When I started planning my short jaunt to central Europe, Olomouc was nowhere on my radar. I hadn’t even heard of it. This spring, Lonely planet released a “Secret gems of Europe” article and Olomouc was #1 on it. The photos looked enticing and people had praised it enough on Tripadvisor to lure me into shortening my Warsaw trip to check out what the fuss was about.
I checked into a cute hostel run by a friendly family. After the usual check-in exchanges, I asked the owner what local delicacies she would recommend.
“Do you plan to kiss anyone tonight?”.
I was taken aback by the question.
“No”, I blushed, perplexed.
“You seem very confident”.
I smiled wryly; not going into the painful details of why I was traveling alone.
“If you are still confident about it before dinner, try the garlic soup. Mmmmm…” she closed her eyes, brought her fingers together to her pout and kissed it repeatedly, spreading her fingers between each kiss.
I wasn’t expecting such an orgasmic response!
When she broke out of her reverie, she continued, “And since you are not kissing anyone, you should also try the stinky cheese with maybe.. jam”.
She must have had a horrific experience kissing someone who had had the “stinky cheese”! An unexpected, interesting conversation; but I had to check out the town. I quickly excused myself and left for the town to avoid hearing any more of “if you are not kissing someone”.
Probably because I was jaded, I didn’t fall in love with Olomouc at first sight. Armed with a useful map provided to me by the hostel owner, I walked through the main attractions of the town in 2 hours and nothing impressed me. Sure, it was a cute town with beautiful fountains and clock tower with a unique show; but there are plenty of such towns in Europe. I even questioned why it was a UNESCO heritage site!
Disappointed, I Walked into St Michael’s church, where beautiful music lifted my mood. Despite a bland exterior, the inside of the baroque church is stunning. It is probably the best church I have visited in central Europe.
Locals seemed to agree that the church terrace is the most romantic place in Olomouc; the secluded terrace is a rendezvous for young lovebirds. The colorful facades, the towering clock tower and churches spires, the vast expanses of canola fields that encircled the large town contributed to its fairy-tale appearance. Where was all this color when I walked through the town?I decided to give Olomouc another chance to woo me. However, a castle conspicuous at a distance captured my attention and I descended down the stairs to check it out first.
As the bus started ascending the hill, I was amazed by the “Van Gogh-esque” beauty. The ‘castle’ turned out to be a church called Svaty Kopecek that sat above a yellow canola hill dotted by pretty red and blue barns. I have a thing for red barns; I think a red barn can make almost any photo interesting. Smitten by the scenery, I made an impromptu stop at the photographer’s delight, wildly clicking all compositions my tired brain could concoct.
It was almost dusk when I returned to Olomouc. My first stop was the impressive St. Wenceslas Cathedral, whose tall spires dominate the city. I am glad I timed it perfectly. There was a special church service that evening with haunting music. Three months later, I still hum the tunes. I could have sat there for hours; but I had to give Olomouc another chance before sunset.
As I walked back to main square at sunset, I started to fall in love with Olomouc. The fading light brought the colorful facades back to life. The fountains seemed magical. How could I have been unimpressed by Olomouc 6 hours ago! Time flew by as I clicked away like a madman.
As sunlight disappeared, the golden holy trinity column became the centerpiece of attention in the main square. The resplendent column is definitely worthy of the UNESCO heritage tag. Olomouc at dusk is a sight bar none. It is unfortunate that there were no tourists to witness the magnificent spectacle.
Later that night, when I ordered a second bowl of the pungent; but delicious garlic soup at the hospoda, I comprehended the unusual reaction of the hostel owner. I am not a big fan of cheese; but loved all the “stinky cheese” dishes I tried. I totally concur with the hostel owner though, don’t even attempt to go near a sober lady after you’ve had any stinky cheese dish; mouthwash and toothpaste failed to overpower its aroma! Nevertheless, the taste of any stinky cheese dish is worth the effort of “holding back your kisses”.
Infatuated with photogenic Olomouc, I sacrificed sleep and woke up early morning to catch the sunrise in the main square. The spectacular view, in the golden light, made it difficult deciding whether to stay back in Olomouc for another day or check out Litomysl. I am glad I chose the latter; Olomouc is in a way, an uncrowded version of Prague. Litomysl, on the other hand, is a true jewel; one of the best small towns in Europe.
Nonetheless, if I was an entrepreneur, I would definitely consider Olomouc for bootstrapping: good Wi-Fi, cheap housing, delicious food, large university population and a great base for exploring beautiful Moravia.
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