Olomouc, Czech Republic

After our great visit to Prague with Eric’s parents, we planned to head to Krakow, Poland. We thought it would be fun to break up the trip and Eric knew that there was a unique UNESCO site in a small city called Olomouc so we decided to head there. Boy, are we glad we did! Upon arriving and exploring the old town of Olomouc, we decided to extend our stay to 2 nights instead of the original one!

Where We Stayed

Poet’s Corner Hostel –  This was the top-rated accommodation for Olomouc in the Lonely Planet so we were excited to try it out. It was a nice hostel, with the standard features. We decided to stay in a private room and didn’t end up being as social with the rest of the hostel as we could have been. The best part about the hostel was the good advice they gave us for exploring the town – they gave us a nice map with a lot of recommendations on it.

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What We Did

Olomouc was definitely a nice change of pace from Prague. There weren’t as many things to do, but there were still plenty of monuments and pretty sights to explore, without all of the people!

Climb St Moritz Bell Tower

Our first stop in town was to climb the bell tower of this church in the old town.The staircase was a neat double-helix spiral pattern, so you went up and down on different staircases with the same center. From the top of the tower you could spy a lot of the different sights we wanted to head to next.

Old Town Square

Like Prague, Olomouc’s main square has a few different sights. The most notable one in the UNESCO-listed Holy Trinity Column, This column is wide enough at the base that there is a small chapel in it.

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Olomouc has an astronomical clock as well. One interesting aspect of the clock is that the mosaic surrounding it was redone in the 1950s in the communist-area style emphasizing the socialist values. We also enjoyed trying to decipher all of the different dials on the clock faces.

St Michael’s Church

We thought the interior of this church was pretty impressive. Also, in one of its crypts there is a natural spring which they say the town was founded around.

Walk Around the City Walls

We found a path outside the old city walls and along a nice hike and bike trail.

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Spy on Weddings

When we started walking around on Saturday, we noticed one wedding party taking pictures in the square. Then, at St Michael’s, we actually climbed the bell tower during the end of another ceremony and the got to witness the bridesmaids handing out shots at the end of the receiving line. Then, at the Saint Wenceslas Cathedral one wedding was wrapping up… as another was getting lined up outside! In the end we saw six different weddings in various stages of the events.

SK Sigma Olomouc soccer game

We noticed that the soccer stadium was very close to Poet’s Corner, and the local team, SK Sigma Olomouc, was playing a game on Saturday afternoon, so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately, Sigma had been relegated to the second tier Czech league the previous season, so it seemed like maybe the attendance was a little low. Tickets were cheap though, and we got seats pretty close to the action. Sigma lost 2-0, so the local fans did not seem too happy.There was a small group of hardcore fans who chanted the whole time, but the overall atmosphere wasn’t much different from any US sporting event.

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Where We Ate

We hoped to try a few different places, but when we went around on Saturday, multiple places were closed! One was for a wedding but the others were just not open. We don’t know if this was a low-season thing (Olomouc is a college town and students were not back yet) or if the town always shuts down on Saturdays.

One place we did eat was the Saint Wenceslas microbrewery. The food and beer weren’t the best, but the price was pretty good. We debated but eventually decided against their “beer spa” experience: we would have bathed in beer!

Final Thoughts

Olomouc was a nice town to use as a break from hectic sightseeing. There are a lot of nice things to see and not nearly as many crowds to fight through as in other places. Anyone planning to go between Prague and Krakow should definitely consider a stop in Olomouc!

Connections: Beer Recommendations turns into Business Class!

Traveling is a wonderful way to meet people! Unfortunately, often those connections are strong but only fleeting. Connections is our tag to recognize and remember some of the wonderful people we meet.

On our last evening in Prague, we decided to try the brewery near the Strahov Monestary. We hiked up the hill, which of course has some amazing views over the city.

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We sat down at the brewery and enjoyed a few of the beers. When we were almost done, a group of Americans sat down next to us. They asked us for some advice on which beers to try, which of course we answered. As we continued to chat, we found out that they were a group of flight attendants… who were working a flight to New York the following day… in the morning… It was the same flight as Donna and Steve were flying on! The flight attendants thought this was just as great a coincidence as we did and insisted on getting their names and a photo!

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We weren’t too surprised to hear that Donna and Steve met their friends again on the following day during their flight, AND got upgraded to business class for their trip home. Talk about a great connection! =)

Prague, Czech Republic

Our first stop in Europe was Prague, the capital of Czech Republic. Eric’s parents joined us as well, and we all enjoyed our time in the “city of 1000 spires.”

Where We Stayed

Airbnb in Zizkov

Since there were four of us, we decided to book a flat of our own on airbnb. There were a lot of options, but many that were close to the main tourist attractions were pretty pricy. Eventually, we found a flat in the Zizkov neighborhood for a good price. Even though we weren’t super close to the attractions, it was still only about a 30 minute walk through a scenic neighborhood Also, there was a metro stop just a few minutes from the flat (and the Prague metro is very efficient).

Another bonus is that we were right next door to the famous tv tower. This made for a very easy landmark to identify where we were were staying!

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The Zizkov tv tower

The Zizkov tv tower

Old Town Home Prague

Our itinerary is Prague was split… we spent six nights at the beginning of the trip there, then two nights in Český Krumlov, then one final night back in Prague before Eric’s parents flew out the next day. For that last night, we decided just to find something simple and convenient. It took some searching, but eventually we stumbled upon this property. We were able to reserve a private room with four beds and its own bathroom down the hall. The location was fabulous: just a few minutes walk from the Old Town Square, but on a quiet side street so we were able to get a good night’s sleep. Another cool feature was that it included a free ghost tour, since the same people also ran one.

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What We Did

Free Walking Tour

There were a lot of different tours of the city offered… horse drawn carriage, bus, fancy car, segway, etc., but we decided to try a free walking tour. It’s not truly free – they expect you to tip – but it does provide a great incentive for the guide to make the tour entertaining. In Prague there are multiple companies offering this; we went with Sandeman’s. We greatly enjoyed the three hour tour that our guide Filip provided. He hit on all of the highlights of Old Town and kept it enjoyable throughout.

 

Prague Castle

This structure doesn’t look like a castle from a fairy tale, but it is still pretty impressive. We started our day at the castle by taking a tram all the way to the Strahov Monastery and found an awesome panoramic viewpoint looking back over the city.
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We then went into the castle complex itself. It is still the office of the president, so there is a colorful guard standing watch. It is free to walk through the grounds, but to go inside the buildings you have to purchase tickets. We bought the one of the cheaper packages that let us get into the buildings we were interested in. We visited St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica and the Golden Lane.

Walk Through Mala Strana

On the way down from the castle,we did a self-guided walk through the neighborhood below the castle called Mala Strana. Here we found the Wallenstein Gardens (although it was about to close), Kampa Island and the Lennon Wall.

On the way back, we walked over the famous Charles Bridge.

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Vyšehrad

We explored this site where some of the original fortifications of the town were found. There’s not much left except for the castle walls and some older buildings. We did enjoy the interior of Basilica of St Peter and St Paul located here.

Day Trip to Kutná Hora

Visit the small town of Kutna Hora. See what we did here!

Jewish Museum

This museum is actually composed of multiple sites spread through the Jewish Quarter next to Prague’s Old Town. We spent a good portion of a day exploring these various sites. Our ticket covered:

  • The Pinkas synagogue, which is now a memorial to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia that lost their lives in the Holocaust. Inside, the walls are covered with each person’s name written by hand. (No pictures were allowed inside).
  • The Old Jewish Cemetery, with its thousands of tombstones and graves piled on top of one another
  • Klausen Synagogue
  • Ceremonial Hall
  • Spanish Synagogue

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Letna Park

We climbed up the hill to this park overlooking the river and Old Town. We also eventually found our way to the beer garden where we enjoyed a few beverages!

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Overnight Trip to Český Krumlov

See separate blog on this awesome town!

St Norbert’s Brewery at Strahov Monastey

After returning from Český Krumlov, we had a final afternoon in Prague. It was a nice warm afternoon (after multiple days of dreary, cool weather), so we decided to walk back through Mala Strana to the Strahov Monastery, where there was a brewery. On the way we enjoyed the views back over the city. At the brewery, we tried four different beers (a nice change of pace from the standard pilsners).

Here we also struck up a conversation with a table of Americans next to us. Amazingly, they were flight attendants on Eric’s parents’ flight the next day!

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Ghost Tour

As previously mentioned, this was free for us since we were staying at Old Town Home Prague. We enjoyed this tour both for the stories (and legends) that were heard and also for the chance to see Prague at night!

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Beer Museum

This wasn’t actually a museum but a pub with many beers to try. Unfortunately, we were in a rush so only got one taster tray. But we enjoyed all of the beers we tried and wish we had a chance to go back!

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Where We Ate

Prague was a very hit-or-miss city when it came to dining. It seemed like a lot of the places that we went. even ones that were recommended, had servers that seemed frustrated by our presence and lack of Czech-speaking ability. After a few tries, we started to get a feel for how much things should cost and what types of things to order. We did enjoy a lot of the pork dishes, and also the goulash.

Also, it seemed like you needed to constantly be aware of how much things should cost and make sure to not get overcharged. A dishonorable mention goes out to the food stalls on the main square. They listed a reasonable price for some ham and another dish, but when it rang up it was as much as a sit-down meal! The catch was that the price we saw was per 100g, and they made sure to serve more than that…

That being said, our favorite was…

Restaurace U Parlamentu

Standard Bohemian food for reasonable prices a with friendly service. Eric’s parents got a dish that included duck, which they quite enjoyed.

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 Final Thoughts

We quite enjoyed Prague. It was a beautiful city with a lot to do! It was extremely touristy, of course, and we actually found many people relatively unfriendly. We’re glad we went but wouldn’t necessarily put it at the top of the list of places we need to get back to soon.

Fast Forward Friday: Prague

Prague's Old Town

Prague will be our first stop in Europe. We’re looking forward to a completely different vibe than Africa. Prague is home to numerous tourist attractions, not limited to the amazing Prague Castle. The historic center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll have to fight the loads of other tourists, but we think it will be worth it. Lots of amazing things to see… AND beer to drink!