An August 2005 trip
to Olomouc by captain oddsocks
Quote: Ever wondered what the nightlife would be like in a 1,000-year-old Moravian university city? Me too...
While tourism in Olomouc is far less developed than in Prague or Krakow for example, there are some bars that are accustomed to having foreign patrons, and they tend to be located close to the main square. Potrefená Husa is the most polished of these, but the outdoor seating area belonging to Restaurant Caesar is probably a better place to pass a warm summer evening. There are two nightclub/disco-type establishments within a few metres of the main square, but I cannot recommend either of them.
To mingle with the local students, you need to visit in a month that is not July or August and search out the smaller backstreet bars with the cheaper drinks. Vertigo is the pick of them, but Kamenný Šenk and the bars around the water barracks are also popular. Not all nightlife involves alcohol, and the popularity of the two teahouses in Olomouc prove it. They’re places to take someone special, or just anybody that you want to have a quiet, cigarette-smoke-free conversation with. The students are also enthusiastic patrons of the many festivals that are happening in Olomouc in any given month of the year.
To rub shoulders with the salt-of-the-earth working folk, you need to travel further afield into the suburbs. Gambling machines are so popular that the sign-makers of the city must be sick to death of the word HERNA (gaming). There are some pretty tough characters in some of these bars, and I would not recommend venturing into them until you’ve spent some time in the country and can blend into the crowd a little. They’re not the kind of place that you want to be offending people because you don’t yet understand tipping etiquette or mispronounce in Czech, "One more beer please," so that it sounds like, "Are you still a muskrat?"
The Info and Kde, Kdy, Co? (Where, When, What?) booklets are both entirely in Czech, but if you can work with that, they are good sources of information about nightlife events such as music festivals and concerts.
Getting to Olomouc itself is also extremely straightforward; it’s a major stop on the international railway line between Prague and Krakow. Vienna and Bratislava are within three and a half hours, and you can get to Olomouc from Budapest in less than six. The online timetables are accurate and thorough.
The aeroplane was brought to Olomouc in the seventies to be the ‘in’ restaurant for the elite of the communist party and their dining companions. Today it's a reasonably seedy late-night bar with a somewhat dishevelled clientele.
The entrance is a steel staircase towards the rear of the plane. There's a security cage that's kept locked and as you wait for the barman to answer your ring on the doorbell you might notice the sticker prohibiting the possession of firearms. Upon entry, you will pass the bar, televisions and gambling machines and see that the original aircraft seats have been re-used. There's enough seating for about 100 people, but the bar rarely fills up. Past the seats, red-covered lamps, and fake ivy, there's a small dance floor, and a DJ's desk in the cockpit area. The playlist seems to consist mostly of fairly ordinary '80s pop, interspersed with occasional gems (such as 'Come on Eileen' by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, or 'I Ran' by Flock of Seagulls). You can either order your canned beer or watery soft drinks from the bar or wait for the table service.
The aeroplane bar is open from 9pm to at least 6am, six days a week, and tends to be busier later at night, when other places close and the punters' judgments are just impaired enough to think it might be a good idea to pop in for one last drink on the way home. Water and soft drinks are 20Kc, shots of bourbon are 60Kc and the time travel back to the early eighties is gratis. The bar is very poorly ventilated and usually fills up with cigarette smoke quickly, so if you are averse to this, you might want to visit earlier in the evening rather than later.
The novelty of it being in a plane is really the best reason to visit, and with that in mind, quite an enjoyable night can be had. It's the kind of place where it's much better to come with a group of friends, rather than arrive alone and hope to find people to chat with.
There are people who are of the opinion that the aeroplane bar should be moved from it’s location between the city swimming pool and the Hussite church and the area redeveloped, but I for one hope the aeroplane bar and it’s little bit of late Communist era seediness remains.
Highly recommended for fans of the bar scene in Star Wars. Somewhat recommended for everyone else.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 26, 2005
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "B - Belmondo, aka Topsy-Turvy bar"
Entry is from the Třída Svobody side, into a small entry hall with a staircase and, if it’s Friday or Saturday, a couple of burly security staff. Upstairs is a large hall with a generous dance floor in its centre. To one side of the dance floor is a long bar, with the shelves behind containing more types of alcohol than I knew existed. On the opposite side of the floor is a well equipped mixing desk and lighting rig, flanked on one side by low-sided seating booths, and on the other by a large aquarium containing several dozen fish that must have been driven quite deaf by the pounding music. Groove Armada, Daft Punk, the Pet Shop Boys and 10CC all got a spin on the turntable the last time I was there.
The rest of the space is taken up by more low seating booths, some with wooden benches and tables and some with sofas and armchairs, but all designed for a clear view of the action on the dance floor. It’s an excellent layout for a nightspot and let down only by the tacky use of a glossy cherry-coloured paint on what would otherwise be the exposed timber beams of the roof framing and skylights. The many potted plants high in the rafters also add an element of disconcertion, but the décor is saved by a series of interesting murals that wrap around three of the four walls.
Belmondo is open four nights a week; Wednesday and Thursday night are more subdued, and there is no cover charge for anybody. Friday and Saturday nights are busier, and the hefty bouncers will request a 50Kc admittance fee from male patrons. 50Kc is enough for two drinks or a decent pot of tea so I’ve never been there on a paid night. Recently, though I had some guests who shelled out the money and ventured in.
Apparently the cover charge for guys ensures that girls make up the vast majority of Belmondo’s Friday and Saturday clientele. Sideshow Rob felt that something was amiss when he walked in and the bar was lined exclusively by girls drinking beer. When he noticed several young ladies checking him out and a small group of guys drinking soft drinks and talking amongst themselves, he came to the conclusion that he’d entered a place where normal gender roles were completely reversed and nick-named it The Topsy-Turvy bar.
Unlike most other bars in Olomouc, you must pay for your drinks as you receive them. The wait staff are pleasant and professional and it doesn’t matter too much if they don’t speak English or you don’t speak Czech because the music is too loud to hear anyway.
Topsy-Turvy Bar (Belmondo)
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "C - The Crack"
The Crack is made up of several brick arch-roofed rooms connected by more exposed brick archways. It’s nothing if not comfortable; the entry room and first large room are full of armchairs and couches and the only problem is finding a vacant one. Not to worry though, because the next two rooms have plenty of table and chairs seating, and even a row of old cinema seats along the bar in the back room. The walls hold a lot of memorabilia, both Irish and local, and the wood panelling, green walls and exposed brick give a pleasant warmth to the space. The furniture is mostly varnished wood, a mixture of new and old. There’s a reproduction 19th century lamppost mounted in the centre of one of the rooms, and the other light fittings look as though they have all come from different junk shops. There’s enough space for 80 or so people to sit comfortably, but with a bit of squeezing in and standing up, I’m sure it could hold twice as many people. There’s no non-smoking space at The Crack, but the ventilation seems to be better than in most other bars.
It’s true that Crack is often spelt Craic, but if you pronounce ‘Craic’ in the Czech way, it doesn’t sound like the kind of place you would go willingly. The owner is a Scottish chap and surely would have spelt it the Gaelic way if he’d wished.
The bar serves Guinness and Kilkenny, but only from bottles. There are also a half-dozen or so imported beers from different parts of Europe, for prices around 50-70Kc. Probably a better option though is to try one of the local brews, such as Kelt (32Kc), a dark, thick, creamy, Guinness-like substance. A second choice is Velvet (26Kc) which is an English-style bitter. There’s also a selection of Australian wines on offer, for prices (around 450Kc) that would make you think that they are regarded as something more than just any old plonk in their home country.
The bar is open from 11am to 1am Monday to Thursday, and 11am to 2am on Friday. On Saturday the opening hours are 4pm to 2am and Sunday 4pm to 1am.
In summer the hours change and the bar opens from 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 1am except on Saturday night when it closes at 3am.
The kitchen is only open on weekdays, from 11am to 2pm and 6pm to 11pm.
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "Dobra Cajovna"
The newest of the city’s three teahouses is on the ground floor of one of the row of houses on Havelkova Ul. and has three rooms.
The front room is filled with comfortable upholstered furniture and has a large raised platform with cushions. Anybody who wishes to smoke flavoured tobacco through a shisha pipe is directed towards this small front room. The shisha pipe will cost you 85Kc and the 21 flavours on offer include coconut, apple, cinnamon, strawberry and cherry. You must be 18 years of age to partake and you will not find it possible to smoke anything other than the tobaccos offered on the menu. The sales counter and it’s seemingly endless varieties of tea for sale by the gram are in the middle room. There are also two low tables by the counter and a large Buddha watching over the library and chess nook. The library includes books about such things as tea (of course), Japanese gardens, Buddhism and Feng Shui. The back room holds two more round tables and another large raised platform with cushions. The shelves beside the steps up to the platform are for your shoes.
The entire teahouse exhibits an oriental influence. The carpets are all in the Turkish or Persian style, the furniture is of wicker, bamboo or solid unvarnished wood and the lighting is dimmed by the Moroccan shades. The music is kept in the background, and most of it is also from countries to the east.
My favourite tea is the "Tea, Tea, Teas", which is apparently an approximation of the everyday tea served from on the streets of Indian cities. It’s a strong black tea, spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and sweetened with honey and condensed milk. Depending on the mood of the teaman, he might serve it with an enthusiastic cry of "chai! chai! chai!" for the full streets-of-Calcutta treatment. The menu suggests that it’s an appropriate tea for reminiscing about past journeys, so IgoUgo journal-writers might like to keep it in mind.
Tea-drinkers with more refined palates might prefer one of the green teas such as Dragons’ Eyes or Tiger Spring (each 85Kc), or The Eyebrows of Wisdom (40Kc). If you’d like a dark tea to aid your digestion after a meal, you might try the earthy Pu Erh Cha (55Kc). If you like the sound of chai, chai chai, but would like a green tea version, Kyoto Kimen is the one for you. Also on the menu are several vegetarian snacks; the baba ganouche and hommous are 68Kc each and the pita breads range from 30Kc for the cinnamon to 48Kc for the Arabian pita with white cheese and olives.
The Dobra Èajovna is open from 1pm-10pm Monday through Thursday, 1pm-11pm on Friday, 2pm-11pm on Saturday and 2pm-10pm on Sunday.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 26, 2005
Olomouc, Czech Republic
The entrance is from Pavelèakova Street across from Hotel Gemo. The first thing that you will see inside is the cake display and the ice-cream cabinet. The ice-cream is 8Kc per scoop, with an extra 6Kc if you prefer to have a waffle cone. You might find the staff a little grumpy, but it’s better if you don’t take it personally and just chalk it up to the disrupted sleeping patterns of the shift worker.
Behind the counter area is another room with a row of leather booths along one wall and two rows of tables and chairs. Including the few tables in the front room, the overall capacity would be around 60. The décor is quite modern apart from the classic black leather chairs and exposed brick ceiling; much of the remaining furniture is bright fire-engine red. The effect is slick and stylish rather than homey and comforting, but maybe that’s better for a late-night place. The plants in the window and potted grass along the wall-tables help to soften the atmosphere.
The espresso bar is also quite a reasonable place to go for a coffee during the day. The benches outside are comfortable and provide ample opportunity for people watching. During the heat of the day they are sheltered by sunblinds.
The drinks are a little more expensive than in most other places around Olomouc, but not extortionately so. There must surely be extra costs associated with keeping a place open 24 hours a day. A large espresso with milk is 31Kc, hot chocolate is 35Kc, an affogato will set you back 42Kc and a large glass of Gambrinus beer will be 25.5Kc. The espresso bar shares a kitchen with Captain Morgan’s next door, and the full range of pizza is available until midnight. After that you can choose lasagna for 92Kc or one of the pre-made baguettes from the bain-marie. The night menu applies until the kitchen reopens at 8am. The Czech Republic is not a country of breakfast restaurants so it sometimes pays to keep in mind places that do open early. The espresso bar offers Hemenex (ham and eggs), omelettes, hotdogs, and scrambled eggs from 8 until 11am.
In all, it’s a good place to know about, whether for breakfast, late night food, or just a couple of scoops of ice cream after dinner or a visit to the teahouse.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 26, 2005
Olomouc, Czech Republic
It’s a good bar to go to if you like the music to be so loud that you can’t think, let alone talk to anybody. The bar seems to mostly be popular with young football players and slim young ladies with long eyelashes and outfits inspired at least partly by that Britney girl. Perhaps the conversation wouldn’t have been especially rivetting anyway.
When you’ve followed your ears through the front door, you’ll see the brightly painted entrance to the toilets and the top of a black steel spiral staircase. At the bottom of the staircase is a typical arch-roofed basement, furnished with an impressive collection of armchairs, small round wooden tables, old mirrors and old lamps. There’s enough space in the first room for about 20 people to sit and the second room with the bar would seat another 10 or 12.
Have I mentioned that the bar is LOUD? The culprit is a thumping-big jukebox just by the bottom of the stairs. There are hundreds of albums available to choose from, and the charge is 5Kc per song. The range of music is wide, with just the F’s offering everything from Fat Boy Slim and Faithless to Fear Factory and Faith No More. Aretha Franklin was also on the playlist as was Frank Sinatra (also under F). If you’ve headed one too many footballs or listened to one too many Britney songs, fear not, for the jukebox helpfully explains that 2 songs will cost 10Kc, 4 songs will cost 20Kc, 10 will set you back 50Kc, and 100 crowns will give you 20 choices. Linguistic brilliance was in equally short supply, as the bartender was wearing a shirt proclaiming "KI55 MY 4R5E". Even drunken football players know that you don’t make words from numbers, don’t they?
Unfortunately the Finlandia bar doesn’t stock either Kofola or mineral water, so I choose the 20Kc bottles of coca-cola. The beer is Gambrinus for 18Kc or bottled Pilsner for 25Kc. Despite the name of the bar, I’ve never seen anyone drink vodka there, and they don’t have it listed on the drinks menu. There are plenty of bottled spirits behind the bar, so perhaps there’s a whole separate vodka menu that comes out when bedtime comes around for the younger patrons??
The Finlandia bar is open Monday to Friday from 4pm to 1am, Friday and Saturday from 6pm to 3am. It’s closed all day on Sunday. It’s always lively and not a bad place for a drink. I’m just glad I don’t live next door.
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "G- Blues Bar Garch"
The very low-key entry stairs lead you down to a cellar where the first thing you will see is the bar, and the second will probably be the surly boyfriend of whoever is working behind the bar. Ignore him, greet her with "Dobry večer" and head through to the main part of the bar on your left. Keep going through the first room, which has space for around forty people to sit at the long wooden benches, to one of the back rooms where you’ll find the real character of the bar.
The main back room has a stage at one end, where the concerts that you may expect from the name of the bar are held. There is no regular program of concerts through the summer but through the cooler months, various artists perform at Garch, and the program is available as part of the info magazine. In the same back room are also several seating areas, table football and snooker tables, three very expressive paintings, and some old junk including the obligatory sewing machine table and an old crank-operated laundry press.
The second, smaller back room has a table that looks like it was once part of a coolroom door, about twenty six-inch steel meat hooks, some fake trees and a functioning air-hockey table. The air hockey is 40Kc/1.3Euro/$1.60US an hour- the staff will mark your drinks-ticket with your start and finish times. The table football works exactly the same way, but is calculated at 50Kc per hour.
They play quite a range of music at Garch, the main uniting theme being the electric guitar. Everything from Jimi Hendrix to The Who to the Beatles to the Foo Fighters gets a spin. It’s fairly safe to say you won’t be hearing much techno between the exposed brick walls of Blues Bar Garch.
Garch also serves fondue! Meat eaters can choose from eight different flavours of spiced chicken and at least a dozen dipping sauces. Vegetarians will prefer the cheese fondue and should order the large croutons to dip into it. The meat dishes are each 76Kc for 100grams and as much cooking oil as you need. The menu warns that fondue is primarily a social activity; not something to be rushed and that anyone with a large appetite may be better to order from the regular menu. During a recent going-away dinner, though, the fondue was served quickly during the busiest part of the evening and everybody was very satisfied with the portions. We ordered a lot of extra bread and croutons, but the bill only came to 940Kc for eight of us, including 90minutes of air hockey.
Garch Blues Bar
Corner of Mozartova and Litovelská
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "H-Potrefená Husa/Wounded Goose"
The bars are slick; highly polished and spotlessly clean, and so are most of the clientele. For some reason, many of the branches of Potrefená Husa seem to be popular with foreign travellers and expats, but I don’t really understand why. They do have English menus and sport on television, and perhaps because it’s expensive there’s a perception that it’s better.
The outdoor area was already closed for the evening, so we were directed to a table indoors. There are 12-14 tables which can seat 6-8 people each as well as a row of stools along the bar itself, giving a capacity of well over 100 people. There’s probably space for another 100 outdoors. We were told that it’s impossible just to order potato wedges, and that the only way to get them is to order a main meal and have the wedges as a side. This disappointed us as we’d had them before and they were our main reason for going. Lenny Kravitz and Boney M were playing, so we decided to stay for one drink and ordered mineral water (25Kč), the cheapest beer (27Kč) and a coke (25Kč). We could have chosen Stella Artois for 35Kč, or small bottles of Asahi Saki for 70Kč. The cheapest cocktail was a Caipiroska (80Kč) and the most expensive the Long Island Ice Tea (140Kč).
My friends thought; "Why would you drink Asahi for 70Kč, when you can drink Czech beer for 25? And even that’s expensive", "I enjoyed the food at the one in Prague but it upset my applecart a bit that we couldn’t get wedges", "She’s been hired for her looks but the longer she’s here, the longer her face is getting". The things we liked about the décor were the goose-footprints that were stamped into the concrete, and the televisions, which were just cathode-ray tubes and other functional parts with no outer plastic casing. Uncle Su-Su thinks the comparison to McDonalds is a bit harsh and that it’s probably a good place for some people.
The name translates approximately as Wounded Goose, but if you go here any more than once, there’s only one goose in the equation, and it’s not the bar.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 26, 2005
Potrefená Husa/Wounded Goose
Olomouc, Czech Republic
The reason for the name becomes apparent as soon as you notice the terrarium that is home to a 90cm Iguana named Albert. At first I wasn’t convinced he was real, but he’s quite lively and clambers around almost continuously. Apparently he’s a young adult, as his skin is still bright green and he’s shorter than the average length of 120cm (of which about two-thirds is tail).
Otherwise, the interior of the bar is pleasant if nothing spectacular. The three rooms all have long tables with a bench along the wall side and wooden chairs on the other. Apart from the terrarium, the decoration of the bar is a classic example of the "collect lots of old junk and hang it from the walls" school of decorating. There’s an old typewriter, brass brewing equipment, ceramic pots and a helmet from the Second World War. It’s probably not going to win any awards for interior design, but it’s not a bad effect and if you find the conversation lagging, you can always turn to the junk for inspiration. There’s also an outdoor area on the footpath, with space for about 20 people, weather permitting.
The tables are all covered with the green tablecloths of the Holba brewery. Holba beer is brewed in Hanušovice, in the Jesenik mountains of northern Moravia, and is quite popular in the bars and beerhalls of Olomouc.
The pub can get fairly lively at night; and the back room with the electronic dartboard is probably a good place to polish up your Czech swearing. If you’re female, you may well be the only representative of your gender who is not on the staff. If you’re a working man who’s making the most of being out of the house, you’ll find yourself blending right in.
Leguán is also a pretty good place for a meal. The menu is extensive and covers all the usual pub standards. Pork, chicken, and fried cheese all feature prominently, but the interesting thing is that there at least ten dishes made from the local stinky cheese; tvarùžky. Usually tvarùžky gets only a token mention on a menu, one or two dishes at most. Probably the only other place in the world that has ten tvarùžky dishes on the menu is the cheese factory itself at Loštice around 20km North West of Olomouc. I’ve never tried tvarùžky; I can’t get it close enough to my mouth because of the smell. The menu at Leguán is enough to make me curious though; with such dishes as The Village Stinker, which is pork with tvarùžky, garlic, blue cheese and bacon (80Kc) and Lucifer’s Pocket, which is a piquant pork mix with tvarùžky, fried in a potato pancake (also 80Kc).
Tída Svornosti 15
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "Jazz Club Tibet"
The club is housed in a long open hall with an arched ceiling. The walls are covered with murals and the lights are shaded with pictures of famous musicians. The furniture is all wooden; tables and chairs in the centre and a long bench along one wall. If you’re sitting at one of the tables closest to the stage you might find yourself surrounded by dancers by the end of a concert night. The bar is under the mezzanine floor at the opposite end to the stage, but there’s always table service and the wait staff eventually find their way through even the thickest crowds.
If you’re seeing a concert there, you’ll be given a numbered slip of paper as you pay for, or present, your entry ticket at the door. It’s very important not to lose the slip. Your drinks will be added to it by the waiters as the evening progresses and the security staff will not allow you to leave if you cannot present it with the imprint of the club’s PAID stamp. It’s clearly explained at the bottom of the slip (but only in Czech) that if you lose it, they will calculate your drinks bill at 2000Kc, which is approximately enough for one main meal and 85 large glasses of beer.
During the day, the Jazz Club is also a quite reasonable restaurant. It has a fairly standard menu; lots of chicken and pork dishes, half-a-dozen vegetarian meals and about ten different ways of cooking the side-dish potatoes. Last time I was there, I had the chicken pieces in a herb sauce for 78Kc, the side order of potatoes added 22Kc and my mineral water was another 22Kc. The coffee is well made and there’s an extensive drinks list, as the owners of the Jazz Club also have a small wine store.
Tibet Jazz Club is open from Monday to Friday from 10am to midnight and on Saturday from 11am to midnight. The Kitchen closes at 10pm, and the club is closed every Sunday.
Tibet Jazz Club
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Attraction | "Kamenný Šenk"
Kamenný Šenk looks like a real old-school Czech bar. Dark wooden stained benches, whitewashed walls and arched ceiling, and floorboards worn bare by the heavy footsteps of many late nights. Candles on every table help to support the age-old tradition of absent-mindedly constructing fantastic towers of wax while drinking alone or with companions whose conversational skills are somewhat lacking.
Six tables with bench seats on either side provide seating for up to 36 people, and on any given night, a good percentage of those are likely to be regulars. The lady that runs the bar has a poodle and most of the customers seem to know its name. Maybe some of the regulars come for the relatively narrow selection of music from the early seventies, in which Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin are the shining lights. The downhill walk home at the end of the night (through a pedestrian zone) must be another bonus to some of the more enthusiastic drinkers.
The smoky bar is just a little more expensive than some of the comparable bars in town. The 500ml beer is 22Kè, which is 5Kè dearer than in Vertigo for example. 5Kè here and there may not seem like much to most of us, but it’s almost 25% of the price of a beer and if you’re coming to the end of your travel funds or you plan to drink quite a bit, it could be worth calculating. My pineapple juice was 20Kè (17Kè at Vertigo) and mineral water 13Kè, but beer is by far the most common order at Kamenný Šenk.
Despite the smokiness and the few extra crowns per beer, it’s not a bad spot for a few drinks with friends. It’s as close as you’re likely to get to an authentic old-fashioned beer hall without trekking out into the suburbs, and the regulars are quite accustomed to the occasional outsider joining them for an evening of jocularity. You can probably expect to be the subject of a few sideways glances when you first arrive and settle in, but then you’ll be completely ignored by everyone except the owner of the bar, unless you do something that is more interesting than beer (not likely).
If there’s a guy making noises like a chicken at one of the tables, don’t worry; he’s not making fun of anyone, he does it all the time.
K- Kamenný Šenk
Žerotinovo Nám 283;stí 13
Olomouc, Czech Republic