The Meanderthals

Still no local cheese, but we’re learning new words

Key phrases we’ve learned and deployed thus far in the Meanderthals 2023 European Cheese Tour:

“Ferme” (‘closed’, in France and Belgium, as in ‘all the cheese shops and manufacturers are ferme.’)

“Kein localer Kase” (‘no local cheese’, in German, as in, ‘yes, we have cheese, but it’s all imported from either Italy, Switzerland, England or Ireland.’) Also, ‘geschlossen,’ as in ‘closed.’

“Zadny mistni syr” (also ‘no local cheese,’ in Czech, as in, well, see above.)

One week, in and our search for the best curd on the street has yet to get out of first gear. As Europe heads back to work after slumbering through the last weeks of summer, we expect our luck will get better; maybe when we zip back into France in a couple of weeks.

We’re about to steer south into Austria from the gorgeous Czech UNESCO World Heritage town of Cesky Krumlov.

But not before we suffered our latest serious cheesy setback.

I was waking from an afternoon snooze in our pension when I got a message from Gabi with a photo attached.

“Look what I found!!!”, she breezed, attaching a photo of a cheese shop located just up the hill from where we are staying. I haven’t seen her so excited since Waitrose announced a two-for-one sale on hot cross buns.

We regrouped at the hotel, and then scurried up to the cheese shop to recon the joint and plan a more serious return the next day with our signature Meanderthals Cheese Tour t-shirts on.

The woman behind the counter greeted us in halting English.

“Any Czech cheese?” Gabi asked her, gesturing at the abundant case separating us from the clerk.

An unintelligible response in Czech.

“This is all Czech cheese?” Gabi responded, undeterred. I gestured at the Edam, Reggiano parmigiano and Danish blue.

“I don’t think so,” I burst her bubble.

“Zadny mistni syr” confirmed the woman. No local cheese. In fact, no Czech cheese at all.

Today Gabi found a promising article online about a cheesemaker in Cesky Krumlov that achieved fame with its signature blue cheese. They age the wheels in abandoned graphite mines.


I read on.

They closed in 2005, moving to a larger manufacturing and aging facility nearby, and now they only make large-quantity cheeses for supermarkets.

Time to turn our attention to the alps of Austria, where there’s a tour company that offers gastronomical hikes and cycling trips to tiny cheesemaking enclaves around Arlberg.

Unless they’re geschlossen.

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