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.
Horní náměstí (Upper Square)
Town Hall's archway
779 11 Olomouc
Opening hours: daily 9:00am –7:00pm
Tel.: (+420) 585 513 385, 392
Olomouc region Card
Olomouc Region Card is a tourist discount card that allows you to visit Olomouc significant savings. Its purchase to make sure you completely discounted or free admission.
From the beginning of the 19th century until the 1930s, an orthodox house of prayer was in use in the Bělidla suburbs on private premises of the Fischel family (today house No. 9/44 in Libušina Street). But the relaxation of conditions and the growing Jewish population in the second half of the 19th century meant another house of prayer had to be established in the inner city. In 1895-1897, to satisfy the spiritual needs of the community, a synagogue designed by the famous Viennese architect Jakob Gartner was built on the site of former city walls, on the then emerging Maria Theresa Square (today Palach Square).
This spectacular work was built by local firms at a cost of two hundred and fifty thousand guldens. The building was designed in the then fashionable oriental Byzantine style and made an impressive appearance - its dimensions were 22 × 39 meters and its height was 38 meters. The requirement for the east-west orientation of the temple couldn’t be fully respected in the given urban situation; thus, the axis is directed to the southeast.
The Olomouc synagogue was a freestanding building of a distinctively longitudinal plan aligned on the main axis. The interior layout was traditional: from the hall on the northwest there was an entrance for men to the vestibule and into the main hall on the ground floor, which had four pillars holding an iron cupola. A side staircase led to the first floor with the women's seating area on a balcony along three sides of the hall. The hall ended with an elevated platform with a pulpit (almemar) and the Ark (Aron Kodesh) in the form of a small temple. An interesting feature, however, was a small daily house of prayer located beyond the Ark on the southeast side of the building – containing its own Ark and pulpit and 50 bench seats. The choir and organ were located on the floor above this room.
Architecturally, the synagogue interior was exceptionally ornate, with seating for 440 men and 304 women.
From the outside, attention was attracted by a large dome with a spire and two further turrets on each corner of the frontage. The facade of two-colored fair-faced brickwork was punctuated with windows featuring rosettes and other delicately detailed patterns derived from typically romantic oriental motifs. The gable end above the entrance from Maria Theresa Square was topped by stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, while the rear elevation overlooked Lafayette Street.
The synagogue was officially consecrated on April 11th, 1897.
Immediately after the Nazi occupation, during the night of March 15th to 16th, 1939, the synagogue was burnt down by local fascists. Some 15 fire brigades fought in vain to put out the fire, and the cost of the damage was officially put at one million crowns. Debris was cleared in the winter of 1939-40.
The site was later turned into a small park, whose centre was"decorated" by stone statues of Lenin and Stalin during the period of communist rule; the area is a parking lot today. On March 7th, 1990 a memorial plaque, the work of architect Zdeněk Hynek and sculptor Zdeněk Přikryl, was unveiled near the site of the burned synagogue on what is now Palach Square, on the facade of the adjoining Faculty of Sciences, Palacký University.