Wednesday 1st October 2014
Where are we? Well, Košice is found at far eastern end of the Slovak Republic. It is a large city of around 250,000 inhabitants. It has an international airport which has a direct connection to London-Luton provided by Wizz Air and is the second largest city in Slovakia with only the capital Bratislava being bigger. St Elisabeth Cathedral (Dóm svätej Alžbety) is the largest church in the country.
The first written mention of it comes from around the 13th century. It could well be older than that as it has a Latin name: Cassovia. Its industrialisation came whilst it was under Hungarian rule. At the First World War it was a province of Hungary and as soon as that conflict had finished this part, mostly Slovak-speaking was annexed by the newly formed Czechoslovakia. This was confirmed by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. This union occurred because Czech and Slovak are very similar tongues. However their customs and cuisine are a considerable way apart.
In independent Czechoslovakia the city thrived and its steelworks was expanded in size. After the communist takeover in 1948 its population increased in size even more, as did the steelworks. During the sixties and seventies the many blocks of flats that typically surround most eastern European cities, were constructed.
A railway line of the Russian broad gauge was built from the Soviet Union border directly into the works. Ironically the plant is now owned by US Steel and that line runs to westward-looking Ukraine.
Pivovar Golem (Golem Brewery) was established in 2002 and couldn’t have been open for long when I first visited on the 8th August of that year. What’s in a name? Well, you may have heard of or visited the Café Golem in Amsterdam, which has a very extensive array of beers. The origins of the name of these two drinking establishments come from the same source.
So what is a Golem? The story comes from Jewish folk-lore. Supposedly he was creature in the image of a man.
He is said to have been created by Chief Rabbi Loew of Prague. He assumed his position in 1597 and he died in 1609. When he took office the Jews of that city were being heavily persecuted and there was mob violence.
The Catholic Church blamed them for virtually everything that went wrong and their ignorant believers were encouraged to take vengeance on the Jews, who feared for their lives.
It is said that Chief Rabbi Loew went to the banks of the river and from the clay, created the Golem and using ancient Kabbalistic teaching, gave it life. He took it to the gates of the Ghetto where there was a mob. When they attacked, the Golem was set upon them. It killed many and injured many others. They fled, never to come back.
The Chief Rabbi’s congregation came to thank him yet he denied it all. He then thought that what he had done contravened God’s law and so took its life force away. There are many variations on this story and even tales of Golems in other cities.
The name is mentioned in the bible and is taken to mean a part-formed human being. In modern Hebrew it means someone who is slow and backward and in Yiddish, a person who is clumsy. The story has also been incorporated into Czech and Slovak mythology.
The modern day Pivovar Golem is housed in an old building that looks as if it dates from the late nineteenth century. I was with Steve and Russell and soon as we entered we came across the Golem in the form of a papier-maché statue; maybe it was plaster. The main room is on the left. Tables and seats face the bar counter behind which is the brewery equipment.
Further to the left is another room where we eventually settled; it was very busy. There was waist-height wood panelling and wooden furniture; football shirts dangled from the ceiling. In the bar room hangs a painting of old Golem himself, quite a handsome chap I think you’ll agree, see right. He looks a bit grumpy though, probably complaining about that short measure he’s just received. His pointing finger being evidence of his dissatisfaction.
Just two beers are offered Svetlé (light) and Tmavé (dark). We liked both very much and being Slovakia the prices were good. They also offer a mix of the two. Usually there are a couple of other beers available but not on this occasion. There’s a full menu offered and the pub is commended to you. As is Košice, especially as there are two other brew-pubs here now and a number of good beer bars.
Pivovar Golem, Dominikánské náměstí 15, 04001 Košice. Tel: 055 728 9102
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 11.00-23.00
Hlavné is the main street of the city. Right in the middle is St Elisabeth Cathedral (Dóm svätej Alžbety).
From this landmark go north a very short distance till you see a street called Zámočnicka on the left.
Turn left and it leads you to Dominikánske námestie. A short distance along on the left is Pivovary Golem.
Košice station is easily reached by train from Bratislava and Prague yet it is a long journey.
But, as it is in the far east of the country, Bratislava is four hours away and Prague about seven.
There are also trains to Budapest (Hungary) and Ukraine.