was at its peak of progress and design. But the World War II and the seizure of the Czech Republic by Germany changed the situation.
By the way, during the 30’s and 40’s Skoda produced not only luxury cars. The Czech army was one of the biggest in Europe concerning the quantity and quality of tanks until 1939. I think you have guessed the name of the plant, which produced these tanks.
In short, Plzen is not only historic places of interest. Its story does not end in the fourteenth-fifteenth century with the phrase «After that city fell into decline and lost its influence.»
The city is alive and it is growing and developing.
So, that is all for today. You were reading the rubric «From Prague with Borjomi” leading by me, Misha Bolotny.
Good luck and do not get sick.