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Olomouc, Czech Republic: Important Moravian City
When people think of the Central European nation of the Czech Republic, the capital city of Prague usually comes to mind. The "City of a Thousand Spires" is most definitely quite impressive. Prague is quite expensive, however. Food can cost as much as twice what it does in the outlying areas of the Czech Republic. There are many other cities that have quite a bit of character that tourists can experience and enjoy when visiting the Czech Republic.
Overview of Olomouc
One of the many wonderful cities that visitors to the Czech Republic can enjoy is the relatively little-known city of Olomouc. As the traditional capital of the province of Moravia, Olomouc is the seat of several important institutions. The University of Olomouc is one of the leading centers of higher education in the Czech Republic. Also, the leading landmark in the city is the Saint Wenceslas Cathedral, which towers over the surrounding buildings.
Travelers who want to visit Olomouc should fly into Prague, as the cheapest flights into the country will usually fly into Ruzny International Airport. The city of Ostrava also has an international airport, and it sits closer to Olomouc than does Prague. Olomouc itself has an airport, but the cost may not make this option effective. From Prague, most travelers will want to take the train to Olomouc. There will likely be a couple of layovers on on the trip, but the train is a very cost-effective option when it comes to travel between European cities. When it comes to driving, many of cities in Europe have streets that are quite tight and difficult to maneuver, especially when two-way traffic occurs.
Important Churches in Olomouc
In spite of the standing of the Czech Republic as one of the least religions nations in Europe today, the city of Olomouc has a number of important churches, which owes to the very religious history of the Czech Republic.
The most impressive church structure in Olomouc is St. Wenceslas Cathedral, which towers over much of the rest of the city. The new cathedral was finished in the nineteenth century, although the origins of the church go back centuries. The twin spires in the front of the building (there is also a spire in the rear) and massive arches show its Gothic inspiration. The tallest spire reaches over 300 feet above ground level. The interior of the church is quite impressive, and all visitors who are able should descend into the basement of the cathedral. Actually, the basement is more of a crypt in which the bodies of some of the important bishops in the diocesan history lie in sarcophagi in the crypt.
Another important church that visitors should check out while visiting Olomouc is the St. Maurice, first built in the fifteenth century. This structure is a bit plain in relation to the stunning Gothic beauty of St. Wenceslas. The best part of a visit to St. Maurice is a climb through the bell tower to the flat roof that resembles a medieval castle battlement. From the top of St. Maurice, travelers can get an impressive view of the older section of the city. Those who climb the stairs can just hope that the bell does not ring during the ascent, as the bell tower is enclosed.
Olomouc Town Squares
Like most European cities, Olomouc has a town square that was originally the center of town. The town square is divided in two (Upper Square and Lower Square) by the town hall that sits in the middle of the main square. Many of the penzions (hotels) and restaurants in town are close to the square. Those who want to shop for souvenirs in Olomouc will find shops ringing the town square Also, the local post office is located just off the square. Americans will note that English is much less common outside of Prague, so even a trip to the post office can be a challenge. Of course, McDonald's will probably be a welcome sight, although probably not the first choice of food for American tourists.
The squares have a number of fountains and statues that commemorate important people and events in Czech history, but the landscape is dominated by two structures. The first is the Town Hall. The Olomouc Town Hall houses an office that has tourist information. Also, there is a working astronomical clock that visitors may enjoy, although it is not as impressive as the one that can be found at the Prague Town Hall.
The second really impressive structure is the Holy Trinity Column. This tower, built in the eighteenth century, reaches 115 feet above the city street. The top of the column depicts the Holy Trinity with the Angel Gabriel, and the structure also boasts a statue of St. John Sarkander, who was tortured to death during the carnage that was the Thirty Years War. Visitors can also note several other statues that adorn the Holy Trinity Column.
Dining Recommendations for Olomouc
I visited Olomouc in 2011, and ate at a few of the restaurants in town. A very good meal can be had for between $10 and $20 US (Czech crowns were worth about 1/17 of one US dollar in July 2011). Restaurace U Andela was a very good restaurant that was relatively upscale. The restaurant had a wide variety of meal options. I had a spicy chicken, and it was quite good.
The other restaurant that I can recommend is Cafe Destiny. This is a pizzaria, but it is not like most pizza places in the United States. Pizza in the Czech Republic is some of the best pizza I have ever had in my life. The pizza at Cafe Destiny is amazing. I had a pizza with ham and devoured it with no problem. These are just a couple of options, and visitors may opt for a more traditional Czech meal with dumplings and gravy over some sort of meat. These are also quite good.
Most people think of Prague when they think of the Czech Republic. This is not a bad thing, but it is important to remember that there are many other places that travelers can visit to get a less touristy feel of the country. One of the best cities to visit in the Czech Republic is Olomouc. This provincial capital has a variety of lodging and meal options. They also have many examples of historic Czech architecture and traditions. All of this is just a short train ride from Prague.