Ever heard of Olomouc (Oh-loh-moats)? Well, I wouldn't blame you if you hadn't. We here in the states seem blissfully unaware of any city in the Czech Republic not named Prague. The Missus' tolerance for staying in one city is quite low, knowing this, I had to come up with a plan. I thought why not travel to some of the other cities, not the big tourist destinations, but real cities, with real people. The city of Olomouc appealed to me because it is the historic capital of Moravia and is a University town. There's supposed to be quite a bit of history here.
It was quite rainy and overcast during our stay in Olomouc and we were kind of glad to be staying right across the train station.
On the good side, it was easy finding our hotel, after staying in apartments staying in a rather corporate hotel felt like a nice change of pace.
Especially when you can get a suite for under a hundred bicks a night!
Did I mention that once you get out of Prague, things are really inexpensive?
The down side? Well, it only five tram stops to the center of the city....but, if you decide to walk it, like we did, it's at least 20-25 minutes, which seemed much longer with the cold wind and intermittent showers.
Still, we found the City Center with little difficulty. The Royal Town is made up of the Upper Square with the Town Hall and the Lower Square, where several churches and the market is located.
One of the main sights on the Upper Square is the Plague Tower (Column of the Holy Trinity).
This striking, yet ominous looking spire was built in the 18th Century as a monument of thanks for surviving the plague that ravaged Moravia between 1713 thru 1715. It is the tallest tower of it's kind in Europe. Master Stonemason Václav Render designed and donated his entire fortune to build this tower. As we found, the Czech people love a little "twist" or tragedy....so they'll quickly add, unfortunately, he died before its completion and thus, never saw the beauty of what he designed.
We found Moravian folks to be quite friendly, yet quite proud....there also seemed to feel a bit of competition with Prague. They'll be quick to tell you, "our tower is a full six meters taller than Prague's". Astronomical Clock? "Ours runs for a full six minutes at noon, not a mere few seconds like Prague!"
I also quickly noticed how empty the town squares were....I'm not sure if it was the weather, or what, but after Prague, this just seemed so quiet.
After checking a few sights out, we went looking for lunch. Unfortunately, our first choice Hanacka Hospoda seems to have closed down so we had to go to "Plan B". Walking through the Lower Square and outside of what seems to be former city walls we found Drapal, which, like Kolkovna is a Pilsner Urquell Restaurant.
You usually don't hesitate in most places in the Czech Republic. You see an opening and go get the table, waiting around will draw stares.
Our server was a very nice young lady who didn't speak a lick of English. The menu however, was translated into English. There is a little "local secret" with many of these restaurants; they have a very cheap lunch menu. Mainly for locals, this list is never written in English. Here in Moravia, it's actually written in the local dialect. Here in Olomouc, it's the Hanakian dialect.
Of course this being a Pilsner Urquell restaurant we needed to start off with a couple of brews. A pilsner for me, a Half and Half for the Missus.
I had done a bit of research before our trip and there were a few regional specialties we wanted to try; starting with Hanácká česnečka - Garlic Soup. If you've read long enough, you know I love garlic, so I couldn't wait to try this.
We tried this just about everywhere we went in Olomouc. This was probably the best one as it wasn't too salty and the beef based broth didn't have a strong artificial flavor to it. I enjoyed the garlic flavor, which (of course) I didn't think was very strong at all. There's a nice heartiness to this soup which had croutons, sausage, and some Olomoucké tvarůžky - Olomouc stinky cheese in it, making it actually Loštická česnečka.
Speaking of stinky cheese; Olomoucké tvarůžky, we needed to try this.
This is classically eaten on bread with butter, and no kidding onions! I really didn't think the cheese was particularly smelly, it did have a mild smell, sort of like feet, so I'm thinking Brevibacterium is used to ferment the cheese. Brevibacterium linens is the bacterium which causes foot odor....don't you just want to out and grab some Limberger right now. The cheese is very waxy and low in fat, it has PGI Status in the EU and only cheeses from Lostice is allowed to be called Olomoucké tvarůžky. One other little detail, this cheese is supposedly aged under meat.....
For my main, I chose the Spicy Pork Neck in potato pancake.
The pancake was really salty which really knocked the dish off kilter.
The Missus went with the standard pork neck with cabbage and dumplings.
We still weren't sold on the waxy potato dumplings, nor the rather dense bread dumplings, and this did nothing to change our opinion.
In the end, this was a really inexpensive (like under $25 with beers) and hearty meal, which went well with the rainy and windy weather. In spite of not being our first choice it was still and enjoyable meal. We were now ready to head back out into the rain and wind.
Original Restaurant Drapal
Olomouc, Czech Republic