The Meanderthals

Curdless start for four intrepid cheese sleuths

Four friends met in Prague, two of them highly motivated to search for interesting European cheeses. All four came from places with historical relationships with all things curd: one Cypriot (halloumi), one Pakistani (paneer), a Brit (cheddar, Wensleydale, and on and on), and an American (Velveeta).


On day one of their search, they donned their matching Meanderthals Great Cheese Tour 2023 T-shirts and marched into a nifty-looking cheese shop near their hotel. Luka, the Italian owner, gave them a quick tour of his best offerings: Parmigiana Reggiano, Burrata, French brie and camembert, and went on for some time about a wonderful Irish cheese whose stock he had sadly depleted.

“What about Czech cheese?” I asked.

He scowled.

“I don’t have any. This is not a good country for cheese.”

Not a great introduction.

“What about Olomoucke Tvarusky?” I asked, having done my homework about one of the Czech Republic’s top four cheeses (from an authoritative website entitled 4 Most Popular Czech Cheeses.)

“Not an artisan cheese. You can buy it in a supermarket.

“This country doesn’t have good cheese. France, Britain, Italy? Sure. But not the Czech Republic.”


So far, the Great Cheese Tour has been a bust. All the cheese shops were ferme in France, and the bespoke goat’s cheese manufacturer in Belgium we drove out of our way to visit turned out to be for commercial business only (and was under renovation). Rolling up our sleeves to get the ball rolling in Germany, we asked a clerk behind the cheese counter at the Ruwe supermarket if she had any local cheese. Since we asked this question in our pidgin German, we got a shrug and a squint in response. A few seconds later we finally made our intentions clear, and the friendly clerk headed around the counter to lead us to a refrigerated case full of commercially packaged cheese.

We bought one with a chubby German guy wielding a scythe on the cover (what could be more authentic?) along with some bread and pickles to round out our picnic lunch.

We’ve had our moments of gratification, though. One guy stopped us as we walked through a park across the Vlatava River from the city center.

“Are you Dutch?” he asked. (Apparently why else would we be wearing matching t-shirts promoting a cheese tour.)

We identified our nationalities. He said he was German.

We all shrugged and moved on.

Thus far it hasn’t been the bonanza of cheesy discoveries; we’ve mostly settled, as we did for breakfast yesterday, for tasteless dollops of nondescript curd and fruitless

attempts to find something vaguely palatable.

This morning, Gabi and I stumbled upon a small package of Olomoucke Tvarusky in a minimarket near our hotel. I sniffed the package (“do not eat this cheese before kissing,” our hotel concierge had warned me when I engaged him in a search for the best Czech cheeses in town.)

I put it back on the shelf.

But we shall persevere, undeterred. South Czech Republic is next, and Austria and Switzerland loom in the immediate horizon.

If all else fails, at least we know that France will re-open for business by the time we’re back in mid-September.

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