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Do I book a hotel, or AirBnB? Great question, but unfortunately there isn’t any easy answer. There are definite advantages to both, plus a dozen minor ones. In 5 years of using AirBnB I’ve yet to have a bad experience. I’m sure it’s because I’m extremely careful as well as meticulous in my process. Don’t think hotels are free of risk, there are bad ones and every now and then you’ll find one. What I hope to do is to outline my process which will help you to decide what works best for you. If you are anything like me, you will be open to both and probably split your stays fairly equally based on your destination.

When I book hotels I rely on the Star Rating system,  it’s an effort by the lodging industry to level the playing field.  It gives you an opportunity to compare hotels, who’s names you probably wouldn’t recognize within a particular market.  I tend to look at 4 Star and up, but don’t assume a 4 star in Rome Italy is the same as a 4 star in Rome Georgia.

Use the rating to compare within a market, not between markets.  The few times I’ve been disappointed with my hotel choice it’s been because I was forced to choose between 3 star hotels,  which in most cases are just average.  In any case it’s important to read the reviews, paying close attention to the bad ones.  Chain hotels tend to be pretty consistent as they are held to the hotel chain standards.  The beds are the same in all Hampton Inns,  and you’ll  find that a Marriott hotel in Boston is of similar quality as a Marriott in Chicago.

AirBnB evaluations tend to be a bit more complex, but not impossible.  The first step is to know your market.   What are the hotel rates in that city?   Where is the best location?

If you plan on using public transit where are the access points?  What type of lodging are you looking for? Bed & Breakfast? Apartment or Flat rental?   What amenities do you need?   Use the AirBnB search engine filters to sort through the list making sure you have everything that’s important to you.  My filters include: WiFi, TV, washer, dryer, blow dryer, air conditioning, coffee maker, and kitchen or kitchenette. Choose your budget,  if hotels are going for $200 per night start looking at $100 to about $250 price range.  Don’t go cheap if you look for $50 per night that’s exactly what you’ll get!   Position the map to show the area that you want and zoom in so you only see that area.  There are usually many more rentals than what they show so it pays to zoom in.  Now the fun part… start looking at the pictures and find something that catches your eye.  Avoid the ones that look “lived in” the last thing you want to do is stay at Bob’s place, chasing him out of his house so he can earn a few bucks to pay his electric bill!  Book the AirBnB investment properties, properties that were purchased for the sole purpose of short term rental income. You’ll find the owner has a system for booking, check-in and most importantly cleaning the property.  The AirBnB rating system will keep you out of trouble if you look for perfect scores, and just like hotels READ the REVIEWS!

Accuracy  ***** Communication ***** Cleanliness *****
Location ***** Check-In ***** Value *****
If you are new to AirBnB and would like to give them a try, you can click the AirBnB logo and receive a credit on your first booking.

I typically have a 50/50 split between booking AirBnB and staying in hotels. The markets usually determine where I stay. I like AirBnB when I want to be a “local”, having the amenities I don’t have in hotels. I like hotels when I want consistency especially when traveling to places that are unfamiliar or maybe a bit exotic. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but will be fun whatever you choose.

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “AirBnB” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

The post To AirBnB? That is the question… Do I book a hotel, or AirBnB? appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Just an hour and a half southwest of Prague by train, Plzen is an easy day trip. You can buy your tickets from Praha hlavni nadrazi (main train station) ticket counter, a reservation on the train to Plzen and open ended return ticket back to Prague. Trains run hourly in both directions making your itinerary extremely flexible.

Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour ~ The Beer-Centric Traveler - YouTube

Plzen is a beautiful city with so much to see you could easily fill a few days of activities. As a day trip, we focused our time on three activities, The Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour, Brewery Museum and Pilsen Historical Underground Tour. Restaurace Na Spilce, located on the Pilsner Urquell property is an excellent dining choice serving traditional Czech cooking and of course, Pilsner Urquell beer!

While Plzen offers an excellent public transit system featuring many trams and busses we found it quite easy to walk from the train station to the brewery. The route from the brewery to the Pilsen Underground is marked and easy to find. The Square of the Republic, Plzen’s old town square is just a block or two from the Underground.

The Square of the Republic is the historical center of Plzen and is one of the largest medieval squares in the Czech Republic. Restored since the fall of communism to its original beauty with buildings dating as early as 1300. Below the square and its surrounding buildings is a labyrinth of underground tunnels and passageways dropping several levels below the surface. Many of the tunnels date back to the 14th century and can be explored as part of the Pilsen Historical Underground Tour. We included this tour on our visit and would suggest you do the same. Our guide was both knowledgeable and very entertaining as she explained the origin and historical significance of this intricate network of passageways, showing the secret nooks and crannies and how they played into the day to day life in this subterranean underground. Tours are available in many languages and can be booked together with the Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour.

The brewery tour is easily Plzen’s biggest attraction, brewing beer at this location since 1842 they are the first brewery to produce pilsner blonde lager beer. The name Pilsner Urquell roughly translates to “The Original Pilsner“. You’ll have an opportunity to explore the facility, from the modern bottling facility to the old copper brew kettles and finally the cellars below the brewery. The highlight for me was tasting the fresh unpasteurized beer directly from the wooden casks… Delicious!

The brewery museum is located at the entry to the Pilsen Historical Underground and features the original medieval brew house dating back to the 15th century. Visitors will learn the story of beer from ancient times to present day with another welcome sampling of Pilsner Urquell beer.

Make your reservations in advance of your visit since the English tours for both the brewery and the underground should be coordinated.

Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tours can be booked online http://www.prazdrojvisit.cz/
or email Jana Mudrova exkurze@prazdrojvisit.cz

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Plzen Day Trip” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

The post Day Trip to Plzen, Czech Republic, Pilsner Urquell Brewery and much more! appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Play Harder Tours by The Beer-centric Traveler - 1w ago

When I first saw the words “Beer Spa” I immediately  thought “Tourist Trap” based on the number of spas scattered across the Czech Republic. Boy was I wrong,  this was truly an experience that should not be missed. The Spa Culture is a cornerstone of Bohemian tradition and has been for centuries.  With that in mind you do see more tourists than locals but that stands to reason with Prague and the Czech Republic being such an attractive destination.  What started as a curiosity quickly became the experience described in their brochures!

Beer Spa Bernard (https://www.pivnilaznebernard.cz/en) has three locations in Prague, each displaying their own individual character.  We visited the Karoliny Svetle location just a few blocks from the Charles Bridge in a wonderful space below the Karoline Hotel.

We entered the Karoline and were immediately greeted by our spa technician, Enna Vaitovich, a vibrant and very entertaining young lady just oozing with personality! She leads us down a spiral stairway to the cellar below the hotel.  I use the word cellar for lack of a better word, make no mistake the space is immaculately clean and decorated perfectly. At the bottom of the stairway stands a life sized wooden sculpture of a robed medieval man with beer stein in hand reminding you that this is a long standing tradition.

To your left a changing room with shower, and on your right a massage table.  Your eyes are immediately drawn to the tub area and double bed at the far end of the room.  Two wooden tubs, each large enough for two people outfitted with beer taps will soon be used pouring their delicious Bernard Beer.  The double bed is a comfortable relaxation space designed to warm your body after your treatment, opening your pores as you lay wrapped inside a thermal blanket like a human burrito!

BeerSpa Bernard ~ The Beer-Centric Traveler - YouTube
Beer & Hot-Tub - Bill - YouTube
Beer & Hot-Tub - Cathy - YouTube

You might think this experience would be super expensive but it’s not. A one hour treatment (one or two hours is perfect) for two people sharing a tub for an hour is only $120 (not per person). That includes 30 minutes in the tub followed by 30 minutes in the bed plus all the incredible Bernard Beer you can drink. You are in total privacy for the treatment and able to work up a sweat in every way you can imagine (wink wink). It’s the perfect couples experience. If I had one regret it’s that I didn’t take advantage of the massage, for an additional $37 (not per person) we could have capped our unique Prague Beer Spa Bernard experience with a massage. Be sure to make your reservation in advance of your trip using this email address, info@pivnilaznebernard.cz, and please specify your desired location. Don’t forget to tell them you learned of the experience at The Beer-Centric Traveler.

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Beer Spa Bernard” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

The post Our Visit to Beer Spa Bernard Prague appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Discover Prague and the Czech Republic our #1 “Beer-Centric” destination. Use Prague as your base and daytrip and explore the surrounding areas. This is one of our most affordable destinations in all of Europe. You’ll quickly learn that your dollar goes a long way in this beautiful country. Stay in 4 and 5 star hotels without breaking the bank, and yes Beer is Cheaper than Water!

  • Air from the USA plus 6 nights in Prague Starting at only $800 (PPDO)
  • Add excursions to fit your budget
  • Add affordable daytrips to surrounding areas
  • Add fun activities like “Beer Spa Bernard”
  • We’ll help you put it together
  • Off Peak Travel

Email Bill@playhardertours.com

Let’s plan your next vacation!

Offered through Play Harder Tours  #ST38191

The post Discover Affordable Prague! only $800 (PPDO) air included appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Play Harder Tours by The Beer-centric Traveler - 1w ago

The Play Harder Tours “BeerQuest 2018 Munich to Prague” trip is just a few months away. Dates are set, air and accommodations have been booked, all that’s left is a bit of fine tuning. Within 2 months of our trip we will book tours with local guides, buy train tickets and make reservations for special things we might want to do. The trip runs 16 days including our 2 departure days. We bookended the trip with 5 nights in both Munich and Prague, sandwiched in between are 2 nights each in Hallstatt Austria and Cesky Krumlov. Beer centric travelers will love this trip with both Munich and Prague being 5 star beer centric travel destinations, and Hallstatt and Cesky Krumlov both UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Historic Centre of Prague (UNESCO/NHK) - YouTube

The fourth and final leg of our journey starts with a noon pickup from our Cesky Krumlov rental by the CK Shuttle. With a cost of under $50 per person you can’t beat the price and convenience of a private car with travel time of about 2 1/2 hours.

Our next stop is Prague, Czech Republic’s capital city and our #1 Beer-Centric destination in Europe. Located on the Vltava river in central Bohemia in the heart of Central Europe with a population of over 1.3 million. The historic center of Prague makes the UNESCO World Heritage Site list with its 1100 year history on display. Just like Cesky Krumlov, the Vltava river bisects the old city center. On the east bank you’ll find the Old Town (Stare Mesto) with its Old Town Square, the New Town (Nove Mesto) built around Wenceslas Square, and the Jewish Quarter (Josefov). On the west bank is the Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana) which leads to Prague Castle, the worlds largest medieval castle complex.

Prague’s historic center represents many architectural periods as the city grew. Avoiding large scale urban renewal, in favor of restoration has left the city with a very tangible old world feel that’s crying out to be explored. Over a thousand years of building, from the Middle Ages through Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance periods attracts millions of visitors each year. Stare Mesto with it’s rich history is a tourist hotspot pushing locals outward to more affordable areas. But don’t let that stop you, take the time to explore this beautiful city and experience everything Prague has to offer.

Prague is very walkable and most of the historic center can be explored on foot. Plan to work our way outward from Stare Mesto with metro pass in hand http://www.myczechrepublic.com/prague/tickets_fares.html, keeping in mind the sights you don’t want to miss. Short walking tours are available though Expedia which give you the opportunity to learn the lay of the land, and familiarize yourself with Prague for more detailed exploration on your own.

The historic center of Prague is dotted with many breathtaking sights including the Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathederal, Charles Bridge and several churches and palaces. But ask a local, “what is your national treasure?”, and they will answer “liquid bread” otherwise known as beer. More beer is consumed in the Czech Republic than anywhere else in the world (142 liters per person) nearly 40 liters more per capita than Germany and Austria. This dedication to beer and brewing is evident by examining the numbers, the Czech Republic has over 40 large scale breweries, over 70 medium to small family owned breweries, and many restaurants now brew their own beer. You have heard it before and it’s true, in Prague beer is actually cheaper than water!

Prague: Is Beer REALLY cheaper than Water? - YouTube

With so many beer drinking options available it’s best to refer to a local resource. Prague’s Pub and Beer Guide offered through PragueBeerGarden.com will steer you in the right direction. Beer tasting tours in Prague offered through czechbeertours.com give you the opportunity to experience Prague’s vibrant beer scene from historical breweries to local microbreweries. Be sure to include Tankovnas (Tank Pubs) in your quest for beer. Tank pubs offer unpasteurized beer from massive pressurized tanks held at a steady temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit avoiding contamination and keeping the beer fresh resulting in a rounder, more complex flavor. U Pinkasu, located just off of Wenceslas Square next to the Mustek subway station is a restaurant and pub serving Pilsner Urquell from the tank and has been open since 1843! Prague Pubs offers 2 self guided crawls, complete with PDF maps for download featuring 9 local watering holes.

FINDING THE REAL PRAGUE! - YouTube

Just like the food and the beer, Prague hotels offer great value. Both Marriott and Hilton have 5 star hotels in the eastern side of the Prague 1 district in the $120 per night price range. We opted for an AirBnB just south of the Charles Bridge in Stare Mesto. The rate was similar for a 1st class apartment which included a washer and dryer, WiFi and cable tv. The convenience of the apartment amenities and local flavor of the area that you don’t have in a high rise hotel tipped the scales in favor of AirBnB. Step outside your flat and you are in the heart of Old Town surrounded by many favorite pubs and restaurants.

TasteofPrague.com offers the Prague Foodie Guide to help you navigate this amazing city with 72 pages of detailed information on can’t miss restaurants, pubs, and cafes. Be sure to experience traditional Czech food… including Kulajda a creamy potato soup with mushrooms, topped with a poached egg… Svickova, a Czech specialty usually served at weddings and Sunday family gatherings. To oversimplify this complex dish, you have beef with a slice of speck (similar to prosciutto but smoked) smothered in a delicious vegetable sauce and usually garnished with lingonberry… Knedliky, a bread dumpling is mainstay of Czech cuisine and will usually accompany a sauce laden meal… Roast Duck, Goulash and Schnitzel are commonly found on the Czech dinner table.

Push yourself away from the dinner table and lets explore the numerous daytrips and activities available in Prague. With so much to do in and around this city, I’ll focus on two that shouldn’t be missed, one local activity and the other any easy daytrip by train.

Bernard Beer Spa When I first heard about the beer spa concept I thought “tourist trap”, but on further review I found that the concept was steeped in tradition. Spas in general play a huge part in lives of people in Central and Eastern Europe. Some say the concept dates back to the Middle Ages with a rebirth in 2006 with the first beer spa opening in the Czech Republic. Today, you’ll find several beer spas in Prague and throughout the Czech Republic. The experience starts in a steamy bath, the addition of yeast and hops becomes a therapeutic concoction designed to detoxify your body through the pores of your skin. You sit in a barrel like tub, large enough for two people in case you want company. A beer tap is conveniently located next to the tub pouring delicious Bernard Beer, this is strictly self serve and you are allowed to drink as much as you want. It’s recommended to plan this experience in the evening since it will leave you totally relaxed and ready for bed. Bernard Beer Spa has 3 convenient locations in the center of Prague, but be sure to book your reservation in advance of your visit with prices starting at $125 for a two person tub.

Pilsen Day Trip to Pilsner Urquell Brewery Topping my list of daytrips from Prague is the Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour in the city of Pilsen. Pilsen is located 1 1/2 hours by train west of Prague and advance booking is suggested. Rated as one of the top tourist destinations in the Czech Republic and a must for beer lovers. The tour features a model of the late 19th century brewery, a1930s boiler and historic cellars with plenty of opportunity to sample the products! In addition to the brewery, you can visit the brewery museum and Pilsen’s historical underground. The underground labyrinth lies beneath the city center with nearly 14 kilometers of corridors and is one of the largest underground systems in Central Europe. Be sure to take the time to explore above ground as well, the city center has much to offer including the Angus Steakhouse recognized as the best steakhouse in the Czech Republic!

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Prague” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

The post BeerQuest 2018 “Prague” appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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St. Patrick’s Day is just a few weeks away, so you better get your ducks in a row… If you are hosting a party or hitting the Irish Pubs, these are 5 things you need for a proper celebration. St Patrick’s Day is the one day each year that everyone is Irish so don’t screw it up, circle Saturday March 17th and lets have some fun.

Music:

The choice of music is totally subjective. Some would go traditional, some go modern. In my opinion a mix is in order, perhaps The Dubliners as an appetizer, followed by the Irish Rovers, before the main course of Dropkick Murphys. If you are going to your favorite Irish Pub after dinner you could be tempted to skip the music all together, but that’s a mistake bring a healthy dose of DKM for the ride!

Get Dropkick Murphys on Amazon »

Food:

Corned Beef with cabbage, baby potatoes and root vegetables is definitely the way to go. Try this simple crock pot recipe, it’s easy to prepare and goes great with beer. Head to Costco and get your USDA Choice Beef Brisket and while you are there pick up the Kerrygold Irish Butter, you’ll love it.

View recipe on Martha Stewart »

Clothing:

Be sure to be dressed in kelly green, because olive green doesn’t cut it! A shamrock or two can’t hurt, just be sure you carry an Irish theme. Perhaps a shirt celebrating the world’s greatest St Paddy festivals… Dublin, Boston, Chicago & Savannah. You’ll paint the town green in these rock’n T’s.

Get your St. Patrick’s T »

Alcohol:

Please avoid the dastardly green beer or you could have a nasty surprise in the
morning. I’m pretty sure there is an unwritten law to drink at least one Guinness with a Jameson shot to get you in the right frame of mind, with both being Dublin originals. After that it’s your beer of choice, but please keep it Irish.

View the Bottoms Up list on Ranker.com »

Water:

Don’t forget alcohol causes you to dehydrate and that causes headaches.
Drink plenty of water throughout your evening followed by a tall glass or two at bedtime.
If you get up in the middle of the night drink another. That should reduce some of the main symptoms of hangover, including headache and thirst.

Have a Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Please Don’t Drink & Drive, go Uber!

The post 5 Things You Need for your St. Patrick’s Day Celebration appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Play Harder Tours by The Beer-centric Traveler - 1w ago

The Play Harder Tours “BeerQuest 2018 Munich to Prague” trip is just a few months away.  Dates are set, air and accommodations have been booked, all that’s left is a bit of fine tuning.  Within 2 months of our trip we will book tours with local guides, buy train tickets and make reservations for special things we might want to do.  The trip runs 16 days including our 2 departure days.  We bookended the trip with 5 nights in both Munich and Prague, sandwiched in between are 2 nights each in  Hallstatt Austria and Cesky Krumlov.  Beer centric travelers will love this trip with both Munich and Prague being 5 star beer centric travel destinations, and Hallstatt and Cesky Krumlov both UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

Historic Centre of Český Krumlov (UNESCO/NHK) - YouTube

The third leg of our adventure starts with a noon pickup from the Hallstatt Lahn Bus Station just south of the village.  Our transportation is provided by the CK Shuttle, offering both shared shuttle bus transportation and private transfers.

The vehicles are comfortable, non smoking, fully air conditioned with an English speaking driver.  The shared shuttle cost  is 950CZK or about $46 per person with the travel time to our destination of Cesky Krumlov in just under 3 hours.  CK Shuttle offers transfer service throughout the Czech Republic, to Munich, Budapest, in addition to many destinations in Austria.

Our destination of Cesky Krumlov is in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. The Vltava River splits the city in two with the north bank dominated by a 13th-century castle.  The castle sits perched high above overlooking it’s subjects,  it’s round bell tower acting as a sentinel with a panoramic view of the surrounding area.  Below the tower, the Latran area, with it’s maze-like alleyways, was originally home to servants quarters for the castle and the towns wealthy aristocrats. On the south bank of the Vltava is the old town area with it’s city hall, town square, affluent housing and organized streets. Today many of the large homes are now hotels.

Cesky Krumlov is a fairytale medieval town forgotten by father time.  This is a town that thankfully never experienced  the industrial revolution and still keeps its medieval character.  Following World War II, while under communist control the town fell into disrepair lasting till the fall of communism.   In 1992 UNESCO added the historic center of Cesky Krumlov to their World Heritage list thereby ending years of neglect.

Photography by Jiri Havlik

The past 25 years has seen a magnificent restoration of this beautiful city, with the help of UNESCO, the European Union, the Czech government and the home owners themselves with an investment of 187 million dollars.  Today,  much of the town has been restored to it’s former beauty making it one of the top tourist destinations in the Czech Republic.

The popularity of the centuries old medieval Czech town is easy to understand with 300 restored historic structures and the 2nd largest castle complex in the Czech Republic next to Prague Castle.  The town is inhabited by 14,000 full time residents and visited by close to 1 million tourists annually.  This popularity is a double edge sword however,  as daytripping tourists invade the town daily between 11:00am to 4:00pm.  Just like Venice Italy, you must stay overnight to truly appreciate it.  Staying over one night is good, but two nights is better as you maximize your time in the mornings, late afternoons and evenings avoiding the flood of tourists.

Before getting to where to stay and what to do in this beautiful town,  please know that the Czech Republic offers great value to American and Western European tourists.  Beer is actually cheaper than water and can be found in many spots under $2 for a half liter. A delicious traditional Czech diner can be had for under $10 per person.  Hotel rates in a luxury 5 Star hotel are usually under $150 per night,  and AirBnB rentals in prime locations for $100 per night.   With that in mind consider Hotel Ruze (Hotel Rose),  a 5 Star hotel that was one of the oldest and best preserved estates in Cesky Krumlov.  Hotel Dvorak,  a 4 Star hotel on the bank of the Vltava River with it’s magnificent view of the Castle of Cesky Kromlov.  Many CK hotels will include breakfast in the cost of the room.

In our case,  we decided to stay in an AirBnB apartment in the Latran area just off of Latran Street and it’s many restaurants and pubs.  The apartment complex is called Orangerie,  and offers many uniquely arranged units and provides a terrace and garden. Our unit, Orangerie Pomelo is an independent house right in the old brewery garden offering a quiet place to relax with it’s spacious living area that includes a big kitchen, living room and king sized bed.

It’s obvious that the town itself is the draw to Cesky Krumlov, find the best way possible to immerse yourself in the town and it’s culture. The Cesky Krumlov Castle complex with it’s bell tower, Baroque Theater, 27 acre castle gardens is the main attraction, but there is much more to see.  Wander the labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets and make your own discoveries.  I hired a highly regarded private guide,  Eszter Sarody (ceskykrumlovguide@gmail.com) to lead a 3 hour walking tour to efficiently navigate the entangled maze of small roads and alleyways. Don’t worry about getting lost,  that’s part of the fun! Following our walking tour we should be ready to explore on our own.  The exterior areas of the castle and gardens can be explored for free,  but the castle interior is by guided tour only ($7 per person). You can climb the 162 steps to the top of the bell tower ($4 per person)  for a spectacular view of the town and surrounding areas. Perhaps you could be interested in the mysterious side of Cesky Krumlov? Learn authentic tales and legends with Wiseman Free Tour on their evening ghost tour.  Your local guide will lead you down dimly lit cobbled streets to places where Cesky Krumlov ghosts are still seen and learn the legends behind them.

The medieval theme carries over to many of the towns dining options, but not to the extent of the very touristy Medieval Times we find in the US.  You’ll see wait staff dressed in peasant garb, cooks preparing meals over open fires in buildings that once served an important role for this historical medieval community.  Most serve traditional Czech cuisine although other dining options, including vegetarian cuisine is often available. Krcma v Satlavske,  is my favorite and reservations are recommended. Located in the dungeons of the old town prison,  you are surrounded by stone walls decorated with axes, swords, and armour as you sit at heavy wooden tables.  The restaurant is dimly lit, relying on candles and the open grill fire which is used to prepare various grilled meats providing an amazing ambiance to the space.   U Dwau Maryi (The Two Marys) sits on the south bank of the Vltava, down a narrow cobblestone street, in a 500 year old building serving authentic Bohemian cuisine.  Seating is scattered throughout the property, but on a day with great weather ask to be seated at the riverbank. The restaurant is known for their “Old Bohemian Feast” a platter that includes a sampling of all of their main dishes.  As an alternative to the meat heavy old style Czech cuisine The Two Marys also offers an extensive vegetarian menu.  Papa’s Living Restaurant, in the Latran area, offers a change of pace menu focused on international and Italian cuisine, pasta and pizza are their specialty.  The Eggenberg Pivovar Restaurant,  located on the north side of the Latran  area (Pivovarska 27), The Historic Brewery Czech Krumlov and Pivovar Restaurant are all one in the same.  Pivovar is the Czech word for brewery, and beer has been a cornerstone of this town since the 1500’s.  Unfortunately tours of this old world brewery have been suspended during renovations but the restaurant is still open.  With luck, parts of the old brewery will be preserved as a reminder of the brewing traditions of South Bohemia.  Cikanska Jizba, known locally as the Gypsy Bar,  is located on the south bank of the Vltava just 100 meters from the Barber’s Bridge featuring traditional Czech and Romani cuisine.  If you are fortunate enough to plan your Cesky Krumlov stay over a weekend you’ll be in luck as this is the place for live Romani music!

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com  and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Cesky Krumlov” on the subject line.  I’d love to hear  your suggestions too.

The post BeerQuest 2018 “Cesky Krumlov” appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Play Harder Tours by The Beer-centric Traveler - 1w ago

The Play Harder Tours “BeerQuest 2018 Munich to Prague” trip is just a few months away. Dates are set, air and accommodations have been booked, all that’s left is a bit of fine tuning. Within 2 months of our trip we will book tours with local guides, buy train tickets and make reservations for special things we might want to do. The trip runs 16 days including our 2 departure days. We bookended the trip with 5 nights in both Munich and Prague, sandwiched in between are 2 nights each in Hallstatt Austria and Cesky Krumlov. Beer centric travelers will love this trip with both Munich and Prague being 5 star beer centric travel destinations, and Hallstatt and Cesky Krumlov both UNESCO World Heritage sites.

HALLSTATT Im Salzkammergut - YouTube

The next leg of our journey begins with a 9:30am train from Munchen HBF with changes in Salzburg and Attnang-Puchheim.  Travel time is just under 4 hours and should have us in Hallstatt Austria before 2pm. The segment of the trip between Attnang-Puchheim and Hallstatt is quite scenic as the route meanders through valleys, along pristine alpine rivers and lakes that are nestled between mountains.  Hallstatt station is no more than a boat dock next to train tracks, from the dock we will ferry across Hallstatter See (Lake Hallstatt) to the tiny village of Hallstatt. 

Hallstatt, a village of only 800 residents clings to a small sliver of land at the base of mountain on the western shore of the 400 ft deep lake.   Located in Austria’s mountainous Salzkammergut region, has been inhabited for 7000 years!  The region is known for its stunning beauty, surrounded by mountains and crystal clear lakes.  For thousands of years salt has been the draw to the area,  today it is a tourist Mecca. 

Hotels: Hotel rates in Hallstatt tend to be high due to the limited supply,  usually in the $200 – $300 per night range for double occupancy with upper floor lake view rooms being the most desirable. Be sure to book your hotel well in advance because space is limited.   Heritage Hotel Hallstatt and Seehotel Gruner Baum are my favorites. 

Restaurants: There is no shortage of fine dining in Hallstatt.  Most offering deliciously fresh seafood from Lake Hallstatt.  You’ll find many traditional Austrian delicacies made from local ingredients including regional specialties.

Das Kainz located in the Heritage Hotel offers a formal dining room as well as a beautiful terrace that overlooks the lake for more relaxed dining. 

Restaurant Rudolfsturm,  originally a medieval defense tower high above Hallstatt dates back to the 13th century. The restaurant and terrace provide an incredible view from above of Hallstatt, the lake and the surrounding mountains.   

Brau-Gasthof translates to Brewery Guesthouse and is the closest connection to beer that I could find in Hallstatt!  After brewing beer for 400 years the huge copper brew kettles were confiscated by the government during WWI and melted down to make munitions.

Today,  its a restaurant and hotel with one of the prettiest lakeside terraces in all of Hallstatt.   

Cafe Derbl is the place to go for coffee, tea and tasty Austrian dessert specialties.  The strudel is a must with everything including the ice cream, home made. 

For a change of pace try Bacht’s Polreich for Italian and vegetarian specialties with cozy surroundings and a beautiful lake view.

Activities: The top tourism sites in Hallstatt are divided into three areas,  the village of Hallstatt,  above Hallstatt, and across the lake in Obertraun.  Each could easily fill a day to explore.  With a 2 nights stay in Hallstatt it’s important not try to squeeze to many activities into a such a short time frame.  Realistically,  we have one full day to explore Hallstatt.  The Heritage Hotel Hallstatt will be our home during our stay with check-in listed as 3pm. We will stow our bags, relax a bit then take a leisurely stroll through this beautiful lakeside village before dinner. 

The Village of Hallstatt is quite compact and very walkable with the Market Square being the city center and main congregation point.  Just off of Market Square you will find the Welterbermuseum Hallstatt the World Heritage Museum displaying 7,000 years of history taking you on a journey through time from the Stone Age to the present. Just a short walk south to Seestrasse 50, is Sport 2000 Janu a sporting goods store with something special inside.  Taking a wooden staircase below the store you will find a major archeological excavation of Roman ruins as well as other artifacts dating back to pre historic times.  Admission to the site is free during store hours.  Located behind the Heritage Hotel is the Catholic parish church of Hallstatt,  on the church grounds you will find the Hallstatt Charnell House (Bone House) and The cemetery of Hallstatt.  Due to the limited space in the cemetery, the older bones were removed, painted and decorated, for display. 

Above Hallstatt a funicular railway carries visitors up the mountain from Hallstatt to Salzwelten, an ancient salt mine with a subterranean salt lake. During an excavation in 1734, a prehistoric miner was found preserved in salt. The miner was believed to have perished in a natural disaster about 350 BC, with his remains later buried in the cemetery of Hallstatt.   At the top of the funicular you’ll find the Restaurant Rudolsturm, and the Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform which provides a spine tingling view of Hallstatt, the lake and surrounding mountains. 

Across the lake in Obertraun head to the Dachstein Krippenstein cable cars for a trip up the mountain to the Dachstein Ice Caves, Mammoth Caves and  Five Fingers Lookout with it’s 1,300 foot vertical drop. From the Hallstatt Lahn bus station take #543 to Obertraun Dachsteinseilbahn Talstation.  You can plan on 4 to 6 hours to see the attractions, with the first cable car starting its ascent at 8:40am.  Five Fingers is a true adrenalin rush, perched high on the mountain is said to be the most spectacular viewing platform in the Alps! A clear sky with good weather is needed to fully enjoy the platform, so plan accordingly. 

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com  and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Hallstatt” on the subject line.  I’d love to hear  your suggestions too.

The post BeerQuest 2018 “Hallstatt” appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Play Harder Tours by The Beer-centric Traveler - 1w ago

The Play Harder Tours “BeerQuest 2018 Munich to Prague” trip is just a few months away.  Dates are set, air and accommodations have been booked, all that’s left is a bit of fine tuning.  Within 2 months of our trip we will book tours with local guides, buy train tickets and make reservations for special things we might want to do.  The trip runs 16 days including our 2 departure days.  We bookended the trip with 5 nights in both Munich and Prague, sandwiched in between we have 2 nights each in  Hallstatt Austria and Cesky Krumlov.  Beer centric travelers will love this trip with both Munich and Prague being 5 star beer centric travel destinations, and Hallstatt and Cesky Krumlov both UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

The adventure starts in Munich Germany for Fruhlingsfest,  Munich’s Spring Beer Festival which runs from April 20th to May 6th, 2018. Home base is the NH Munchen Deutscher Hotel across from the Munchen Hauptbahnhof  (HBF), Munich’s main train station. The hotel is a short walk to the gates of the old city.  The convenient location offers easy access to both U-Bahn and S-Bahn transit systems which will take you anywhere in the city in minutes. The festival grounds, Theresienwiese, is home to both Oktoberfest and Fruhlingsfest is just a 15 minutes walk from HBF.  With 5 nights in Munich we will have time to explore the city,  take a day trip or two, and have plenty of time to enjoy the festival.

Day Trips from Munich worth considering:

Monastic Breweries:   Oh those Benedictine Monks can really brew beer and they’ve been doing it in Bavaria for nearly 1000 years! Experience the Benedictine brewing tradition coupled with today’s ultra modern brewing technology while visiting the areas many monastic breweries. 

Andechs Monastery Brewery (Andechs Germany) offers guided tours Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays,  reservations are required but be sure to specify an English speaking guide.  If you can’t make the tour you’ll find a beer garden and restaurant, Andechser Braustuberl, adjacent to the monastery.  Open daily April – October, closed weekends November – March.

Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany.  This hilltop brewery was established in 1040 by Benedictine monks and is now operated as a state directed enterprise under control of the Bavarian Government.   Beer tours with tastings are available Monday – Wednesday, reservations and proper footwear are required.   Braustuberl Weihenstephan is open daily from 10:00am to midnight, offering delicious Bavarian cuisine featuring seasonal and regional dishes.  A 660 seat beer garden offers a great view over the city of Freising.  The brewery is a short 20 minute walk from the Freising train station. 

Medieval Towns & Castles:  Bavaria is dotted with numerous medieval towns and castles. Regensburg, the former capitol of Bavarian has a remarkably well preserved medieval core that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The medieval core survived WWII mostly intact and was built upon Roman ruins that can still be explored.

The Old Stone Bridge, completed in 1146,  crosses the Danube river and opened a major international trade route between Venice and Northern Europe that was key to Regensburg’s prosperity.   Next to the Stone Bridge,  you’ll find Historische Wurstkuche,   a small pub and beer garden selling sausages since 1146!  While the Historic Sausage Kitchen is a favorite with tourists, locals love it too.  The food is excellent and shouldn’t be missed.  You’ll find more pubs, breweries and beer gardens than you could ever imagine in such a small town.  Getting to Regensburg from Munich is easy, just under 2 hours by train with a change in Freising.  Along the route between Freising and Regensburg is Landshut home of Traunitz Castle.  With an early start you could explore Regensburg,  walk through the castle then stop for dinner at Braustuberl Weihenstephan in Freising. 

Nuremberg,  easily one of Germany’s most famous cities contrasting the medieval old town with the infamous Nazi party rally grounds.  Just an hour and a half from Munich by express train you’ll have plenty of time to explore this vibrant city.  Explore medieval fortifications, Gothic churches and an awe inspiring hilltop castle.

While you can make this trip on your own, a guide would be strongly recommended.  There is so much to see and it would be a shame to miss anything.  Expedia offers a Nuremberg Day Trip by train, which includes an English speaking guide, express train tickets and admission fees for $53 per person (meals and beverages not included)

Munich Beer Halls and Beer Gardens:  Munich has well over 200 beer halls and beer gardens.  My favorites brew their own beer with many pouring directly from wooden casks.  They offer traditional Bavarian food specialties and entertain you with music fitting of a Munich beer hall.  You’ll find them throughout the city, but if the weather is great be like a local and take it outside to the many chestnut tree shaded beer gardens. 

Hofbrauhaus is the most famous of Munich’s beer halls, established in 1589 as the Royal Brewery of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Oom-pah music sets the theme, with wait staff  dressed in traditional Dirndles and Lederhosen as they serve beers in 1 liter steins.  Hofbrauhaus is located to the east, just inside the old city gates.

Der Pschorr located in the south of the old city just a few blocks from Victuals Market, a 200 year old farmers market selling fruits, meats, flowers and vegetables.  Der Pschorr is famous for it’s food,  all made from local ingredients and easily some of the best you’ll find in Munich. Enjoy Hacker-Pschorr-Edelhell poured directly into your stein from wooden casks.

Chinesischer Turm located inside Englischer Garten at the Chinese pagoda  complete with great food and music.  Here you will find a decidedly younger crown as it is just 10 minutes walk to the University.  Rent a bike and explore the park,  it’s one of the largest city parks in Europe.   Don’t be surprised if you see everything from surfing to nude sunbathing as springtime energizes the city!

Fruhlingsfest Things to know:  Admission is free to the festival grounds and beer tents.  A one liter beer costs 10 Euro.  Watch for happy hour specials featuring 1 euro Pils.  There are several beer tents, with the largest being the Festhalle Bayernland seating 2000 people.  The first keg is tapped at 4:00pm on opening day, April 20th in the Hippodrom-festzelt beer tent.  There will be a fireworks display on the 2nd Friday of the festival April 27th.  For a great view from above of Fruhlingsfest, visit St. Paul’s Church bell tower adjacent to the festival grounds.

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com  and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Munich” on the subject line.  I’d love to hear  your suggestions too.

The post BeerQuest 2018 “Munich” appeared first on Play Harder Tours.

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Play Harder Tours by The Beer-centric Traveler - 1w ago

“Alaska is for Beer Lovers” and that is a lesser known fact. While Alaska tourism is driven by individuals in search of soaring mountains, pristine waters,  calving glaciers, and teaming wildlife including moose, bear and bald eagle, other visitors are on a quest for craft beer. Thirty years ago the Alaskan Craft Beer industry was non existent. Today Alaska boasts over 50 breweries scattered from Fairbanks to Anchorage down the panhandle to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Certainly a staggering area to explore as Alaska is over twice the size of Texas measuring better than 660,000 square miles with most towns only accessible by boat or plane. The Alaska Railroad provides service between Fairbanks and Anchorage and on to the ports of Whittier and Seward, beyond that exploration of the pan handle is best served via cruise ship.

Princess offers two cruises that catch my attention, Voyage of the Glaciers (Southbound) and Inside Passage (Glacier Bay). Both cruises are 7 day with similar ports of call. VOG is one way, from Anchorage (Whittier) to Vancouver and IP is Round Trip from Seattle. The pricing is similar, but I would strongly recommend a cabin with a balcony for either cruise. The caveats on VOG are the airfare will probably be a bit more expensive since you fly into Anchorage and out of Vancouver. Food and lodging can be very expensive in Alaska, and limited on your options. VOG could be your only chance to see moose (we saw 3 between Anchorage and Whittier). Extensions to Denali National Park on Alaska Railroad are available if you have a few days prior to the cruise. The Inside Passage (Glacier Bay) is a bit simpler trip, but please be sure to stay a few nights in Seattle. Both cruises visit Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan Alaska.

Schedule your excursions well in advance and try to book morning activities to give yourself the afternoons to explore the breweries. A few excursions to consider: In Skagway book the White Pass Scenic Railway, in Juneau book the Mendenhall Glacier White Water Rafting and in Ketchikan the Zip Line Adventure Park.

So far, so good… but Where’s the Beer?

The Anchorage breweries are divided between Downtown Anchorage and the Diamond Center area Southeast of the Airport. Midnight Sun Brewing Co, Anchorage Brewing Co. and King Street Brewing are located a few miles apart in the Diamond Center area and are at the top of the list of best breweries in Anchorage. There are several food and lodging options in that area as well.

The cruise port of Skagway is small and very walkable. The Klondike Brewing Company, Skagway Spirits Distillery,  Skagway Brewing Co are just a few blocks apart. Be sure to try the Spruce Tip Ale at Skagway Brewing… You’ll love it! (great food too)

Juneau is Alaska’s third largest city and state capital. Just a short walk from the cruise port is Barnaby Brewing Company,  you would have passed The Alaska Brewing Company Depot on the way. The brewery for ABC is located out of town, but is accessible by shuttle from  the ABC Depot gift shop. You need reservations,  so establish contacts in advance of your cruise.

Ketchikan is a bit light on breweries but can offer a huge craft beer selection at The Asylum Bar with 22 Alaska brews on tap as well as great hamburgers. The Inside Passage Brewing Company was just approved for the opening of a downtown brewery just a few blocks from the cruise port so be sure to check if they’ve opened.

There you have the template for the perfect beer-centric Alaska vacation. Enjoy the wonders of Alaska, the rugged snow covered mountains, endless pale blue glaciers and the delicious amber waves of Alaskan craft brewed beer. Savor Alaska in every drop of Spruce Tip Ale, knowing its inspiration was this beautiful Alaskan wilderness.

The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Alaska” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

Alaskan Moose - YouTube

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