Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy
Day Seven – The Road Less Traveled, Watch Out For That Pole (And We’re Not Even In Poland), Like The Plague, Magic Cream, Kim’s Departure Is Confirmed And The Dinner Shut Out
Despite staying out late the night before and (perhaps) consuming one too many glasses of wine, I was up at exactly 6 a.m. I was trying to be quiet, but the floors were a tad creaky, which in turn made my wife a little cranky. “You’re going to wake up Kim and Mary,” she said. As I made a few more fateful (and loud) steps she added, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you wait in the car?” I think she was being sarcastic.
Eventually everyone awoke, we had a nice breakfast at the hotel and started on the road to Olomouc, our next stop, which is roughly about half way between CK and Krakow. About an hour outside of Český Krumlov, Lady G put us on the “road less traveled.” It was a little, two-lane road that took us into scenic, green rolling farmland.
We then went through Dvorce, which I hoped wasn’t some kind of evil foreshadowing. At least I didn’t see Tammy Wynette singing D-V-O-R-C-E while standing by the side of the road (or standing by her man) Then came my first driving faux pas not my last, of course) of the trip.
In one little town, I attempted to pass what I surmised were some parked cars. In reality, they were a group of polite, local drivers who were trying to allow a semi truck (that was now directly in front of me) to pass going the opposite direction. Chagrined, I backed up from where I had come. The other drivers were looking at me like Tracy did earlier in the morning at the hotel. After a couple of illegal U-turns, we were back on our way. Soon, the farmland turned to lush forest, and as we made our way through many cute towns, we all had one thought, “Where the Hell are we?”
But Lady G was right on and soon we were back on a major thoroughfare and, in less than four hours from leaving CK, we were in the heart of Olomouc. I made a right hand turn, and in about 100 yards, Lady G said, “You have reached your destination on the right.” “Show off,” I thought. Of course, she was correct, because on our right was the Vítejte v Penzionu Na Hradě, our one-night lodging in Olomouc. Kim and Mary went up to their room, and Tracy went up to ours.
As I was about to follow her, the man behind the desk said I had to turn the car around because I was headed the wrong way on a one-way street. I then made a fateful decision. I could have driven around a few blocks and come down the street the correct way, or I could make a few sharp little turns, and just back up the street and park the correct way in front of the hotel. Sadly, I choose Option Two. I made two little turns perfectly, but as I backed up toward the hotel, the car suddenly stopped and not by its own volition. Meat Loaf might think that “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad,” but when it comes to parking, that phrase doesn’t work out so well.
In trying to not run over any of the local Olomoucan population, I instead had backed directly into a pole. In hindsight (something I obviously did not have while parking), I should have waited for one of my troop to help me, but I had thought, “What harm can I do while just parking?” Tracy came out and saw that I was a little perturbed, but she was still on a Lady G high. Her first words were, “Wow, that Garmin was amazing. She knew exactly where we were.” I replied, “Yeah, it would be nice if she knew where stationary posts are located, too.” Tracy looked at the car and shook her head in disbelief. In an attempt to make things go quicker, I said, “I am an idiot.” Kim and Mary were now at the car, and sadly no one refuted my words. Fortunately the damage to the car was minimal. The damage to my ego was slightly more.
We wandered through the Horní náměstí (Upper Square) and saw the Sloup Nejsvětější Trojice (Holy Trinity Column), which is the tallest plague column in Europe, and also walked by a couple of the many Baroque fountains that are in Olomouc.
It was very hot, and we were all a little tired, so we meandered our different ways for a while, ducked into a couple of churches and stopped by a pharmacy. In a Paris 2006 Christmas flashback, there on the counter was a big sign that said, “Magic Cream,” the ointment that helped save our vacation two years ago. Well, the sign really said “Voltarene” and it was only 167 Kč, so we bought a couple of tubes in case disaster struck on the trip. Fortunately, we never had to use it. We then returned to our comfortably air-conditioned rooms.
The Na Hradě is a clean, modern and no-smoking lodging option that is in a great location (well, except for that damned pole). It has a garden terrace, with a view of a church and a beautiful ivy, covered wall.
It also had, as we were soon to discover, its very own wine cellar. After a nap, we told Kim and Mary we would meet them in the cellar, and the girl at the front desk walked us outside the hotel. Entering via a small doorway entrance, I, of course, became momentarily stuck as I nearly stumbled down the stairs. I assured the girl that I had not been drinking, and we were lead inside. It was a peaceful and cool (both in look and temperature) oasis.
The prices of the wines we consumed were in the 200 – 450 Kč range. Our hostess/desk girl had also brought us some cheese and salami to go with our vino. Tracy and I toasted that it had been 18 years ago to that very day that we had met each other (not bad for an idiot, huh?). Tracy wrote down the names of the two wines we drank, but in looking at them, I don’t think my computer has enough memory to spell them completely.
As we sipped the wines with the unpronounceable names, Kim gave us some bad news. In two days, while we would be in Krakow, he would have to fly back to Los Angeles for a meeting (this guy will do anything for frequent flyer miles).
He would miss the last two days in Krakow and an afternoon and evening in Vienna, but if everything (including all his airline connections) went perfectly, he would meet us at the Vienna airport in time to catch our flight to Dubrovnik. It was enough to make us buy another bottle of wine.
We wandered back by the Potrefena Husa, and although we could sit down at the patio, they had more than an hour wait to get food service. Well, we really don’t like eating at the same place twice anyway, and since we found out that this was a chain, we were glad we got shut out there. However, we did stay long enough for another pivo!
Kim and Mary weren’t that hungry and were pretty tired, so they went back to the room, but the Bottomless Pit Family (aka Tom and Tracy) needed some dinner. So after a night time visit to the Sloup Nejsvětější Trojice, Tracy and I went in search of a late dinner.
We found Viktoria, a place filled with hip, young locals, and now, us. I had a delicious strip sirloin with onions and lots of hot red peppers. The Campari was going down easy on this night, too. In what I thought was an uncommon fit of indecency, Tracy then blurted out, “Those sure are mini balls.” I was about to get very angry until she told me she was referring to the mozzarella balls on her Caprese salad. If you decide to eat at this restaurant, I also highly recommend the roasted potatoes.
Our week in the Czech Republic was almost over, and we would definitely like to return one day to do some future exploring of the countryside and drink pivo in Prague.
Next: Day Eight – Cracowdays, A Shot Of Cough Syrup, Here Comes The Bride, Where Are All The Old People And Hip To Be (at the) Square