We guessed that it would be like this. It's comforting, in a way, to find a country this in love with one animal - Czech people are infatuated with pork and it's a monogamous relationship. Menus and butcher shops are crammed with body parts and dishes. Sides and heads leer suggestively under pink lights in store windows. This seductress was hung up on hooks, whole, to be purchased as-is or in pieces. It would be unsettling, except that this lust for pig has been so normalized here.
One popular dish that I had to order: "pečené vepřové koleno," or "roast pig's knee" - what would probably be called pork knuckle in America. Barely seasoned, the meat was nothing more than flesh, fat and bone. Served on a spit with a knife, fat dripping luridly onto the board, it was a masterpiece of simplicity and carnal excess. There wasn't much to cover up the lewd thing, only a few pools of mustard, ketchup and horseradish to smear it in.
Gruesome, of course, and enjoyable - to a point. It was my dinner on the first night in the Czech Republic, and it was a hedonistic reception. A hearty re-introduction. Pork is something I try to avoid, actually, so the reacquaintance was less welcome than it was inevitable. On this flat, old plain at the soft heart of the continent we encounter it all to much. A traveler here, if they aren't cautious, will end up with pork at every meal.
Czech people (according to allcountries.org) consume more pork per capita than the citizens of any other country except Denmark (which is a surprise). Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany - all part of this mitteleuropean swineyard - are also in the top twelve, which I could have guessed. The United States sits at number seventeen, for comparison's sake.