The Poet's Corner, Marketa Irglova, and Mucha Mucha more!
06.02.2009 - 06.05.2009 64 °F
I packed up and left Hostel 99 in Cesky Krumlov, not really wanting to go. The staff was wonderful. I said goodbye to Alvaro at the front desk and was off. Thanks Alvaro for all of your help!
I am not a coffee drinker, so at the bus stop I was looking for a Red Bull to wake up. The next best thing was this energy drink - Blue Pig! I have to say that it did taste better than Red Bull.
Waiting for the bus back to Prague I met Jen, an accountant from Melbourne Australia. She is traveling from March to the end of June in Europe alone. Her favorite stop so far was Turkey. In Australia she got fed up and resigned her job to travel, which surprised her friends because she is a self-described control freak. She is going to London in June to stay with friends and then has to be back in Australia for a wedding in November. Other than that, she has no plans. Instead of rushing around everywhere, she prefers to take longer in each city to get a better feel for the place. Good luck Jen!
I also met Campbell from Melbourne. He said that he had his laptop stolen on the night train from Serbia to Budapest right from under his head while he was sleeping! The thief even zipped the bag back up after he took it! I ran into Campbell again later in Krakow.
On the bus I sat next to Caroline, who is from France and has worked at the French embassy in Prague for the past 2 1/2 years. She promotes French Universities to prospective Czech students through the Erasmus program, which helps students from all over Europe to study in another European country for a year. The program is funded by the European Union, and many students take advantage of it. The Erasmus program has been around for the past 20 years, and is very popular in Europe. Caroline was in a high school exchange program where a group of families in France hosted 10 U.S. students for 10 days, and then the French students visited their U.S. friends in the Dallas Texas area for 10 days, going to school with them. She stayed with an African American family there and found it very strange that students drove their own cars to school. When her Dallas friend visited France she had a very difficult time with Caroline's mother's French cooking. The girl preferred to eat chocolate bars she brought with her on the trip!
The bus to Prague deserves special mention. It was run by the Student's Agency, and is the cheapest and best. The yellow bus actually showed a movie (Fractured, with Czech subtitles) and offered free headsets. They also served free refreshments. I enjoyed two excellent hot chocolates on the ride! They also passed out newspapers and magazines to read. It was better service than on most U.S. airlines!
In Prague I took the subway across town and hopped on the train, bound for Olomouc, in the heart of the Moravia region of the Czech Republic. Moravia is named after the Morava River, a Germanic name which means 'marsh water.'
On the train I shared a compartment with Luke, a university student going home from a 2 day music festival in the rain in Prague. He loved it, but was now very tired! Between stints at the university in Olomouc, Luke works at a mental health facility. He said that the movie director Milos Forman, who directed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, about a mental health facility, is from the Czech Republic as well. Luke was scheduled to work at the facility later that night, and tried to get some sleep on the train! Great to meet you Luke!
This is me on the train.
A shot of the beautiful rolling Moravian countryside.
The first thing I did in Olomouc (pronounced 'Ollo-Moats' was go to the grocery store. I love grocery stores in foreign countries because you never know what you are going to find. Here is the store, Billa.
Here is Granko! I have absolutely no idea what it is. Any ideas?
Chappi! I think this is some type of dog food.
Upright and chest freezers together - pretty cool.
Vlnky crinkle fries!
Mleko, boxed milk.
Sweet balloon, packaged cotton candy!
And of course, the old staple, kecup.
Judging from this bulletin board, there is no shortage of things to do in Olomouc!
The cool trams run all through the city, and are very cheap, about $1.
Street signs it took me a while to decipher.
Olomouc city street.
Olomouc was the former capital of Moravia, and today is a vibrant college town with very few tourists. It is kind of like a more compact Prague, without the throngs of people. This is the Holy Trinity Column and Town Hall in the beautiful upper square of town. The column, built between 1716 and 1754, is on UNESCO's World Heritage list and actually has a small chapel in the base. The Town Hall was originally built in 1378!
The column. So beautiful!
The Town Hall with its famous Astronomical Clock. When it goes off once a day (at noon) the performance lasts a full 6 minutes!
According to Lonely Planet, the clock was remodeled by the Communist government years ago "so that each hour is announced by ideologically pure workers instead of pious saints." Notice the mechanic and the scientist on the bottom left and right.
Close up of the clock figures.
One of the square's statues. It looks as if the figure is beating down serpents at his feet.
Sunset on the square.
One of the city's 6 baroque fountains, this one with turtles and a dolphin.
A golden stag above a doorway.
An Olomouc street corner.
Another fountain, in the lower square.
The moon over the historic facades of the lower square.
The Marian Plague Column.
Time for dinner. The Hanacka Hospoda came highly recommended.
This was my meal, Granddad Matej's Peasant Delicacy. It contains a baked neck of pork, smoked chop, home-made sausage, red and white cabbage, and potato dumplings. I also got delicious garlic soup filled with huge croutons. With a drink the check came to $9 total. Hearty Moravian food at its finest!
The Holy Trinity Column and Town Hall in the upper square at night. It was a breathtaking sight. There was almost no one else there.
The Poet's Corner Hostel. Up four flights of stairs, but worth every step!
Check your shoes at the door. With my huge sneakers it looks like Bigfoot is in the house!
Francie runs the Poet's Corner with her husband Greg. They are transplanted Australian backpackers who love sharing Olomouc with their guests.
Staying at the Poet's corner feels like you are staying in someone's home. It has a terrific vibe! The cost? About $16.50 a night! Jess, who works at the hostel, is sitting on the couch.
Here is a link to the Poet's Corner website. http://www.hostelolomouc.com/
The next day was sunny, and I tried to take full advantage.
A scale model of the old city, right on the upper square.
Green seems to be the color of the day....
Cafe 87 for breakfast. I sat in the window and enjoyed people-watching.
An interesting window display at the cafe.
Cafe 87 is renowned for its chocolate pie. For breakfast I had a ham omelet (eggs! Yay!) and the absolutely delicious pie. Chocolate pie for breakfast? It's good to be a grown-up!
A man reading in the doorway of a book store.
Two men on ladders hanging a sign on the street.
Shoes on an overhead wire.
Beautiful window boxes filled with flowers. I saw these all over town.
A boy eating ice cream.
A boy playing near one of the fountains in the square.
A beautiful little girl chasing pigeons!
A close up of the top of the Holy Trinity Column in the sun.
An interesting pink facade on the square.
A close up of the Astronomical Clock. Notice the zodiac signs on the clock face.
Motorhead is coming to nearby Brno! I thought this poster was an interesting contrast.
St. Michael Church.
Interior of St. Michael.
One of the things St. Michael is known for is its extremely rare painting of the pregnant Virgin Mary. I have never thought of it before, but I guess it makes sense!
More shots of the interior of St. Michael.
Ever wonder how they keep all of those cobblestones clean? Never fear - the Glutton will take care of it!
The beautiful and overwhelmingly gothic St. Moritz cathedral.
The organ at St. Moritz is said to be Moravia's mightiest. Every September St. Moritz hosts the International Organ Festival.
I was lucky enough to wander in during organ practice. I made my way up to the organ loft to see the pipes up close. The organ positively thundered.
I like this shot of the organist with her reflection in the mirror.
Back outside, a beautiful girl in pink with her blue purse.
Giggling girls on a fountain in the square. I love the looks on their faces!
The beautifully simple Church of the Annunciation of St. Mary.
The interior of the church, built in 1661. It always amazes me how long some buildings were around before the United States was even a country!
The ice cream seemed to be popular that day.
I ended up taking a quiet stroll through the botanical gardens in the afternoon.
Some great statues in the gardens.
The botanical garden's playground wiener dog!
The stunning St. Wenceslas Cathedral, first consecrated in 1131! I really had to go the restroom at this point, and when I asked one of the workers where it was, he said, "I have to go too!" He took me through a "Staff Only" door and let me use the restroom right there. Afterwards he introduced me to his wife, who ended up giving me an impromptu tour behind the scenes of the Cathedral!
Awesome gargoyles on the exterior of the cathedral! Where do I get one of these for my house?
Interior of the cathedral.
A beautiful stained glass window with candles on the bottom left. I love this shot.
I next walked down to the Morava River. It doesn't look like marsh water at all!
The river was busy that afternoon, with dozens of people sculling about.
Walking back to the hostel, I saw this man cleaning out the switches on the tram tracks.
In my room at the hostel. Jess did my laundry and hung everything up to dry. Clean clothes! Way to go Jess!
The next morning I talked to Walt. Walt is 72 years old and retired, having published the Corpus Christi Texas Visitor's Guide for 33 years. He said that he is in Europe for 3 months, finally getting around to taking the trips that his children took. He says that if older people have the energy, hostels are a very friendly and inexpensive way to go. He told me that he thinks that traveling with kids transforms them. "It makes them be considerate in the world." He delivered a boat to Corpus Christi in 1966, settled down there, and never regretted it. When he was 16 years old Walt came to the United States for the first time from Brazil, where his father and grandfather were missionaries. He collects stamps from Brazil and the United States, but said that it is a dying art with the increased use of technology for communications today. He told me that the Ford museum in Dearborn Michigan is one of his very favorite museums, because they have the original Wright Brothers' bicycle shop and Thomas Edison's laboratory, transported there brick by brick! Good luck Walt, and have fun on your trip!
I also talked to Tim, who attends Valdosta State University in Georgia. He followed his girlfriend to Olomouc, who is in a 3 week exchange student program here. He will be entering his 3rd year of college, and plans to study engineering. He lives in Dunwoody, GA, and said he will probably transfer to Georgia Tech next year. Tim likes to build balsa wood model planes and add servos and motors to them so he can fly them by remote control. Interesting!
Then it was up and out to the Modern Art museum that morning. I passed this ultra cool convertible Smart car! I think my Mini may be too big!
The Modern Art Museum. Cafe 87 is right on the corner!
The view over Olomouc from the rooftop viewpoint of the museum.
I liked this sculpture, called "A Child Watching an Ordinary Day" by Anton Hanak.
The museum had 2 special collections on display. The first was by Czech artist Eduard Ovcacek. Ovcacek is a practitioner of "Letterism," which stresses communication via the letter and the picture, creating a synthesis of speech, poetry, and music to recover the relation between poetry and painting. He brings out the picture letter relation one encounters every day without noticing. I found this explanation of particular interest to me, because while traveling in a foreign culture with another language, I often rely on a combination of pictures and a few letters to try and identify something. Here are some shots of his work.
The other special exhibit was by Karel Teige. Teige's exhibit was called "Asymmetrical Harmony," and I found it fascinating. The artist used painted lines on the wall to show how various exhibits are interconnected, often featuring books mounted right on the wall. This was an alphabet book on the wall, with a video playing below of the artist turning all the pages of the book, one by one.
There was also an entire room filled with other interconnected books and pamphlets. I think they may have been informational documents published by the former Communist regime.
Leaving the museum I was walking down the stairs and tripped and fell down a flight of stairs, smacking my head on the hard stone floor! Ouch! I was bleeding until a German tourist helped me clean it up. I sat down for a few minutes to make sure I did not have a concussion. When I got back to the hostel, Jess thought I had been in a fight!
Across the street from the museum was a man selling magazines.
Another of the town fountains, this one featuring what appear to be a pair of chained baby dragons.
I walked from there all the way to the Archdiocese Museum across town. My head must have begun to bleed again during the walk, because when I walked in the door the wonderful lady behind the desk immediately jumped up and got out the First Aid kit! She sprayed me with some super-strong Czech antiseptic (YEEEEOWW!) and bandaged my head for me! This is my angel of mercy at the Archdiocese Museum, Jindriska Bernatikova! Thank you! You were wonderful!
The wooden floors of the Archdiocese Museum had beautiful wooden floors, and it required its guests to wear one-size-fits-all slippers over their shoes to protect them. "One size," however, did not exactly fit my "all."
A beautiful golden carriage at the museum.
The priceless Monstrance of the Gold Sun of Moravia, encrusted with 1,400 diamonds and emeralds, the most valuable piece in the museum's incredible collection.
The Sternberk Madonna, dated 1390. The red robe, an unusual feature, symbolizes Christ's future suffering. The white veil identifies her with the church, and Jesus holding the apple symbolizes both original sin and that the Virgin is a second Eve, whose son will redeem mankind. It was featured in an exhibition of medieval gothic art at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of the International Gothic style from the Czech lands.
The Archdiocese Museum also featured a number of illuminated manuscripts from the 11th to the 16th century. One of the hand-drawn pictures showed the procession on Palm Sunday in front of St. Wenceslas Cathedral in Olomouc from the 1500's. I was particularly struck by a painting of a procession in the Olomouc town square in the 1700's showing the Town Hall, Astronomical Clock, and Holy Trinity Column. They appear nearly exactly the same today! It made me think of all of the people who have been to the square to see them over hundreds of years, doing exactly what I was doing. It really helped put the town history in perspective.
On the way back I took a walk through the beautiful Czech Gardens. These great swings are all over European playgrounds.
Back at the hostel, I finally got a chance to sit down and talk to Jess, who is from Perth, Australia, on the isolated west coast. She has been gone from home for 2 years. She came to the Poet's Corner as a traveler, and ended up getting a job there and stayed for 9 months. She then left to work at another hostel in a village of 600 people on Loch Ness in Scotland. She had been back at the Poet's Corner for 2 weeks. Jess loves to crochet, and is making hacky sacks to sell for extra money this summer. she says that the money is really in the slippers and the beanies, though. She said that her job is more for the love than for the money, and she really enjoys it. In September she is headed back to Scotland, maybe Edinboro or the Scottish highlands. Her mother and father are coming in September to see her for the first time in 2 years, and plan to stay at the hostel. She enjoys taking long walks and riding her bike to the lake for a swim in the warm weather. Good luck Jess! It was terrific getting to know you!
Later that evening a group of us ended up at the Tibet Jazz Club, one of Olomouc's best music venues.
There was no live music that night, but Ella Fitzgerald music was playing in the background and the atmosphere was warm and laid back. Other patrons were having fun making paper airplanes and flying them off the balcony into the crowd below, so we decided to give it a go. I made my favorite round paper airplane, and everyone seemed to like the way it glided towards the stage. We ended up making other paper specialties, pictured in my photo. Ariella, in the group, said that it was now officially Origami Night at the Jazz Club!
Ariella and Walt enjoying Ella Fitzgerald.
The next morning I got up early to catch the train to Moravsy Krumlov, a tiny village housing internationally famous painter Alphonse Mucha's masterwork, The Slavic Epic. As I was walking out the door, I took a shot of the Poetry Corner Breakfast Club! Hi guys!
I changed trains in Brno, but sadly, missed Motorhead. I did see this great model train layout, though. Put in 5 Crowns and watch the trains run!
The lady in the train station in Moravsky Krumlov helped me with the times for the return trip. Notice the old school dot matrix printer with the feed hole paper! Kick ass!
The train station in Moravsky Krumlov.
The town was about 3 kilometers from the station, so I decided to walk. I first saw this neat train crossing sign.
Many of the town's homes had picture-perfect gardens in the back.
Strolling through farm fields on the way to town.
Moravsky Krumlov is a very small town, and there were practically no signs at all to the Mucha exhibit. As I walked through town I had to stop and ask several people for directions. This nice couple running a building supply store pointed me in the right direction. The town is not used to many visitors, and everyone I met went out of their way to help. Sometimes you don't even need to speak the same language to make new friends.
A typical house on the way to town.
The people of Moravsky Krumlov really seem to take pride in their yards.
The Rat Pack - still cool even in the Czech Republic!
Finally - the Mucha exhibition!
Alphonse Mucha was a world-renowned Czech painter, most famous for his theater posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt. Mucha's lifelong dream, however, was to paint the Slavic Epic, a series of 20 giant paintings depicting the trials and triumphs of the Slavic people throughout history. After many years, he finally obtained funding and finished the series shortly before his death in 1939. Mucha was born in a small town near Moravsky Krumlov, but the paintings are housed in a building here because it is the only one with enough space to display the canvases properly. A permanent exhibit hall in Prague has been in the works for many years, but it has been slow to come. As you can see, the scale is massive, and the stories the paintings tell are quite moving. It was definitely worth a day trip.
Here is a link to the Mucha Museum in Prague for more information on the great artist's work. http://www.mucha.cz/index.phtml?S=home&Lang=EN
The dispatcher back at the train station watches a freight train rumble past.
A man in Brno.
An interesting figure outside the Olomouc train station.
The night before, Ariella had told me that Marketa Irglova, a Czech musician featured in the movie Once, was in town and she was going to try and get tickets to see her perform at the Jazz Club. Ariella graciously let me tag along, and her ingenious plan to get tickets at the last minute to the otherwise sold-out show worked beautifully! We ended up sitting on pillows on the floor directly in front of the stage! It was an amazing show!
After the show we stayed around and got to meet Marketa, who was wonderful and very personable. She is Czech, and won an Academy Award in 2006 for best original song for the movie 'Once,' with Glen Hansard. I never thought I would meet an Academy Award winner in Olomouc!
Here is a link to Marketa's IMDB page. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2461627/
I could have easily spent the rest of my trip in Olomouc with the friends I made in the hostel, and I was afraid that if I stayed one more night I might never leave. So the next day I made myself get up and go to the station to catch a train to Poland. Walking to the tram, I stopped one last time for a good bye taste of Olomouc. I bought and enjoyed a wonderful trdelniky for breakfast while waiting at the tram stop. Goodbye Olomouc! May we meet again very soon!
Next: Krakow, Poland!