Heading towards Krakow and Poland, I break my trip in Olomouc (pronounced Ola-moats), the former capital of Moravia, hoping for the charm of Prague without the bustle. And charm is what Olomouc will have to rely on, as it lacks the grandeur of the capital. Its annual festival is taking place the weekend I’m there, so that should be a good start.
First up is a re-enactment of some war against the Swedes in the 1640s. Its an excellent period for re-enactment, when picturesque uniforms were prevalent in the gap between medieval armour and modern camouflage, when muskets and cannons provide satisfactorily loud bangs, but swords and pikes were equally effective at killing people. The re-enactment is very professionally done and its diverting enough though the language barrier renders much of it frustratingly incomprehensible. Are the musketeers shooting above the heads of the enemy tactically because of the trajectory of bullets in the 17th century or is it as a safety measure? And who the hell won?
In the very pretty main square there are various performances by musical groups on the stage. Currently it is a belly-dancing show of dubious authenticity. Earlier they had some drummers. It’s not hugely inspiring.
Second day in Olomouc and it’s sightseeing day. First off is the Archdiocesan Museum. For a place the size of Olomouc the size of the collection is very impressive, and its an interesting building, but in comparison the the colossal riches of the Vatican Museum say, well, there is no comparison. But it is kind of endearing with the old ladies gently but firmly ushering you around the labryinthine layout, and the oversize slippers you have to wear to protect the floor, and the way they emblazon Albrecht Durer’s name in large letters next to a painting before admitting in small print “follower of”. It’s still the best painting there. Well done, anonymous student. The most impressive thing is a digital collection of manuscripts which allows you a much better chance to inspect them in detail even if something is lost in the digitisation process.
After that the usual round of cathedrals and churches, nothing extraordinary. The big sight in Olomouc (World Heritage Site and all) is the statue in the main square.
After a restoring trip to the park that surrounds the old town, I went to the Modern Art Museum. Not with particularly high hopes, but hey, its free on Sundays. In fact it was quite good, an intersting exhibit on the history of book art and a collection of the prominent Czech Lettrist, Edvard Ovcacek (or so I was told, my knowledge of Czech Lettrism could be written out in full without requiring letters at all) which had some good stuff.
Then off in the evening with a few others from the hostel to a non-smoking Czech micro-brewery. Destinations don’t get much better than that.
Overall, it’s a nice place and kind of fun for some downtime, but unlikely to be the “next Prague”, so I’m going to try one that is sometimes clled that: Krakow