… Olomouc, Czech Republic

It has been almost a year since I published my first post and yet, I have not described a single moment from the Czech Republic, my home country. Thankfully, I got a wonderful opportunity to put it right today. Moreover, the rectification comes at the time when Lonely Planet put Olomouc on the list of Europe’s hidden gems, so please take my humble contribution as proof that they were absolutely right.

Olomouc on Top of Things

The title above is also a name of the annual event that provided me with the opportunity for this unusual experience. In Czech, it was called Olomouc s nadhledem and my English translation is only one possibility. Another one could be Olomouc Rose Above It. Whichever you like better, I consider the Czech version very playful. It advises not to be too serious about it (though a visit of four buildings can earn you a prize, have fun in the first place) and also gives the promise of heights.

It was not the first year of this event and I believe that it is possible to visit different buildings each year. Visiting buildings, namely high buildings, and enjoying the views was what the whole day was about. This year, towers of the following six buildings were open to the public for a single day:

  • Hotelový dům (a hotel)
  • Hotel Flora
  • BEA centrum
  • Church of St. Cyril and Methodius
  • NH Hotels
  • Silo Tower

I made it to four of them, however, before I could start I had to go to the city square (Horní náměstí or Upper Square in English) located downtown. There, I got a visitor’s card, where I would be collecting stamps as an evidence of my visits the whole day, and little refreshment. To be honest, it was a slightly discouraging moment right at the beginning of my Olomouc adventure. An unbelievably long queue of people who came for the same reason tested my patience and determination for the trip. However, the waiting did not take as long as I had expected and mere 15 minutes later, I was planning my route. 

Queue in Horni namesti (Upper Square)

I climbed up the chosen buildings in this order.

1. BEA centrum

BEA centrum is attached to the buildings of private college and is easily accessible from the train station by foot. The whole complex was finished in 2013 and since it has been the city’s highest building. Its designers claim it to be also the smartest building as anything in the building – from windows, to lifts and air conditioning – is controlled by a single computer program. It is fair to note that its creation also brought some controversies regarding its purpose, fit in a panorama of the historical city and its location in the proximity of the country’s second oldest university.

Anyway, the building got a chance to show off today. To get to the most upper floor, I could choose among six high-tech lifts. No matter which one I took I would not be able to control it without an assistance. Another surprise on the way up was the short time to reach the height of 74 meters above the ground. What I liked very much about the first stop of the day was the 360° view. Thanks to it, I could observe the city landscape in literally all cardinal points and any angle.

BEA centrum

Given the number of possibilities, it is quite ridiculous that the first view I got was the sight of my university’s Faculty of Science. The faculty building is the wide dark grey-green building while the light green and light yellow buildings in the front are dorms.

Faculty of Science (UPOL)

Once I recovered from the shock, I admired the towers of many Olomouc churches and got to see a part of the train station.

BEA centrum

A Goodbye view gave me one more surprise: the monstrous tram looked like a toy.

Tram from the top of BEA centrum

2. Hotel Flora

The hotel’s tower could offer only ten levels but on the other hand, an outdoor terrace in this height was rewarding. The terrace was definitely not meant to accommodate a crowd of people. As a result, the fight for a nice view and few satisfactory pictures looked like salmon spawning. Though my biggest victory was that I did not get trampled I still took some picture that are good enough to be thrown in deep waters of the Internet.

Hotel Flora

As the hotel is located very close to a city park (also by the name of Flora) I got quite a portion of greenery to see. A very neat exception to this was the view of roofs of houses located downtown, dominated by a triplet of cupola-like towers.

Hotel Flora View

I also learned that ten levels are more than enough to assault people’s privacy. I checked couple of swimming pools and patios but my most favorite picture invading someone’s privacy was this one:

View from Hotel Flora

3. Church of Cyril and Methodius in Olomouc-Neředín

My third stop had been planned to be very different from a centuries old church. The reason for a plan adjustment was a large number of people grilling on the noon sun while queuing for a single lift which would get them to the top of a building of the modern times. That is how I got to the church located in the suburb of Olomouc called Hejčín. I was afraid it would be a too long walk, however the biggest issue was not the distance to my new destination but my terrible sense of reading maps and inability to persuade my GPS device to be a bit more cooperative. For final meters of my walk, it was good that the church’s tower so high and soaring above all other building in the neighborhood 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Neither the visit of the church was for free. It cost me an hour of waiting – thankfully in the shade – to get closer to the entrance and underneath the huge statues of the patrons of the church.

St. Cyril and Methodius Church

The long waiting – to me more exhausting than an hour of walking – was followed by tens of steps to climb, dizziness and ounces of released adrenaline and probably several more hormones. The way up started with “regular” solid staircase. After moving up for few minutes, I could get a break in a not too big and dark room-like space. My companions – except for other visitors – were two enormous statues of the patrons of the church, looking like copies of the statues I saw above the entrance.

St. Cyril & Methodius

However, I doubt this dark place was meant as a landing. I am strongly convinced it was there as a last chance to change your mind, turn around and descend back to the ground. I resisted this temptation to escape and took this shabby staircase.

Church in Hejcin - stairs

To be honest, I did not feel terribly comfortable for most of the time. I think it was due to a combination of sharply turning stairs, gaps between them, handrail promising only a little support and receding solid ground. As the staircase was super narrow and not a four-lane highway, the only option was to keep going. And that is how I happened to be standing on the roof finally. Surprisingly, no relief came up there. It was much more windy there and the railing, which reached as high as my waist, did not provide me much trust.

Church railing

Though the view from there was absolutely the best (into a great distance and moreover, any haze was gone by that time) it was hard to truly appreciate it while actually standing there. I guess I do not have to explain what a relief it was to realize I did not have to take this ladder.

Ladder in the tower of the church

Doing only tiny steps, I made a fast tour all around the tower while staying as close to the walls – the only truly solid point up there – as possible and rushed downstairs. For this reason, I can offer only very few pictures that are not unbearably blurry.

Globus - view from the church

Globus – a supermarket and probably one of the very first stores of its kind in the region.

Silo Tower - View from the church

Silo Tower – the building I planned to be my third stop.

Svaty Kopecek

The basilica at Svatý Kopeček, one of the most known places in Olomouc and it neighborhood. Let it also be a demonstration of perfect visibility as the basilica is good ten kilometers “as the crow flies” from Hejčín.

4. NH Hotels

It was quite a walk to reach my fourth destination and I was not too excited about the idea for visiting another hotel I would never be able to afford. The fact that the building was awarded the Building of 2010 Czech award was motivating me though.

NH Hotels

I do not remember exactly, however I have a very strong feeling that the hotel terrace was its seventh or eighth story. After handling the trip to the roof of the church, it almost felt boring to take a lift and walk up those five steps. Neither the view was extremely exciting, however, I could give a truly in-depth survey to parts of the city I have never visited, the prominent landmark being the soccer stadium of Sigma club and the dome’s towers overseeing it.

Sigma Soccer Stadium

I decided that four building were just enough to see in a day. On the way back I gave a last look to the hotel and I was really astonished how differently the building looked from the other side.

NH Hotels - Backside

As I mentioned earlier I decided not to visit the Silo Tower. Since the building has a very interesting historical background and I was able to take couple of pictures, I think it deserves few lines as well.

Silo Tower

Its fifteen levels are based on the original grain silo (grain elevator) built in 1936. It origin is pretty clear from the building’s name as well as its unusually narrow foundations. Today its four upper-most floors are the only ones used and they serve as administrative area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Silo Tower Detailed

As my post slowly comes to the end, I should mention what I might have won: a hot-air balloon trip, raft trip and historical tour of Olomouc at the same time, and a supper in a local brewery. I admit that the prizes were a good additional reason to go on the trip – especially for the waiting parts of it – however, the trip to discover unknown parts of the city and the extraordinary views were rewarding themselves. To me it was a great way to relax from all the studying and also a chance to explore the city where I have been studying for four years.

Based on the number of visitors, it is absolutely justifiable to expect another year in 2015. I am determined to participate again, however I would consider making it a bike tour rather than lots of walking. Furthermore, I would selfishly hope for more people staying at home, and thus reducing the waiting times for me. However, if you liked my post, attend in 2015 and join me waiting in long queues. It might be well worth it!

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