How did we end up in Ostrava and Olomouc? One of the highlights of living in Bratislava – the capital of Slovakia – was how easy it was to travel. There were only a couple of kilometers to the Austrian border. Hungary was not much further away. Even the Czech border was within easy reach. The trains had end destinations such as Berlin, Belgrade, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Warsaw, nothing felt far away.
There were so many destinations that we wanted to explore and our year and a half living in Slovakia was far from enough. Two of the destinations that we did take the possibility to explore were Ostrava and Olomouc in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. We went on short visit to these two cities for a weekend in February of 2014.
Taking The Train To Ostrava
We set off on an early Friday morning from Hlavná Stanica (the main train station) in Bratislava. There we boarded the train to Ostrava. I cannot remember if we needed to change trains in Břeclav or Brno, but most of the options take less than three hours from Bratislava to Ostrava.
There are many things to do on a longer train ride. I remember that my usual breakfast on these trains consisted of a Coca Cola and a couple of the Slovak sweet named Kávenky. Susann was usually a bit more healthy and went for the option of a cappuccino together with a 7days croissant. After this small snack I usually slept and Susann kept reading her books.
We arrived at Ostrava Hlavní Nádraží (the main train station), which looked surprisingly modern compared to other stations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, before noon.
One Day and Night in Ostrava
Ostrava has the feel of a large industrial city, after all it was one of the most important industrial centers in Czechoslovakia. However, it has quite a charming historical center. We spent our first day in the city walking around in Historické Jádro, enjoing the Masarykovo Náměstí (the main square), continuing our walk to Slezkoostravský Hrad (the castle) and admiring the view from the tower of the Nová Radnice (the city hall). There was a lot of walking, but it was easy to get around on foot in the city. Ostrava sure had a lot of sights to offer.
Slezskoostravský Hrad, or Silesian Ostrava Castle as it is called in English, was smaller than we had expected it to be, but it bears a lot of history. Originally built at the end of the 13th century it has of course been rebuilt and renovated multiple times. The last renovation was done recently, this after the tunnels under the castle that belonged to a coal mine collapsed. This caused the castle to sink 16 meters into the ground.
Nová Radnice, or the city hall, is another interesting sight. It has the tallest tower of all the city halls in the Czech Republic and the view from the viewing platform 73 meters up was amazing. This was probably the best way to get a feeling of the layout of the city.
We also made sure that Susann had some time to get a little spoiled. Back at the hotel we booked a spa treatment for her the next morning. It was time for her to enjoy some hot stone massage.
After breakfast and the massage we continued with a shorter walk. This time it was along the river Ostravice as well as through the park Komenského Sady.
Onwards Toward Olomouc
After the walk it was time to continue to the train station. Our short Czech adventure still had new places to offer.
The distance between the Ostrava and Olomouc is not that great and it only takes around an hour by train to travel from one of them to the other. So on Saturday morning, we took the train to Olomouc. It is hard to distinguish one train ride from another now in hindsight. We did travel a lot by train while living in Bratislava and a trip of around an hour is not something that makes an impact on your memory. Arriving at Olomouc Hlavní Nádraží is something that I do remember, it felt like arriving in a new country compared to the industrialized feeling of Ostrava. The station itself did look like most stations in the area, all of which were built during the communist era. But there was something in the surroundings that made a difference to our first impression of Olomouc.
One Day and Night in Olomouc
Olomouc felt a lot older than Ostrava. We mostly just walked around, enjoying the atmosphere with all the old buildings and colorful facades. It did feel like no-one had altered its appearance for several centuries.
The first sight we saw was the Katedrála svatého Václava or Saint Wenceslas Cathedral. This cathedral really is huge. Getting too close and it really was impossible to fit the whole building into one photo.
There were also the Kostel svatého Mořice (Church of Saint Maurice), the Olomoucká radnice (town hall) and a lot more. The town was filled with old small squares, fascinating restaurants as well as the cozy pivovars – the places where the locals meet for a beer or two.
On our way to our hotel we also passed the cozy park Smetanovy sady.
In the evening I turned on the TV in our hotel room to watch the hockey game between Slovakia and Slovenia. Sochi was hosting the Olympic Games at the time and the group stage of the hockey tournament was going on. Slovenia did actually beat Slovakia and I still remember how much it was written about the game. It was an important win for Slovenia. There had previously been a lot of talk about how easy it was to mix up the two countries of Slovakia and Slovenia. In ice hockey that meant that Slovenia was often forgotten.
One thing I will never forget about Olomouc are all the stumbling stones laid outside of the entrances to the buildings. Each stone representing one person that was taken from the house by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camps, from where they did not return. Read more about the stones and the Jewish community here.
Heading Back Home to Bratislava
We walked around a little more on our last day before heading back to the train station. The fact that it was a Sunday meant that it was back to work the next day and we had to get going. Once more it was around three hours on the train, this time with a short stop in Břeclav.
One thing is for sure, it was a really memorable weekend in the Czech Republic.