Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Early Friday five: Olo-where?

When Patrick suggested a stopover in Olomouc ("Olla-motz") on our way back to Poland, my first thought was... "um, where?"

We loved this smallish town between Brno and Krakow. Loved it. It helped that the hostel was amazing. It helped that autumn was coming - the trees were turning, the air was crisp and clean, the days were bright and the nights were cold. It helped that the sunrises were amazing.

And it definitely helped that it only took three hours to get there from Nemcicky - in theory, anyway. You may recall a Facebook request about helping tourists in your hometown who are holding maps and looking confused? Well, here's why I posted that request.

Halfway through our trip the attendant came around to inform everyone that the train was having engine trouble ("machine defect!" she kindly informed us in English... the only English she seemed to know). Everyone disembarked at that station and ran to another platform to catch a different train that seemed to be going somewhere we didn't want to go. So we stood there for a few minutes collecting our thoughts and forming a plan, looking calm but confused, when a nice Czech gentleman came over to explain the situation in English. He and another young Czech student were also going to Olomouc; they kept us appraised of the engine trouble situation, and we all eventually got back on the same train. The Czech student even sat with us and talked for a while. We were more than happy to help her practice English in return for her assistance.

It's really easy to keep walking when you see someone squinting at a map, or trying to translate signs at a deli to figure out which meat is turkey when "turkey" isn't on their translation list, or frowning at a flat tire. Maybe you stop because you've been lost yourself. Maybe you stop because you want to practice another language. Maybe you stop because some nice Oregonians gave you a lift 30 years ago and you want to return the favor. Whatever the reason, we raise our virtual glasses to everyone who stops. The world needs more of you.

But I digress... Here are five more reasons we loved Olomouc, in no particular order:
  • The museums are free on Wednesdays, which happened to be the day we arrived. We visited the Museum of Modern Art featuring great photography and interactive temporary installations. We also stopped by the Archdiocese Museum to see dozens of rare, well-preserved religious artifacts - shiny, centuries old, a bit lost on us non-religious folk but interesting just the same.
over 500 years old

the beautiful botanic gardens were free as well
  • There are a bazillion cathedrals you can visit for free (or for a nominal donation). They're all quite interesting, and they were all gearing up for some sort of special services and had been decked out in fresh flowers throughout the worship areas. The Church of St Michael features a freshwater spring in the basement (allegedly where the original founders fed their thirst). St Moritz Church was our favorite - it has the largest pipe organ in Central Europe, and you can walk up a steep spiral staircase through a spooky warehouse type area and out onto the roof, where you have a great panoramic view of the city on a clear day.
if you go -
watch for soft plywood boards
  • Czech Republic's "other" astronomical clock. Prague's may be more known but Olomouc's features lots of communist-era relics, a much longer once-a-day show, and a much better rooster finale.
the crowd was almost as interesting
as the clock's show
handcrafted in the blacksmith workshop at the castle
  • We finally slowed down in Olomouc... for a little while anyway.
let's do more of this?

Food notes:
  • finally - kebabs!
in Europe "kebab" means delicious meat
shaved from a giant rotating steaming spit
on perfectly toasted bread and topped with garlic sauce...
we got our second kebabs there too
highly recommend the crepes from Palacinkola
home brewed, straight from the tank,
"very beneficial to health"

Lodging notes:
  • Poet's Corner Hostel - in a word, awesome. Great common area, great kitchen, great host, great location. We decided here that all future hostels must have a book exchange (it increases the chances of finding a comfortable place to hunker down for an hour or three, as opposed to having an uncomfortable Ikea chair to sit in for 10 minutes).
Regrettably, we only spent two nights in Olomouc before heading back to Poland to check out Krakow. But we learned some valuable travel tips during our stay - enjoying local fare despite the tourist tax, choosing the right place to sleep, and slowing down already!

Now, to just employ these lessons in our daily travel life. That's the challenge. We gave it a try in Krakow, didn't do too bad...


  1. you can't spell "Portland" without "Poland"