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Religious monuments, places of pilgrimage and other interesting religious destinations attract more and more tourists. That is precisely why we would like to invite you to the Olomouc region. The city of Olomouc itself has one of the 12 monuments that the Czech Republic is especially proud of: the sights included in UNESCO's world heritage list. However, there are many more reasons to visit the region.
Olomouc Holy Trinity Column
The Holy Trinity Column, situated in the Upper Square ("Horní náměstí") in Olomouc, was registered in UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list in 2000. Its height of 35 metres makes it the tallest sculptural group to be found in the Czech Republic. Together with the Marian Column, located in the Lower Square ("Dolní náměstí"), and a group of six baroque fountains, it has been a national cultural monument since 1995. It was built between 1716 and 1754 and has become a monument that local inhabitants have been immensely proud of since its erection. The fact that it was built in Olomouc speaks in favour of the historical importance of the city, once the capital of the Moravia region and a seat of bishops since 1063. The idea of building a column was conceived by a stonemason and a privileged architect called Václav Render who managed to push his project through the city council, developed it and contributed to its funding. Originally it was supposed to be a plague column but the project was changed in the course of time and the monument was eventually dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Gold-plated copper sculptures representing the Holy Trinity dominate the three-storey monument which also features an additional 18 statues of Saints and 14 reliefs as well as a small chapel enclosed by them. It is only when you stand in front of the monument that you feel its genuine atmosphere and you can appreciate its architectural and artistic value and pay tribute to its creators.
Olomouc Astronomical Clock
Another rarity to be found in Olomouc is located just a few steps from the UNESCO monument: an astronomical clock. It was probably built at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries and has undergone several renovations that have gradually changed its appearance. It was heavily damaged at the end of the 2nd World War, in May 1945, and a national artist named Karel Svolinský, a native of nearby Svatý Kopeček ("St. Hill"), was asked by the city to repair it. It was he who re-built it in 1955 in the shape as we know it today: the mosaic of the astronomical clock in the spirit of socialist realism embodies the life and work of the region's people. It is a truly unique monument that is probably unparalleled throughout the world.
Olomouc has many more sights to offer!
The Olomouc panorama is inseparable from the towers of St. Wenceslas' Church. It got its neogothic appearance as we know it today, with the tallest tower to be found in Moravia - and the second tallest in the whole of the Czech Republic - at the end of the 19th century. You should definitely take a stroll there when visiting the city. And don't forget to visit the Romanesque palace of Moravian bishops at the Premyslid castle, which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the "Premyslid Palace". It is the most outstanding architectural monument of Central European importance to be found in Olomouc that was built in the first half of the 12th century and features unique Romanesque arched windows decorated with relief ornaments that are unparalleled in the Czech Republic.
Aviation Museum features many interesting attractions!
You might think that the Moravian city of Olomouc is too far to travel to when visiting the Czech Republic. However, it is not that difficult: the cities of Prague and Olomouc are connected with a motorway but you can also take a plane and land at one of five Czech international airports. When getting from plane in Olomouc, do visit its Aviation Museum, which features different technology, including military jet planes, many exhibits from the history of air transport, a large collection of flight simulators and aircraft engines.
Situated just eight kilometres from the city centre is the most popular tourist destination and a place of pilgrimage in the region, Svatý Kopeček ("Saint Hill"). This part of the foothills of a mountain range called Nízký Jeseník is dominated by a baroque Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, rising majestically above Olomouc and offering a beautiful view of the region. Since 1956 the surrounding forests have encompassed a zoological garden, spreading over an area of 40 hectares. When visiting the zoo, you can enjoy a sightseeing tour on board a mini-train or a view from an observation tower. It offers nice relaxation and new knowledge at the same time. You will find more than 350 animal species and many of them are very rare. The whole region enjoys a network of hiking paths and cycle routes. If you have had enough of strolls in the countryside, why not go back to the city and take a cruise along the river Moravia! You can choose one of the one to three-hour cruises on comfortable eight-seat inflatable boats. Don't worry: each boat has its own skilled instructor on board! Night cruises on boats decorated with Chinese lanterns along illuminated sights are especially romantic, and more experienced canoeists can take a longer trip on a raft or a canoe to a nearby picturesque natural reserve called "Litovelské Pomoraví".
The metropolis of the Haná region is inseparable from the traditional international gardening exhibition called "Flora Olomouc". Whether you visit its spring or summer stage, you will definitely be fascinated by a wide range of flower species coming in countless colours. Various flower arrangements displayed in many corners of the city will call your attention to the exhibition that just takes place in Olomouc. The Olomouc Exhibition Grounds hosts 15 exhibitions and fairs every year and its staff take care of 47 hectares of parks including greenhouses, a rosarium and a botanical garden. Another opportunity to relax is provided by Olomouc's renowned restaurants. If you visit one of the places labelled with the "CzechSpecials" mark, you can be sure it offers national and local specialities. Try "hrstková polévka" (Haná mixed soup), "syrečky" (local ripened round cheese with bacon) or Haná traditional pear scones. After a good hearty meal you can take a trip on to a different part of the Olomouc region.
The symbols of the Olomouc region include traditional ceramics, the dialect of Haná, Haná dances, songs, music, ornamental costumes and many folk ensembles, folk festivals and shows. And of course several castles including probably the most beautiful among them, Bouzov. If you prefer chateaux to castles, there are also plenty to choose from: Náměšť na Hané, Plumlov, Tovačov or Velké Losiny, which is one of the oldest functional hand paper mills to be found in Europe. The region also features a technical rarity: the Dlouhé Stráně pumped-storage hydro power station. Last but not least: we should definitely not forget to mention hot and cold healing springs, baths and colonnade concerts you can visit in several spa towns renowned for their high-quality care.
One of the most admired technical and historical monuments in the Czech Republic, the Prague Orloj, or Prague Astronomical Clock, celebrates its 600th anniversary this year. The pride of the Old Town Hall was designed by Mikuláš of Kadaň at the request of the town councillors in 1410 and is unique around the world.
Thanks to the astronomical clock, it was possible from that time on in a multicultural city, which Prague undoubtedly was, to read the time using an alternate method. With the unveiling of the astronomical clock, Prague took its place among such Medieval metropolises as Padua, Bern and Strasbourg. The astronomical clock has been improved and repaired several times throughout its existence, as it has certainly been through its fair share of hardships. In the 18th century it was nearly lost forever to the scrap heap, while the most recent great misfortune came at the very end of the Second World War when the Old Town Hall was bombed out. It was, nevertheless, successfully repaired in the end. With about three quarters of the old original parts, it is still functional and is thus the most well preserved of its kind across the globe.
What exactly does the clock display?
The clock’s key component is its astrolabe, an astronomical instrument with the help of which astrologers and mariners since the Middle Ages have determined the positions of the stars, the Sun and the Moon. It also served for determining local time as well as for navigation. The astrolabe comprises a large brass ring consisting of two circular components joined in the middle by a peg. By setting the relative positions of these circular components, it is possible to depict the position of the stars in the sky. The Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer are represented on the astrolabe by circles, though the equator is not marked. The signs of the zodiac can be seen around the astrolabe’s perimeter.
On the outer ring of the clock, golden numerals indicate Old Czech Time (or Italian time), according to which the day began at sunset. Central European Time (or Old German Time) is indicated by the golden hand. Essentially, this is the time by which we order our day, though the clock did not sound the time until after the post-war reconstruction of 1948. A unique feature of the Old Town astronomical clock is that it shows Babylonian time, which was calculated from sunrise to sunset and thus the duration of hours changed with the seasons, i.e. longer in summer than in winter. The Prague Orloj is the only one in the world that measures this time.
The lower part of the clock features a calendar dial which shows the day and its place in the week as well as the month and year. Two hands of the clock deserve particular attention. One, with an icon of the Moon, shows the phase of the Moon (i.e. its waxing and waning). The second, with an icon of the Sun, is the most important part of the clock as the astrolabe is adjusted according to local solar time. The Sun is located on the same arm as the golden hand indicating the time.
Let’s not forget the Apostles
Another feature of the Prague Orloj is the procession of the Apostles. At the top of every hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Apostles appear in the clock’s upper windows with their special attributes in hand. The procession was fabricated by the sculptor and woodcarver Vojtěch Sucharda – twice! The first time in 1912, and again after the clock was damaged by fire at the end of the Second World War. A small figure of a rooster, symbolising life, is placed above these windows. Its crow always concludes the parade of the Apostles. Flanking the clock, you can see four animated figures. On the left side, Vanity is represented by the figure holding a mirror. The wooden statue nods its head while admiring himself in the mirror. The Miser holds in his hands a cane and a purse which he waves while shaking his head disapprovingly. Both figures were destroyed during WWII and were replaced with copies from the mid-20th century. The figure of Death, or the Skeleton, survived the Old Town Hall fire and has been part of the clock since the 15th century. The Skeleton turns an hourglass with which it counts down human life, thereby reminding us with its chime and concurrent oscillation of our inevitable fate. The figure of the Turk is depicted with a lute and symbolises profligacy and lust as human vices. The clock also bears statues of Michael the Archangel, a Philosopher, an Astronomer and a Chronicler.
The little brothers
Though the Prague Orloj is the most famous and oldest astronomical clock in the Czech Republic, lovers of complex clockworks can find items of interest elsewhere as well. The northern façade of the Olomouc Town Hall is graced by an astronomical clock dating back to the 15th century. During WWII, however, it was so heavily damaged that the Olomouc councillors decided to replace it with a new model in the spirit of the then popular aesthetic, i.e. in the style of socialist realism. A secessionist astronomical clock from the start of the 20th century also can be found on the town-hall tower in Litomyšl. The astronomical clock on the New Town Hall in Prostějov also originated in the same period. For something different, visit the Ostrava Municipal Museum, which houses an indoor astronomical clock. It was constructed by Jan Mašek, an officer of the Vítkovice steelworks, during the first third of the 20th century. You can admire yet another specimen of human creativity at the Jan Amos Comenius Museum in Uherský Brod, which houses the so-called Nivnice Orloj, constructed by local carpenter Josef Lukeš 90 years ago for the residents of Nivnice.