It took me the best part of a day to get to Olomouc, as I had to backtrack to Prague before taking a train to town. Luckily the tram from the train station stops just across the road from the hostel – and even better, I arrived just in time for freshly baked apple strudel straight out of the oven. I definitely recommend staying at Poet’s Corner if you ever go to Olomouc!
I’ll admit that I didn’t really do a whole lot in Olomouc. It’s a small city, and it’s not jam-packed with must-see sights. I did a lot of relaxing there – sleeping in, enjoying the cafes, reading books and wandering around. They’ve a few nice churches and some museums, and the main square is quite pretty.
There’s a cafe there that also does ‘hot raspberries’ which is basically a huge glass with alternating layers of creamy vanilla ice cream and fresh, hot raspberries. It’s delicious and addictive – I had one on one day, and was so greedy another day that a few hours after the first I went back for seconds. I must have enjoyed chocolate tarts and cheesecake in at least three other cafes.
On Mondays, museums in the Czech Republic tend to be closed, so there wasn’t a huge amount of things to do. A few of the churches were open, but most were more interesting from the outside. St Wenceslas Cathedral however was quite interesting, with a crypt beneath the church holding four restored sarcophagi containing the remains of a few bishops and cardinals. The cathedral also seems to be the meeting point of all the local beggars. It always makes me uncomfortable, people asking for money. I know that’s selfish. While I try to give money to some people, I can’t afford to dole out cash to every person who asks, and so when there is a big group I have to avoid giving anyone anything – otherwise everyone expects something. I don’t know what the welfare system is like in Czech, if they have one, but I imagine that it is less accessible than the Australian system.
I climbed up the tower at St. Moritz Church – two hundred and six steps – and the view from the top was nice. Pretty much like the view from the top of a church tower in every other city I’ve been too – colourful old buildings, church spires in the skyline, red roofs. The staircase was lovely though and fairly unique – it has a twin staircase wrapping around inside the tower like a DNA double helix. That I really liked. And you climbed up one way and down the other, although you then had to really squeeze to get back out the door! The church inside wasn’t anything spectacular, but they’re all starting to look the same.
There are a few other churches and sights dotted around the city – and everywhere you turn is a Baroque fountain. I spent my last day in Olomouc sitting at one of the fountains and reading an entire book – White Tiger, which I highly recommend!
The next day I visited the Archdiocese Museum, which I rather liked. It was well put together, aside from a little uncertainty about what direction you take. I got an audio guide for 20kc, and it was well worth the dollar it cost. It had plenty of information about the artefacts within, which covered basically the entire history of the site including parts of the original fortifications and items discovered during archaeological excavations there. It also had a fascinating collection of paintings – many of the archbishops in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were patrons of the arts. I must have driven the museum staff mental, as I set off the security alarm at least five times trying to look at the paintings. It turns out that if you get within about two feet of the paintings, the alarm sounds and people rush in from every door to prevent you from stealing their exhibits.
After the Archdiocese Museum I visited the Museum of Modern Art, which I had heard was quite good. I’m sure that it would have been, had I been able to visit it three days earlier when they had an amazing sculpture exhibition. I got stuck with an exhibition of chairs. It was a huge room of chairs, and not particularly interesting chairs. A bunch of chairs that just looked like CHAIRS. At least the cost was included in the Archdiocese Museum ticket! To be fair, they did have a small, permanent Art Nouveau exhibition on the top floor that was mildly interesting.
When I arrived back in the main square, I noticed that it was packed with people, tented stands selling beer and food, and fire trucks. It seemed like it was some kind of ’emergency services day’, as the police were there too, trying to recruit. Firefighters, all in uniform, were everywhere – helping kids climb up into the firetrucks, organising the jumping castle, and having some kind of competition where they had to take the hose, run a short distance, jump through a cut-out window five feet high in a fake wall and use the hose to knock town a target with the water. That was the most popular thing – there were crowds of people watching and cheering, and as soon as the round had finished little kids were in there jumping in the puddles resulting from all the water. It was entertaining. And as it turns out, there’re good-looking fire fighters everywhere…if only they were the majority!