This weekend we decided to take a trip away from Pardubice to unwind and reset our minds after being cooped up in our little apartment for perhaps a little longer than is healthy. I sent Sinéad a message on Facebook on Wednesday saying we should do something this weekend and go somewhere new…..an hour or two later and we were all booked in on the train and had a room for two nights. No panic, no looking through guidebooks, just chosen and booked….simples.
We left early Friday evening and had a bit of nightmare finding our seats on the train. You see České dráhy, the Czech railway company have this awesome numbering system for their carriages. We stood at the platform as the train came in, first carriage 367, then 366, then 365, then 364…..”ah this next one will be ours hun, whoo hoo let’s go on an adventure!”……..360…….360? Cue walking down the train, squeezing past people in the corridor and eventually finding our carriage to find of course that people were sitting in our reserved seats. Thankfully we had the only booked seats in the compartment so there was plenty of room for them.
When we arrived in Olomouc there was a thick fog in the air and it was noticeably colder than Pardubice. Thestation is currently being upgraded and our carriage just barely lined up with the temporary platform, requiring a wee bit of a jump to the right when disembarking.
We decided to forego the tram trip to our hotel and strolled through the town to our destination, the very nice Hotel Arigone, just a stones throw from the old square. We had passed an Irish bar on the way so of course that was added to our itinerary for the evening ahead. We had a lovely pizza in Gallery Caesar which has perhaps the most enviable location right in the middle of the old square. The pizza was really good, nice thin crispy base and plenty of toppings.
The rest of the evening was pretty chilled, and we had a fairly early night as we had yet to discover the main nightlife area and all the bars around the square closed fairly early. The following morning I spent a little while researching the various sights around town for places to photograph and set off for the day, Sinéad meanwhile was going to take it easy and have a pampering day in the massage parlour at the hotel.
My first port of call was the Horní náměstí (stop giggling!), the largest of the old squares in Olomouc and home to the largest plague monument in the Czech Republic, and boy is it large. So large in fact that there’s a chapel on the inside, which being November was unfortunately closed. The tourist season usually ends in September/October so if you’re planning/hoping to see the sights, i’d recommend going earlier but then again with the off-season there’s always the potential for snow, thus making already pretty towns, even prettier.
In the centre of the square lies the town hall, home to the aforementioned restaurant and also the site of another astronomical clock, less famous than it’s cousin in Prague but still quite pretty. The animated display is fairly simple but I really like the tile work on it and it certainly attracted sizeable crowds when it was time to chime.
The city planners of Olomouc are clearly fans of Roman antiquity and ancient mythology if the various Baroque fountains dotted around the town are anything to go by. There’s good ole Julius Caesar, famous for inventing the Caesar Salad and building Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas….of course. There’s Hercules, with his lovely hood and big stick. There’s Neptune with his trident threatening some horses and then naturally, there’s a fella hugging a dolphin, which details the story of Greek poet, singer and kithara player Arion rescued from the sea by a dolphin attracted by his singing. So if you find yourself fallen overboard from a cruise ship or yacht and you have a good set of lungs and a lovely singing voice, don’t panic, don’t worry about firing off a flare….just have a wee sing and a dolphin will be along to assist you. In all seriousness though, the Arion fountain is really cool and full of lots of tiny little details celebrating Olomouc and its characteristics.
After wandering around the square and taking in all the sights I decided to see what the local churches and cathedrals were like, after being suitably impressed in Kutna Hora a few weeks before. I made my way to St. Michael’s church which was just around the corner from our hotel. It’s not much to look at from the outside but on the inside……..phwoaaaaar, it BaROCKS with Baroque style. Opulent, massive, ludicrous, ostentatious….deathly quiet. A most impressive structure, now sitting empty and barely used like so many such buildings in the Czech Republic.
Following on from there I made my way to the Bezručovy sady, a quaint little park filled with Autumnal detritus, carpeting the green grass with an orange glow and making for pretty seasonal pictures. I moved slowly through the park taking in the relaxing air before carrying on through to St Wenceslas’ Cathedral, which boasts the tallest church spire in Moravia. I had a quick peak in the door and after St. Michael’s church it didn’t quite have the same wow factor, although I did return with Sinéad the following day and it is quite impressive in its own right, albeit not to the same exuberant extent as its smaller neighbour.
They say great minds think alike and such was the case when our Scottish friend informed us she was also visiting Olomouc the same weekend, just as randomly as we had been ourselves. It really is the best way to travel if you ask me as you can so easily get bogged down by guide books and set itineraries that you forget to actually experience the trip and instead just tick off a list without actually exploring. Of course i’ll do a quick recce beforehand but just to get my bearings so I don’t end up missing all the interesting places.
We met up with our friend on Saturday and had a grand aul time visiting a number of really cool and funky bars all within a short walk of each other. Czech bars traditionally are quite sombre affairs with little in the way of design or interior decor but many of the bars in Olomouc went all out on their themes, particularly the funky Koktejly & Sny retro bar designed like a 1950’s diner. Thanks to the waitress there for letting us in despite not having a reservation for what is clearly a popular spot with locals and visitors alike.
As with any town this large, a weekend isn’t enough to do it justice, there’s plenty of other sites we didn’t get to visit and check out but I think we got a pretty good taste for this North Moravian delight. I’d definitely go back there for another weekend getaway.
And now for some photos from the trip. I thought it would be useful to include a map of where the pictures were taken so anyone wanting to pay a trip there will be able to find their way around to the interesting sights. The photos below are pretty much in order of the way I took them. As you can see by the grey buildings on the map below there’s plenty more to see in Olomouc.
- The Holy Trinity Column
- Arion fountain
- Town Hall and Astronomical Clock
- Caesar Statue
- Školní (Picturesque Street)
- Neptune Statue
- Bezručovy sady (Park)
- St. Michael’s Church
- Chapel of St John Sarkander
- Hotel Arigone
- St Wenceslas’ Cathedral
Be sure to check out this great website full of useful information on Olomouc and surrounding areas.