28 Sep,2017 By Jagabond
Olomouc is missing the shiny object that sucks in the tourist mobs…is that a bad thing?
Side trips from a major city are one of my favorite pastimes. For that reason I typically plan an extra day or two on holiday to explore outside the metropolitan area. Sometimes a place worth visiting never makes the published list of day trip options. How do they remain undiscovered from tourists? I’ve identified three key factors.
-Lacks at least one really obvious ‘thing’ to see
-Too far in distance to justify a day trip without that one ‘thing’
-Other day trip options have that one ‘thing’
Check, check and check for Olomouc, pronounced Olo-MOATS not Olo-MOOK (Czech letter ‘c’ sounds like ‘ts’). Olomouc doesn’t have a leaning tower. It also doesn’t have a castle where a famous vampire lived. If you are looking for mysterious, druid-built stone structures, then look elsewhere.
Olomouc has an unspoiled feel. Untouched by tourists, it seemed so real, as if all the monuments were there to appropriately honor the city and not to attract curious outsiders. How do you spend 24 hours in a city that keeps to itself? Here’s what I did.
Took a beer bath
Beer spas are all over Czech Republic. Czechs love drinking beer, but also believe it has therapeutic benefits for skin/hair complexion and muscle relaxation. Olomouc just happens to have a highly rated beer spa near its main square. As I descended the stairs into the treatment area, the artwork on the wall was fitting.
I stripped down to nothing and quickly submerged myself in the brew mixture. They mix the beer with warm water and other natural ingredients, including one that felt like an oily soap. I enjoyed a pint of pilsener while soaking, and the hostess was even kind enough to refill my glass. How could I not take a picture of this?
After the hoppy bath I spent twenty minutes in a nuclear sauna sweating my brains out. I admired my softer skin that also had a malty smell to it…made me thirsty!
Learned about the plague
I’m sure that hypochondriacs in the early 1700s avoided Czech Republic. A massive outbreak of the black plague swept through the country at this time. This disease is characteristic of unhygienic conditions, and an increased population of rats and fleas…yuck.
When the outbreak ended, it was clearly due to religion, thus plague columns started appearing throughout a multitude of Czech cities. These columns praised God for ending the plague, and were either Marian columns honoring the Virgin Mary, or Holy Trinity columns. Olomouc has one of each, with its magnificent Holy Trinity column making the UNESCO list in 2000.
Stumbled upon a military parade
This was strange. I just happened to be there during some international festival for military music that included the armies of Czech Republic, Germany and Finland. I take a break from my military job, and somehow the military finds me! It was mostly your standard marches, though the local band from Olomouc showed off some well choreographed moves.
Though unintended, this almost had a communist or dictator-driven feel to it. I could imagine a show like this conducted for political purposes. The leader has his military perform for him, and the masses clap for fear of reprisal. The presence of military recruiting booths only made this vision more vivid.
Tried the Olomouc cheese
Known as the smelliest cheese in Czech Republic, I didn’t think it was that bad. I’m sure France has more pungent cheese, and at least this one was healthier with surprisingly low levels of fat.
Saw a hanging guy
David Cerny is a controversial Czech artist, who built this ‘hanging man’ statue in Olomouc. His other works include another hanging statue of Sigmund Freud, infants crawling up a television tower, and a purple hand giving the middle finger to Prague Castle.
Tried the local drink
This is a local Czech drink called Burcak. It’s the product of fermenting freshly pressed grape juice, thus earning the nickname ‘young wine’. I was here during the brief Burcak window between August and November, defined by Czech law. A fresh bottle will be good for only a couple days, as fermentation quickly breaks down all the sugars. Luckily it’s easy going down with a light alcohol content around 5%, and the flavor resembles pineapple juice.
Watched a spitting dolphin
Not everything needs a rich and complicated history. This fountain dates back to only 2002, and depicts a dolphin rescuing a Greek poet. The poet, lost at sea, sang out in desperation. His voice was Sinatra-esque, attracting the dolphin who saved him. If that was me using my karaoke voice, I might have a shark jumping at me!
Drank a great Bloody Mary
I complain often about Europe’s version of a Bloody Mary. This used to be my favorite drink, so I find appalling the bland, tomato juice heavy concoctions sold at some European cocktail bars. Black Stuff Irish Pub in Olomouc has a ridiculously awesome recipe, with the perfect blend of flavors. Europe mostly despises all things spicy, but this pub disregarded that and made the drink as it should be.
How to get there: Olomouc is east of Prague, and the trip takes a little over two hours by car or train.