The seatbelt sign is now on...
Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
100Trip End Sep 08, 2008
Olomouc had been on the cards for weeks. Described in the guidebook residing on our kitchen table as 'Prague without the tourists', Chris and I knew it was a weekend trip that had to happen. I went so far as inquiring at the international counter at Opole's train station about ticket prices, but come Thursday evening I couldn't get excited about the thought of another long train journey. Then, like a light bulb above my head, it hit me. Why didn't we hire a car! With a little help from one of the receptionists at our school we had a car for the weekend, and after some plugging in the teacher's room I managed to convince two other teachers, Jess and Nick to join us. The weekend road trip was all but sorted
We left Opole around 9.30am on the Saturday morning and made straight for Prudnik, the large town near the Czech border where I taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The lesson plans were forgotten this time, and rather than turning right at the church we continued straight ahead to the border at Glubczyce. Things went a little more smoothly than at the Ukraine border a month earlier and within 10 minutes we were driving through small villages in scenic North Moravia.
Some of my students in Prudnik told me I had to visit the town of Jesenik when visiting the Czech Republic, and as I was the navigator I decided this was the route we were to take. Jesenik was just 15km from the border and it was here we stopped for morning tea. However the words of praise from my students left us all a little confused, as the place seemed even more backwards than Prudnik. There was absolutely nothing of interest in the centre of town, and the others seemed a little befuzzled as to why I had chosen this as a place to stop. We got a coffee and were back on the road by half eleven.
The next part of the drive was very scenic, winding our way up through the pine forests of the Nizky Jesenik to a pass at around 1030m
We arrived in Olomouc around 1pm, and after checking into our small but homely hostel we made for the town square. It was here we saw the most famous attraction in Olomouc, the Holy Trinity Column; a baroque medley of gold and grey, completed in 1754 with a number of saints around the base and angels carrying the holy mother to the heavens. It was supposedly the single biggest baroque sculpture in all of Europe, and it was quite an impressive sight to say the least. The town hall in the centre of the square was also a splendid structure, which had what was supposed to be the only communist clock in central Europe on its northern side. We had to wait until noon the following day before we could see it in all its glory though.
The square was remarkable not only for its architecture, but for its cleanliness, and the atmosphere provided by the Christmas market
With it starting to rain, we decided to have a look inside the museum, next to the cathedral. This housed a huge collection of paintings and sculptures from the 14th-17th centuries, some of which really were quite incredible. Having never visited a museum quite like this, I found it interesting to see how different parts of the bible were interpreted in different parts of history, and how this influenced certain styles of paintings and sculptures. We spent more than an hour in here, before walking back through the rain for a drink and a little downtime at the hostel.
The 'vibrant pub scene' in Olomouc was part of the drawcard for us, however the night was pretty much like any other Saturday night in Poland, with a few beers going down as we moved from pub to pub to club. The most interesting stop was probably an old Soviet era plane parked in a disused parking lot, which had been converted into a club. It was seedy, but the novelty of drinking in a plane was too much for us to ignore. We walked up the rear stairs and rang the bell before a man in a suit unlocked the metal gate for us to come in. A drunk man stood behind him, and as we entered we saw another drunk at the bar, one slouched in a chair and one woman sitting half way down the plane on her own. It was dark, dirty and dead, but nevertheless we decided to stay for a beer. The man in the suit came over and quickly poured the worst beers I've ever seen before we made a move for another club. As we were leaving, a small group of ragged looking people entered, and we decided it was probably good time we left.
We forced ourselves up early the following morning, and thankfully the rain had stopped, allowing us to make the most of the few daylight hours to see the place. As the plane club was just a few hundred metres from our hostel we decided to go back and take some photos before putting our bags in the car and getting some breakfast
Following breakfast we went back to Vaclavske Namesti to get some photos before working our way through a park adjacent to the historic city walls. We then worked our way back through the cobblestone streets to see the communist clock in all its glory. Come noon, a blacksmith slowly hammered on an anvil, and a few peasants were paraded near the clock. Quite a crowd had gathered in the Christmas market to see this display, and I think every person there was as confused as I was when the parade of peasant statues stopped and the golden rooster let out a woefully pathetic crow. It was the most pathetic thing I had ever seen in my life!
We took a few more photos around the city before grabbing some lunch and starting the trip back to Opole. We left Olomouc soon after 2pm, hoping to make it at least as far as the border before the sun set. Taking a different route through some more scenic villages, one including a castle atop a hill, we passed over more hills and eventually made it back home around 5pm. It had been a pretty jam packed weekend, but our car hiring experiment proved to be a great success. Olomouc was a remarkable city, and driving was a lot more fun than taking the train. Furthermore, the four of us had planned a number of other weekend trips too, to Brno in the Czech Republic, Dresden in Germany and some other places in Poland. All we needed was another free weekend, but with Christmas just around the corner that wasn't going to come for a while.