There are some benefits associated with staying in corporate style hotels.....many of them have pretty hefty, buffet breakfasts included.
The Missus and I went over the plan for the day over breakfast. Being right across the street from the train station also had it's benefits. We had decided to do a day trip to the city of Kroměříž, where the Archbishop's Summer Palace, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We caught the train to Hulin, changing to a tiny little train which was more like a single car to Kroměříž. Exiting at the train station, we made our way up to the main square. Things were pretty quiet on this day.....
Except for some music....we followed the notes and were treated with a nice performance in front of the local museum. That kid on the left was really getting down....to traditional Czech Folksongs!
The main reason for coming here was to visit the Archbishop's Chateau and the gardens. Unfortunately, the gardens were closed because of all the rain.
So we decided to just have a short walk around, then head back to Olomouc. It was nice to just get out and about....once out of Prague, we found folks to be much more friendly, laid back, and things were much cheaper.
Then we headed back. The train trip was kind of funny because apparently there was some kind of glitch with our train transfer. The attendant on the train didn't speak any English and he tried so hard to explain to us what was going on. Folks here are friendly....all I had to say was "Olomouc" and one of the other passengers used sign language basically telling us to follow her....which we did, ending back up in Olomouc. We then got on the tram....right tram, wrong direction, to the amusment of the tram operator....who basically told us to just stay on. In other words we got the scenic tour. And ended up at our destination Moritz Microbrewery.
Like many similar type businesses, this was a basement type deal. On a wet, windy, and cold day, this was a cosy deal.
We had been pretty disappointed with the beer in the Czech Republic so far. But since we were at a microbrewery....
And we were pleasantly surprised, the 10° was quite refreshing, clean, mildly hoppy, but with nice floral-citrus to my palate. This was by far the best beer I'd had in the CR so far.
Being in Olomouc, well, we had to have the Hanácká česnečka - Garlic Soup.
Bitter and much too salty.....
Seeing what became one of our favorite items; the Utopenci, basically pickled sausage, one of the things we brought back with us. This was a bit too mild for my taste.
As I mentioned before, at places like this there are "lunch specials" which are really cheap, under five bucks US. The problem being, these specials are never written in English and even more interesting, in Olomouc they specials are written in Hanakian, the local dialect. For the Missus this was a challenge....She decided to randomly order something from the local menu and went ahead and chose something at random.
Which was this:
Basically pork and bread dumplings....... for about four bucks. I'm sure this would surely fill up the hungry local!
Tired of Gulas, I ordered ribs....which seemed so cheap at under ten bucks......kind of scary actually. I was shocked when this hit the table.
Man, this was like 3/4 rack of spareribs........lightly seasoned, but with some smoke flavor. This really wasn't too bad.....could not even come close to finishing this.
We ended up taking most of this back to the room, having it for dinner.
Heading back to the hotel, we stopped by the Lower Square.
Which seemed so quiet.......
I'm not sure if it was the weather, or if this is normal.....
We'd be leaving in the morning, which is an interesting story itself. We enjoyed our stay in Olomouc, but were looking forward to our next destination.
After lunch, my main objective was to catch the tram back to our dry, warm hotel room for a much needed siesta. The Missus however, had other plans, the clock was inching its way to high noon and the Missus wanted to see the "show".....which, unlike what happens in Prague lasts a whole six minutes...which seems like 60 minutes in the wind and rain. It was just the Missus and I, plus about 4 (of 12) hardy, perhaps foolish, obviously tourists who actually stood and watch the parade of figures march by. The original clock was said to be the grandest in Europe, but it was destroyed by the Nazis in World War 2. This version was rebuilt by the Communist regime in 1953. So instead of apostles marching by, you get milkmaids, blacksmiths, teachers, chemists....good communists one and all!
So, while the clock in Prague had me humming "It's a Small World", this one was more like, "Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to work we go....."
There are many fountains in the Upper Square area. most of them have characters out of Greek Mythology. There's one of Caesar, who is said to have founded Olomouc, though the city was once a Roman encampment, there's no documentation that Caesar actually ever visited in person.
But my favorite, is the Turtle Fountain right next to the Town Hall.
The turtle is said to represent Olomouc's ability to persevere. On its back resides a pillar on which there are etchings of maps and other documents. The fountain itself is called the Arion Fountain which actually depicts the story of a poet saved when thrown overboard by a dolphin and yes, there's a dolphin and I suppose the poet.....but it's the turtles I remember.
We did eventually make it back to our room and a short nap ensued. After which, the Missus was ready to get going. So we made the same walk we did earlier.......
This time around, in spite of the angry looking clouds, we took our time. We turned up a street and found St Wenceslas Cathedral. Not only is Olomouc a college town but the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Czech Republic is located here. It was established in 1063..... So a visit to St Wenceslas Cathedral just seemed to be the right thing.
Being the seat of the Catholic Church, there have been many esteemed visitors. Their visits have been documented on displays within the cathedral, Pope John Paul II (more on this later) and Mother Teresa (Matka Tereza) jumped out at me.
And while I'm a sorta-kinda agnostic-thiest, born Buddhist, raised Jehovah's Witness, grown to cynic.....I respect the beliefs of others.
I also find the history, as much as I'm willing to scratch, fascinating. And yes, those are photos of Mother Teresa's visit.
What seemed a bit strange to us, was, while Olomouc has a population of over 100,000 with an urban population of about 500,000, things just seemed mighty quiet.
We headed back up to the Upper Square area and it seemed almost abandoned.
The Missus also wasn't sold on my choice for dinner either.....and it became even tougher when we had to try and find the place. Which, we of course finally did, a non-descript simple building.
And yet, there seemed to be no activity. However, this was no sign of what was actually going on within St Wenceslas Brewery. As you walked to the door, you could hear the buzz of conversation. This was the largest concentration of people we'd seen in Olomouc so far!
Like most places in the CZ, you saw a table and went for it....then you ordered every single beer on the menu.
Which is what we did. And you should do as well. They do like a good "head" on their beer here.
Our server was totally awesome, he was friendly, kind, accommodating, and willing to let us try every beer they had. My favorite was the 12°, which, while not outstanding, had a distinct peppery bite to it. To be honest, we still hadn't had anything that got our attention.
In one of our favorite moments....the Missus asked our very friendly server if She could get and order of "just cabbage".......really, all She wanted was fermented cabbage. Aiyah. The server said he's asked the kitchen.....and guess what?
She got Her plate of cabbage! Just for this; if we're ever back, we'd come here in a second.
Of course there was more beer.......
While waiting for our check we noticed a group of gentlemen wandering around looking for a table. Well, in the Czech Republic, it's "dining Darwinism" when it comes to that. I grabbed one of the guys and told them we'd be leaving soon....just hang on and we'd be done. It turned out that they were visiting professors from Chile! So, who know who you might meet at Svatovaclavsky pivovar?
Saint Wenceslas Brewery (Svatovaclavsky pivovar) Marianska 4, Olomouc, Czech Republic
As we headed back to the hotel we noticed people...many more folks than we'd seen before, standing in lines. After looknig around a bit we found that it was "Museum Night" in Olomouc, where admission to various Museums were free. We couldn't help but indulge!
And while we enjoyed the dramatic displays at the Natural History Museum, our favorite photo was this.......
Giant Rodents looking at a kid who wants to be a giant rodent!
On the way back, we decided to stop by the Archdiocesan Museum, located next to the St Wenceslas Cathedral. This museum was built after Pope John Paul II's visit, when he asked the Archdiocese and the city to build a museum to document/celebrate its history.
We had a great time visiting the museums. What was quite apparent was the hospitality and pride of the locals. They obviously knew we weren't from these parts, but went out of their way to welcome us. Moravian pride and hospitality........
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!"
Both sights are next to the Town Hall. In fact, on the day we were here, there was a wedding party taking photos in front of the Plague Tower. Which I found odd for some unknown reason.
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.
I'm not sure what it was, but we followed a sign at the door around the corner, only to find it led to nowhere....the door was actually where the sign was posted, duh.
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.
The pork was adequately tender and moist. It had a decent pork flavor. The fermented cabbages was not bad, though the Missus is a sucker for these.
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 Havlickova 1 Olomouc, Czech Republic