Czech Republic

Czech Republic

A Gluten Free Day out in Brno, Czech Republic

Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. Although it does have a beautiful castle and historic centre, it doesn’t really rival that of Prague and so it’s slightly off the usual tourist trail. I knew of Brno because when I was in my university year abroad as part of my Russian degree, some of my fellow students in St Petersburg had spent a semester learning Czech in Brno as a subsid to their Russian degrees. Their fond recollections of Brno made a lasting impression on me and I’ve always wanted to visit. After a 2 hour train journey from Vienna (buy single tickets, the return ticket bought in Brno was approx EUR 10 cheaper than the outward ticket bought in Vienna) we arrived as the heavens opened with big white fluffy flakes. It was Easter Sunday on the day we visited. We headed to the Tourist Information office and I explained we were in Brno for the day. The lady looked slightly alarmed but pushed a map our way. I asked where would be good for us to go for lunch. “Everything is closed” she informed us. Not the reply we’d been expecting. Further discussion established that there were some places open. After wandering around Brno’s historic centre and climbing up to a freezing cold Špilberk castle, we looked for the open restaurants. It turned out they were KFC and McDonald’s. The former was packed probably because it offered warmth and free wifi which you could sneakily hook up to even standing outside the restaurant. Having exhausted the town’s tourist attractions, we stumbled upon a Billa supermarket on the main street, Náměsti Svobody. This store had a great selection of gluten free goods. Although there was a special free from area, I noticed as we walked around the supermarket that many of the gluten free goods were on the shelves with the regular versions of the product. I don’t have a particular problem with this (other than with flour, which I wasn’t buying anyway) but personally I like to see the gluten free goods in the same place because it’s easier for me to shop that way.

Note the crossed grain symbol which has been inserted over the price to identify the gluten free goods.

Gluten free beer (bottom right in photo below) sold in single bottles!

We picked up some Dr Schar brown ciabatta rolls. Yep, even in Brno it’s possible to pick up my favourite little gluten free brown ciabatta rolls! We also bought some ham and cheese and made ourselves a picnic on the train back to Vienna.

I fear I may be becoming something of a train geek. The ‘Gustav Klimt’ express train we took on the way to Brno was fast, clean and efficient. After Brno the train sped on to Prague. Power sockets were even provided in 2nd class:

The train from Brno back to Vienna was slightly more retro. I loved the kitch temperature control in our 6 seat compartment:

Billa are a leading Austrian supermarket chain who have supermarkets in 10 countries in central/eastern Europe. If you’re in Austria or Czech Republic, look out for Billa supermarkets. As well as this supermarket in Brno, I also visited several Billa supermarkets in Vienna and found they all carried a selection of gluten free goods.