The largest and most dramatic of the four greenhouses is the 1450 square metre palm house. Its sculpted doorway is the main entrance to the complex of greenhouses and the small entry fee is payable at the ticket window just inside.
The greenhouses itself is home to more than 200 species of palms and many, many other tropical plants, but what really brings it to life are the animals. If you follow the path clockwise the first animals you will come to are the brightly coloured South American macaws and Australian parrots and budgerigars. What at first seems like a pool surrounded by shiny brown stones is actually a pool surrounded by shiny brown turtles with a fire orange stripe around their eyes as if they were sporting the latest in fashion sunglasses.
When you’ve almost made a full loop and returned to the entrance, you’ll find the real stars of the palmhouse animal kingdom, the dangerous and deadly spiders, scorpions and reptiles. Several large lazy tarantulas sit around their terrariums, and the various snakes and scorpions are no more active; silently conserving their energy and curing the invention of glass. More active though are the water animals; schools of tiny piranhas scoot from one side of their tank to the other, occasionally flitting to the front of the tank to flash a toothily menacing grin. The many other species of fish in the large aquariums seem happier to keep their smiles to themselves, but the crocodiles are always happy to see you. So much so that they will try to convince you that they are lifeless fibreglass models and that you should reach down into the enclosure with your meaty, juicy, delicious hands to find out for sure. Best to leave the crocodiles to their grinning though and leave the palmhouse by the side door, where you’ll find the entrances to the other three greenhouses.
The three smaller greenhouses are arranged in a row and are identical in size; each at 330 square metres. The first replicates a hot dry climate and of the many cactuses there are always at least some that are in bloom. You shouldn’t touch any of the exhibited plants within any of the greenhouses, but of course this is especially a wise precaution in the cactus house. The next greenhouse is full of tropical and water plants, and the water is home to several species of fish. The final greenhouse is full of citrus and other fruit bearing plants, including the healthiest kiwi-fruit/Chinese gooseberry vine imaginable.
The only exit from the greenhouse complex is the doorway that you entered by, so don’t be seduced by the crocodiles and their evil smiles.
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by captain oddsocks
October 22, 2005
From journal The parks and gardens of Olomouc
A small pond lies at the southern end of the gardens and a family of swans can often be found there squabbling over the stale bread being thrown into the pond by strange two-legged creatures with short necks and no feathers. Close to the pond stands the main statue and namesake of the park; the 1925 monument to the memory of Bedřich Smetana, one of the country’s most well known composers who was born at nearby (75Km) Litomyšl, and whose composition Ma Vlast/My Land is among the most famous pieces of Czech music.
The Smetana statue stands in the middle of flower beds running the full length of the 700m alley of trees that gives the gardens such an impressive appearance. The wide alley is lined with benches along both sides and is a favourite place for the older citizens of Olomouc to meet and soak up the gentle afternoon sun while catching up on the latest gossip. The prime benches are those closest to the fountain that lies halfway along the length of the alley. Like the many other fountains of Olomouc, it is without water from October until March or April, when the danger of freezing-damage has passed. To one side of the fountain is a large wrought iron bandstand that in past years has been the site of regular Sunday afternoon brass band performances. To the other side of the fountain is the Kavárna (café) Fontana building. Unfortunately the café is closed for reconstruction until at least the summer of 2006, when hopefully it’s reopening will also see the resumption of the Sunday afternoon concerts.
The collection greenhouses of the botanic gardens are behind the café building and the area between the café and the greenhouses is decorated with several more statues, the most notable of which are the sculpture “spring” and the monument to the botanist František Polívka.
The northern end of the park is home to ugly modern buildings that make up the Flora exhibition complex where frequent cultural events and trade fairs are held. Fortunately they are quite well disguised by, if not hidden behind a thick curtain of trees and shrubs. The nearby pedestrian overpass is the best way to cross busy Wolkerova Ulice, which soon becomes the main road to Brno. There’s nothing especially appealing about the bridge itself, but it affords excellent views back along the treed alley and along Wolkerova towards the centre of town and the domes of St Michael’s. It’s also a wonderful feeling to be up among the treetops after admiring them from ground level for so long.