Olomouc at the top
Three years, three excellent awards by the world’s prestigious guidebook. Lonely Planet made a list of the most beautiful, yet lesser known tourist destinations. It wasn’t the hot springs of Iceland, Gibraltar Rocks, Odysseus' Ithaca or Luxemburg that ranked in first place but the historical center of Olomouc!
The mini guidebook, Secret Europe, presents tourists with fifty cities from different parts of Europe. The largest, world-renowned guidebook publisher attracts tourists to Olomouc by saying that “in terms of tourism Olomouc can be equated to an authentic restaurant which is your own, small, personal secret. The Main Square is amongst the most enchanting in the country. It is surrounded by historical buildings. It is adorned by the Holy Trinity Column listed as the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Magnificent churches, many of which host an exciting history, are scattered in the streets of the historical center. Explore the foundations of the ancient Olomouc castle in the Archdiocese Museum which is a must-see and then set out to one of the many pubs or mini-breweries”. In 2012, the publisher also awarded Olomouc by ranking it in the top ten most beautiful hidden treasures in Europe. One year later it was once again on the list of the recommended destinations in Moravia. “It’s beautiful as well as surprising for us. Lonely Planet is to tourist guidebooks what Michelin is to gastronomy. I perceive it as a win in the tourist Olympics,” responded Olomouc mayor, Martin Major, when he first heard of the award. “I am very pleased that the professional editor-in-chief of this publication truly appreciates the beauty of our city, its picturesque atmosphere and its uniqueness.
Apart from other things, Olomouc captivated them by the fact that it offers the same architectural treasures as Prague but without the crowds of tourists. It is definitely Olomouc’s advantage in comparison with our capital. However, despite repeated acclaim from the renowned guidebook, it may only be temporary”, mentioned the mayor, Major, with a smile. The deputy mayor, Jan Holpuch added, “I believe that this is an opportunity to introduce our beautiful city to many other tourists.” “I think that being awarded as a hidden treasure or undiscovered city will give Olomouc an even stronger stamp of attractiveness and will evoke more interest in potential visitors.”
Olomouc has been trying to advertise its beauty in a high-quality and systematic way. In the past years, this attempt has proved effective. Statistically as well as simply looking into the streets of the city center confirms that the number of tourists to Olomouc has truly increased. Olomouc is on the list of destinations offered by travel agencies as for example, one-day trips from Prague or as a part of the Vienna – Krakow route. “Greater advertising in cooperation with the agency CzechTourism certainly helped.
This agency gives Olomouc more space than before”, says Karin Vykydalová, head of the tourism department. “Acclaim from Lonely Planet obviously helps. Ideally, a visitor comes here based on the recommendation, is satisfied here and then recommends Olomouc to his friends back home”, adds Dušan Gavenda of the same department. Lonely Planet Secret Europe can be downloaded for free at: www.lonelyplanet.com/secret-europe.
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Olomouc region Card
Olomouc, an important historic settlement, from the 14th to the 17th century the capital of Moravia, today the pulsating heart of the Haná region, has also its own tragic history of the Jewish community. We assume Olomouc to be one of the earliest places of Jewish settlement in our country.
There are only few reliable historical reports to give us a coherent picture. Even before Olomouc became a proper town, there had been some settlements around the castle such as the parishes of St. Michael, St. Blaise and St. Maurice and also a Jewish settlement which, according to written accounts and archaeological finds, can be situated to the northern side of the Michael’s Hill.
The presence of Jewish merchants and traders may be assumed by the 11th century at latest. Around the year 1140, the Hebrew traveller Isaac ben Dorbolo mentions the Olomouc Jewish quarter (he refers to the place as Almijz či Olmijz). In the years 1239-46, the older settlements of Olomouc were brought together to establish a royal city. A privilegium granted by Emperor Rudolf Habsburg stated that the municipal expenses were to be borne by its citizens, including the Jews residing in the city. In 1311 the Jews of Olomouc officially welcomed King John of Luxembourg as he passed through the city. The so-called Jewish Register, a record of Jewish loans, from the years 1413-1420 written in Latin, has been preserved. We know that in 1445 there was a Jewish Vogt by the name of Nicholas the Apothecary.
The favourable years, however, were soon to end. Based on the preaching of the Franciscan friar John of Capistrano, King Ladislaus the Posthumous issued a decree on July 22nd 1454 expelling the Jews from Olomouc and Uničov and donating their houses, synagogue and cemetery to the city. Jews had to abandon the city by November 11th leaving their property behind in return for which the citizens pledged to pay the king an annual Jewish tax of 40 threescores Groschen. The expelled Jews found refuge in the neighbouring towns of Prostějov, Tovačov, Přerov, Lipník nad Bečvou and Úsov, from which time the Jewish communities of those places date. For four long centuries thereafter, Jews were not permitted to stay in any royal town, or later in any fortified borough. They were allowed - only on certain days - to dwell on the outskirts, particularly in the Bělidla suburbs where there are references to a Jewish public eating-house between 1792-1861 and where there was a private prayer room from the beginning of the 19th century.
Only the revolutionary year of 1848 did away with such medieval anachronisms bringing full civil rights to Jewish people, including the right of free movement. This triggered an influx of Jews from the surrounding small towns into the large cities, from which they had previously been barred, in search of better economic conditions.
In 1865 a religious association was founded, and in 1892 it turned into an independent religious community. In 1897, the first Zionist congress of the Austrian Empire was held in Olomouc, greeted by Theodor Herzl. The existence of numerous Jewish associations and charitable humanitarian foundation give evidence of Jewish participation in social, cultural and political life of the city. At the time of the First World War, the town provided a safe haven for hundreds of Jewish refugees from Galicia.
The flourishing Jewish community was brought to an end by the tragic years of Nazi occupation. The citizens of Jewish origin, who became subject to the so-called Nuremberg Laws, were gradually deprived of all rights and property. In the course of five deportations a total of 3,498 people from the city and its surroundings were transported to Terezín and later to extermination camps in the East. Their memory is honoured each spring on Yom Ha-Shoah memorial day with a remembrance ceremony in the ceremonial hall of the new Jewish cemetery in Neředín.
The Jewish citizens who survived the horrors of the war restored the religious community in 1945. The number of members of the Olomouc community declined due to old age and emigration and in 1962, as part of a new regional arrangement, the Olomouc congregation became a mere synagogal choir, part of the Jewish Religious Community of Ostrava. Only the democratic transformation after 1989 brought a revival of religious practice to Olomouc. By April 1st 1991 a separate religious community was re-established, covering the districts of Olomouc, Šumperk, Jeseník, Bruntál and Přerov.