Olomouc

I lack a creative title to this post but I imagine your inability to pronounce it is amusement enough.

I took another overnight train from to Krakow over to this smaller city in the Monrovian side of the Czech Republic.  I know that I had said before that I needed an off day, but now I was really feeling that I wanted more than that.  My arrival time was a pleasant 5am, and even after making the nice long walk to my hostel I had to wait a couple hours to be let in.  Fun fun.  There some oddities around town at least.

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Everything that this city offered could have probably been done in a day, but I decided to spread it across three.  Once I was let inside, I enjoyed talking with some of the people staying there.  Thanks to a large conference attended by many different NGOs, there were some more ‘exotic’ nationalities represented.  I talked with my first Burmese and Maltese folks.

I took to the town, needing to see the churches and a museum.  The St. Wenceslas Cathedral had the largest spires around, but the interior decoration was pretty lame.  It looked as if they used 50 year old floral wall paper throughout.

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Next door to the cathedral was a museum dedicated to the diocese.  It was in a refurbished castle and included all sorts of artifacts.  The layout of the place was awful, and it took a small army of old ladies to point patrons along the correct path.  There were a couple of pretty cool things to see, like this pimp mobile.

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By now things were getting dark, so I walked back and started to enjoy the social life at the hostel.  I stopped by the supermarket to get some cheese, bread, and a rare portion of meat.  Tonight’s combination was not so delicious, I wonder if I was meant to cook that bacon…

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The darkness had set in and I was well on my way to a cozy introverted evening, complete with my bottomless cup of tea.  Then Malta invites me to grab a drink with some others, which I couldn’t refuse.  The bar we went to had a few beers on display, but the bottle of Great Lakes Brewing Co’s. Oktoberfest had me feeling right at home.  Wasn’t for sale though, so I settled for something local.   Conversation there lasted a couple hours and was a whole lot of fun.  We decided to head back around midnight to hang out just a bit more at the hostel before bed.

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Then things got interesting.  We were chatting on the balcony, when a man dressed in nothing more than a fanny pack comes out and joins us.  Then what started as an honest conversation withered into us laughing shamefully at his insight on why the African immigrants were having trouble making it to Europe by boat.  He cited sharks, difficulties with swimming, and a poor boat building heritage.  Something about the way he was talking made it one of the funniest conversations of this trip.  Though, the subject suggest I may be better off leaving the NGO work to the others. The way that the night developed is the reason for why staying in hostels is the best.

That next morning I eased into the day and considered doing a day trip.  In the midst of my travel detox I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I did rent a bicycle, but the force of my Hitmonlee legs broke a pedal right off and greatly stunted the length of my outing.  I did manage to see the towns famous pillar, listed UNESCO for it being the largest such monument in Europe.

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Back at the hostel I made plans with some others to go in on a pasta feast.  It is always economical and also a lot of fun to cook and eat with others.

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After dinner a number of us decided to make the most of our Friday and see what the night life would be like.  We were told that some bar was having an 11th anniversary party and that lots of people would be there.  Lots of people were there, but none of them were mingling.  We hung around for a while before going back out into the downpour to see what else may be hiding in this town.  I was barefoot, so as not to soak my porous footwear.  We wound up at a club that was playing danceable music, but lacked a clientele to take advantage of it.  We went back home after a while, but it had been a good time overall.

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That next day was set to be another with a gentle itinerary, but we did all walk around for a little bit.  We went to the astronomical clock that we had heard so much about.  It does something special every day at noon, and we were excited.  What transpired was about 5 minutes of randomly plinking chime ‘performance’, followed by the most pathetic ‘rooster’ I have ever heard.  I turned around to see a large group gathered behind me; I assume that this is just a town joke that the locals enjoy at the tourists expense.  Enjoy, all of it.

The other pasta people and I decided to cook again, this time a local dish from a cookbook we found.  This was going to be potatoes pancakes with a tomato sauce to put on top.  My contribution was wash the dishes, since I had no idea what else to do.  These turned out fantastic.

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The main event that for my time in Olomouc was a hockey match between the home team and another with a certain amount ot notoriety.  I was really just excited to take in some local sport, but I didn’t expect that I would be best match of my life.

Straight away both teams were chanting at each other, shouting things I can only wish to have understood.  Things reached a fever pitch as the teams took the ice and soon it was underway.  The chanting continued and it wasn’t long before we scored the first goal.  Things got crazy with everyone standing and spinning their scarves.

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Things continued like this for a while, and by the start of the third we were up 5-0.  The other fans weren’t too happy about this, so they started lighting flares and burning scarves belonging to the opposing team.  These pink flares were chucked onto the ice and the flames started to rage up in the stands.  The opposing team’s excitement was stoked too and the jeers kept coming.  I’ve seen octopuses thrown before, but this was new.

The game was of course suspended, and once it became clear that they weren’t going to stop, the players had to leave the ice.  It took twenty minutes for the smoke to abate enough to get the teams back out, but in that time the entirety of the opposing fans were evicted from the building.  When things finally did resume, there was a fan base as lopsided as the score.

The rest of the game saw another two goals for the home team and a great fight between a couple players.  By the time I left, I knew that I had most probably just witnessed the most unique hockey match of my life.  Chalk this up as another of those unique travel stories.

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After the match a few of us checked out a microbrew for a drink and some dinner.  I went with a high gravity option that tasted pretty good, and also got some borscht.  I paid a bit extra for an enormous basket of bread to stuff me and maximize the mileage of my ‘starter’ dish.  The beet based soup is a favorite of the Eastern European Jewish communities, so I figured it was the right choice.

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That night I did almost nothing more than pass out, and the next morning I was off.  This was a great stop and not exactly on many tourist’s radars.  The people staying in places like this are a bit more genuine and not likely to be arriving for no other reason than to party.  I definitely got a great Czech experience here, and I still had a few days left to round it out.

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