After Bratislava, I came back to Olomouc and Poets’ Corner. It was a reunion and then some; Stacey, Katka, and Dave whom I’d randomly let in Budapest were still there, as were Ivan and David, two guys I’d gotten lost with in Budapest who’d gone their separate ways and ended up in Olomouc on the same night. Stuart, a long-time guest, was sitting in his usual chair as he was when I first saw him. Two new guys, Oskar from Australia and Randy from Texas, were loving Olomouc, too.
So began a few great days, filled with massive cooking projects involving the entire hostel and nights at Metro playing foosball and drinking through the club’s supply of beer. The students had returned; one night they could offer us only bottles.
This wasn’t due so much to the popularity of the beer as they fact that we were just in time for the Czech-wide liquor ban that had been put in place on any drink containing more than 20% alcohol after thirty-some people died from consuming bootleg alcohol containing methanol. The menus at Café 87 (where you can also buy liquor) had little sheets of paper taped over the liquor selections. I took photos, feeling myself a part of something that might be written about in history books decades later.
Who likes reading stories that go: “It was a fun time. The end.”? No one. Unfortunately, that’s all “Return to Olomouc” was. I revisited all of my favorite places, but I never did find that tiny bar with a suit of armor in the window again. I believe it was Lucka, Ian’s wife, who said, “Oh, I know that [magical, mysterious] place! It was a sports bar before and something else before that. It changes every couple of years.”
I visited some new places, including the Svatovaclavsky Microbrewery. Being not much of a beer snob I ignored Olomouc’s microbreweries the first time, but you should not do this, since it’s one of the town’s best attractions. We got lunch there and ordered brewer’s stacks: towers of potato pancakes and chicken swimming in a bryndza cheese sauce. How good was it? We decided to replicate the meal in the hostel the next afternoon. Just as we were pouring bryndza sauce over eight plates of chicken and potato pancakes, a new guest walked in, and was first handed a plate of food, receiving possibly the best hostel welcome in history.
Somehow, I could never orient myself around Olomouc in the dark. Therefore I have no idea where that obscure 1AM kebab place was, even though I’d seen the big kebab place you can’t miss on my second day in the city. Nor do I remember where it was we saw a full-sized blown-up raft hanging out of a window by a rope one night. All I remember it that it simply dangled against the wall a story below its window.
I had some new interactions with the Czech population one day, and found a library – killing two birds with one stone! Looking for a new place to write, I went on a scavenger hunt that opened up parts of the city I’d never seen. The library I was looking for turned out to be a few steps from the hostel. I greatly confused the students doing research inside, who let me stay only with the most skeptical of stares (how often does a foreigner not affiliated with the university come in to write, after all?). Silent awkwardness I could bear, but being yelled at by the attendant on the way out was more of a shock. The middle-aged lady who’d somehow let me walk in without question pointed to a rack of cubbies behind me as she yelled instructions I hadn’t followed in Czech. You where you were supposed to drop off your bag there, I gathered, since it was a library of rare books. Even though I made it plainly clear that I didn’t know Czech, she continued screaming at me as if the power of her volume might will me to. I didn’t need words to get the gist; I walked out, she still yelling and yelling.
I made it out to the lake on my last day, a thirty minute through fields harkening to Grantchester in Cambridge that led to the outskirts of town. Along the way I passed the airplane bar, literally an old soviet airplane that had been a full-service bar where people got drinks and climbed onto the wings. It had been shut down for safety reasons earlier that summer, but still stood there, lifeless and dark, while teenagers sat on its steps, perhaps riddled with nostalgia. The biggest regret of my trip was getting to Olomouc too late to visit the airplane bar in action. It has since been removed from the town for good. Unbeknownst to me then, I’d read about this bar long before on one of my favorite websites, but had completely overlooked it then (scroll very far down).
In the twilight hour I passed by joggers, cyclists, and a man fishing under a danger sign. The lake was a beautiful, peaceful place to say goodbye to Olomouc with a last cup of Kofola and a vow to come back someday (/sentimentality).
Here I spent an awful lot of mental energy debating whether or not I should rescheduling my flight and staying in Europe a bit longer, since I was currently blessed with the luxury to do so. Ultimately, though, I decided to stick with the plan. I had a train booked from Vienna to Livorno, Italy, and from there could take a ferry to Barcelona.
On the way out I took the tram going the wrong way, nearly missing the train.