Travellers’ Czechs

OK … the title is groaner, but what the hell, right?

On this fine day, dear travellers and readers of blogs, I would like to draw your attention to my cosy home-away-from-home in Olomouc, Czech Republic … the “Poet’s Corner Hostel”. Yes folks, for a few days out of the year, I actually leave behind 3 to 5 star hotels (and even one 6 star palace in Jordan on the Dead Sea) provided me by my work with a Canadian travel agency and get back to my hostelling roots that were so deeply and widely spread during my years of making beds and scrubbing loos throughout some of Scotland’s top hostels back in the day. And thanks to the warm hearts and friendship of the owners of said hostel, I get to plunge back into the depths once more … figurative and literally.

Greg and Francie (said owners of said hostel) left the outback of Australia ice ages ago and, through careful planning, pure chance and possibly even continental drift, ended up in the Moravian city of Olomouc to deal with wayward punters that actually realise the country has more going for it than the tourist toilet, expat-ridden hell that is Prague (don’t gasp, as I really do love Prague … when no one is about). A place of stunning beauty, filled to the brim with history, architecture galore, nipple perking wine and food and more mullet haircuts than you would wish to view in a lifetime, Olomouc holds my heart in a way that forces me to return over and over again like a tornado to a trailer park.

And just what draws me to this place like carrion draws a vulture? Well, you could say that it is the oh-so-yummy, gut clogging fried cheese or maybe even the succulent Slavic female student eye candy gracing this university town that keep me on a short lead (don’t tell my wife I said that), or maybe it is the two picturesque town squares, the Holy Trinity Column or St Wenceslas Cathedral. All of this would only be a small fraction of my reasons for loving Olomouc so whole-heartedly. There is “just something about it” that I “can’t put my finger on”.

I first came here with a Czech friend back in ’98 whilst working as a teacher in a south-eastern Czech town called Uherské Hradiště (try saying that three times fast). After moving to Poland a few years later, I would jump at any chance to hop across the border with any acquaintance new to the region just to breathe in the spirit of the place and impress them with the city. These days I drag the family down with me whenever we get too tired of our small town rural life. New Year’s Eve and the Olomouc City Festival seem to coincide with that desire more often than not, but that is no bad thing, let me tell you.
What I may actually love the most about it is that despite being the second largest collection of historical monuments, buildings and such in Czech Republic (only Prague contains more), very few foreigners come here! There are no airports for low-cost flights to bring obnoxious stag-partying numb-nuts from abroad for cheaper beer. The train from Prague to Kraków takes around 7 hours, so most rail-goers usually stay in their seats instead of breaking it up to see something more that the bucket-list cities of Central Europe (don’t you dare call this area Eastern Europe … it won’t make the locals happy).

This is all, unfortunately, a balancing act for business. Hostel owners are in this particular tightrope walk of wanting more people to stay to experience a rare gem of a city and learn more about the Czechs, but, when it comes down to it, the need of clients to pay the rent for such a collection of cosy dorms and private rooms is just plain obvious. And therein lies the dilemma: “yes, we need more people to keep our business afloat, but more people will screw up the ambiance!” Does the world need another tourist infested Prague? I think one place of that standing per country is enough, don’t you? But how do you put a relatively undiscovered Shangri-La like Olomouc on the map without ruining it with gangs of piss-heads on the prowl or obnoxious day-trippers swarming in by the bus-loads only to take a quick photo to prove they were there? Maybe, and this is just my opinion, a passport check at the city limits would work (though this would involve all passports requiring a new field stating if the holder of the document is a total idiot or not … which should actually be standard, if you ask me). Other than that, I guess you just have to hope for the best, eh?

I guess what I am trying to say is: if you want to get away from the mainstream, then be a bit adventurous and hop off the Prague – Kraków train at Olomouc. And don’t just stop for a single evening to put another notch on your bedpost of European one-night-stands, either! Spend some quality time with this lady; she needs a bit of sensual courting instead of the usual skip in foreplay, quick grope and ungrateful pull-out before sunrise. Whilst you are there gawking wide-eyed at her elegance and shuddering to the sultry sounds of the Czech tongue (which is hard to hear in central Prague any more), have some of the thickest, richest chocolate pie in the world at Café 87 (I prefer the white chocolate myself, much to the chagrin of a certain Olomouc resident), drink a pint of local brew at the Moritz pub, stuff your face with smažák (fried cheese), hranolky a tatarka (chips and tartar sauce) at Hanácká Hospoda and fill a 2 litre plastic bottle with Frankovka red wine for under 2 Euro at many of the wine cellars … and after you are done with that, kick back and enjoy the hospitality and stories of my two friends, the Kofola Cola pounding Greg and the Tina Turner impersonating Francie, at Poet’s Corner Hostel ( They will provide you with a lot more info and many more things to do besides my gluttonous suggestions, I promise! But you will also see that they have been seduced by this Czech beauty as well.

Oh yeah, all this on the condition that you are not a complete numpty, though.

Monk-ey Business

Monk-ey Business

Whilst digging around through some old computer files the other day, I came across an article I wrote during my days as […]