How we ended up taking the Student Agency Bus from Olomouc to Brno was one of those wonderful "mistakes" that happen when you travel. We walked to a window that said "Tickets" in the Olomouc Train Station. We asked for tickets to Brno, which were pretty cheap. We came to find out that we'd gotten tickets on the famous Student Agency Bus. This popular "yellow bus" service was originally started as an au-pair agency and has grown and blossomed into the second largest road carrier in the Czech Republic. We really enjoyed our trip on the student bus, it was comfortable, free tea or coffee, not very good, but still nice, movies, and most importantly, free wifi!
Plus you get a nice view of the countryside.
We arrived in Brno as scheduled. For those who have never heard of Brno, it is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. and the Judicial Seat of the CR. To be honest, I had never heard of Brno before planning for our trip. I'm glad to have done a bit of research and we're glad to have visited Brno. The folks were very friendly, there's a somewhat quirky sense of humor in play here as I'll describe in future posts....we call this the "Brno twist". Every story never ends where it should seem to. I have one little tidbit below, but there's many of these examples we'd discover over our short time here.
We had rented an apartment in Brno. The wonderful owner Zdenek even picked us up at the bus station, I'm glad we took the bus as the train station looks kind of seedy. Zdenek got us situated perfectly, he pointed out the location of the Tesco, across the main street and under the train tracks; also noting that the "Cabbage Market" had moved temporarily while the main square was being repaired.
After unloading we headed out to explore and grab some lunch. We were right downhill from the city center. It seemed like a bit of a hike, but really wasn't as it seemed shorter every time. In the end we found even a faster way. We passed the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul on Petrov Hill, a major landmark that you can see from many places in Brno. It is also placed a very important part in the history of Brno. In 1645, during the Thirty Years War, Swedish Soldiers had surrounded Brno. Olomouc had already fallen in 1641. Field Marshall Torstensson believed that Brno would fall in a week, but the local citizens had been holding the Swedes off for three months. Torstensson, furious and frustrated, called his officers into a meeting at a tavern telling them, "Tomorrow we shall make our last attack on the city. Before the bells on Petrov strike noon, Brno must be ours. If not, we shall retreat." Unbeknownst to the officers in attendance, the owner of the tavern understood Swedish. On the 15th of August, the battle began, the Tavern Owner worked to get word to the defenders of Brno. Just as the Swedes were breaking though the Brno defense, the tavern owner got word to the French born German Imperial Field Marshall, Jean-Louis Raduit de Souches. Souches found the bellringer, an elderly man whom he ordered to ring the bells of the cathedral as if it was noon. The bellringer managed to make his way up the tower, severely damaged from cannon fire and rang the bells. The Swedish soldiers, thinking that it was noon and they had failed in their mission retreated....and Brno was saved! I'm not sure how much of this is true and how much has been embellished over the years.....but it was stories like these that really brought so much color to our visit to Brno. Oh, and ever since that day, the Petrov Bells ring at 11 instead of noon each day.
The main square of Brno housed a couple of the sights that we really wanted to see; the Cabbage Market, the Brno Underground, the Capuchin Crypt. Unfortunately, as you can see, there was some major construction and restoration going on....bummer.
We decided to just find something to eat. Spalicek is supposedly the oldest restaurant still in operation in the city. This seemed like a good place to start.
The menu is multilingual, which is usually a warning sign, but we were later told that it is also a favorite of students and visitors to the University. Folks also come here to get more traditional style Moravian dishes. I will say the menu is quite meat heavy...H-E-A-V-Y.
While Bohemia is known for beer, Moravia is known for wine, so while I went for the local brew Starobrno (owned by Heineken), the Missus tried a white....which was much too bitter for Her liking.
I still hadn't been particularly impressed with various pilsners in the CR. This was the first that I really enjoyed; clean, fizzy, slightly grassy; this was a nice refreshing pilsner, with a bit of character.
One of the dishes I'd read about, but had not really seen on a menu was smažený sýr, fried cheese......yep, fried cheese. So of course I ordered this.
Three different types of cheese; the best one was a soft, semi-ripe cheese....which I was told is Hermelin. Served with something like a tartar sauce, this was fine, but nothing I'd order again.
These were pretty good; not as sour as we liked, but it did refresh and had decent flavor. It also goes real well with beer!
We decided to share the traditional Czech Sampler - Starocesky Talir, which seemed to have every meat in the world.
If you're keeping score; roast duck breast (not bad, though on the dry side), roast pork neck (chewy, but good flavor), smoked sausage (good flavor, overcooked), and "ham" (smokey, great flavor, but really tough). Red and White Cabbage, which the Missus enjoyed....She's rarely had fermented cabbage She didn't like. I actually thought the bread dumplings were some of the best I'd had so far; it wasn't too dense or chewy.
To put things into perspective....this huge plate was about $14/US....... So you can't really be too disappointed. As we were eating large groups started coming in, so the place is popular with tourists. Service was nice, though a bit overwhelmed once they got busy. This is considered on the high side in terms of prices.....but man, compared to Prague.....
Zelný trh 332/12
Brno, Czech Republic
After lunch we headed "down" to the area known as Freedom Square. This used to be known as the Lower Market and is the oldest square, dating back to the 13th century.
In spite of the drizzle, we enjoyed the wide open area....the tram (which we never needed to catch) goes right though the middle of the square.
You'll find quite a few interesting sites right around the square....among them, well, what else, the local Plague Tower.
This one was originally built in 1679.
In Freedom Square you'll notice a structure that looks out of place. It's this black "obelisk".....which looks like something else......I'll let you're imagination work on this one.
This is a typical Brno "twist" story..... This is actually a modern astronomical clock, built to commemorate the Petrov Bells...which is why I wrote the story about it above. Everyday, at 11am, a glass ball comes out of the "clock" and rolls around the grooves in the structure which was built to resemble a rifle cartridge....BUT, in the typical "Brno twist" kind of way, it's called something else by many locals. Now this clock cost 12 million CZ, about $570,000 and you don't quite know where that glass ball is going to emerge from so many folks actually miss that part...... You gotta love it!
In spite of the weather, we kind of lucked out by being here....you'll see why in an upcoming post!
I know...1300 words+. If you hung around, I think you for reading!