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Published: April 7th 2017
The plane circled the modest airport at Brno, before making a descent. The descent was aborted in a controlled fashion and the voice from the cockpit announced that another aircraft had strayed on to the runway. If we were landing at Heathrow or somewhere similar, I doubt the story would have had such a relaxed ending! All is well that ends well, as they say. I scoured the runway perimeter for the offending light aircraft and spotted the likely candidate near the gliding club section. The minor delay could mean missing the 76 bus into the city centre and the lengthy hold ups at passport control left me to fret on the chances of making the connection. Is this retaliation kicking in for Brexit or have the locals been on a training course at Luton? The bus was caught and I caught an earlier train towards Olomouc. I could tell by the facial expression of the conductor that my e-ticket, could be an issue. It transpired that the earlier train went a different route, albeit a longer and slower one. I should have checked a bit more closely on the route map. I had to pay a supplement for the privilege
of the extra kilometres, but I consoled myself that it was still a whole heap less expensive than the cunning extortion allowed on the UK rail system. The conductor even apologised for having relieved me of the additional drinking funds! The train was brand new and offered free wi-fi, charging sockets and a pleasant view of the South Moravia countryside towards the Austria border until it got dark. We then looped back towards my intended destination. I sent a Whats App to update the Other Half of progress. She had missed out on this mini festival of football that I had planned, having run out of holiday time. She would have to be content with her Scottish suntan of a few days ago. I rolled into Olomouc Hln central rail station slightly ahead of my plan.
It was a swift 12 minute walk to the Hotel Palace. A "flat iron" of a building on the main drag into the Old Town. Check in formalities quickly sorted and the Other Half advised I was still in the land of the living - she worries - I was out exploring. The edge of the Old Town looked promising with
quaint buildings and squares .Olomouc is a major university town, so there was the feel you get in Cambridge or Oxford and lots of colleges tucked away in the side streets. I would explore in the morning, but beer was the primary focus at this point. I located my target brew pub - Svatovaclavsky Pivovar - with ease and ordered. A 1/2 litre of the in house beer brewed on site ranged from 30 to 39 Czech Crowns for the stuff that makes you fall over very quickly.....even in a post Brexit UK Pound collapse world, it represented good value. A major bargain compared to Edinburgh a week ago tonight. In view of my empty stomach - there had been no time for food since Stansted - I opted for the weak stuff often avoided like the plague by the average Czech. I was going to like Olomouc, even though I had given an extra bonus to Czech trains just getting here! I had a quick snack on the way back to the hotel. "You are English? I have 2 questions for you. What is your country going to do now after your Brexit?" I turned, but Mistress May and
Boris were not on hand to answer on my behalf. I waited for the 2nd question. "What had gone wrong with Leicester City?" If only Claudio knew. My inquisitor was a student - from Turkmenistan, completing a degree in Malmo, Sweden and on an exchange in Olomouc for two terms.
I awoke early. The trams of Olomouc kick off early. My room was technically in the street away from the tram, but you could still here them trundling past. I had a hearty breakfast. Sausage and egg was on the menu, so I will forgive the tram noise. It was worth getting up for. It had been dark when I arrived, so I had a peak out of my windows and discovered a Cathedral about 100 yards away. The sun was already beating down. The sky was perfect blue. I made my away towards the Vienna Neronice - a huge monastery complex away from the centre. I half expected to find a line of tour buses, but the whole area was fairly quiet. Olomouc seems undiscovered. The tourist hordes in Prague would do well to see a typical Czech city that is still able to go about
their business without being overrun by commercialism. I set off back towards the centre, but was attracted to the floodlights of the Andruv Stadium like a moth to a flame. If there are a more interesting set of lights in Europe, somebody let me know. I thought I might as well get my bearings for the match later. The ticket office nor club shop were not open. I wandered inside the ground through an open gate - no need to try any gate handles today. The home end stand is a horse shoe shaped masterpiece. The opposite is basically a hotel or apartments with seats in front. Had I come to MK Dons?
I walked off towards a church in the distance. I noted a cemetery on the map, which was one of the pristine environments you only find in Eastern Europe these days. A small army of older ladies were busy polishing headstones - as I am sure they do every day the weather allows - and a flower industry to match the Netherlands was set up outside. I toyed with idea of a tram to get back to the centre, but I had insufficient loose
coins to obtain a ticket from the machine. The old town of Olomouc is a gem. A seemingly undiscovered gem. There were a handful of tourists in the main square, photographing the baroque fountain from every possible angle. The Holy Trinity Column is a UNESCO heritage site and rightly so. The vista was somewhat spoiled by the Town Hall undergoing renovations under a cover of scaffolding. The town centre allegedly contains more statues, churches and monuments than anywhere outside Prague, so there was plenty more photographs to take. The astronomical clock on one side of the Town Hall was still visible under the renovation. It is similar to that in Prague or Munich with no crowds. The Soviets did a reconstruction job on it after it was used as target practice at the end of World War 2, so there the " workers" are represented at the base. A more modern statue - the Arions Fountain - is surrounded by a pair of turtles, but don't ask me why. A dolphin also features. The cobblestones in the Lower Square look like they would be lethal in the rain. I watched the young ladies of Olomouc tottering across in their heels
and thought alternative footwear would be recommended. I then proceeded to fall off a kerb myself. It was a bit like calling the kettle like after my recent nosedive on Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh. As usual there was a photograph in my mind rather than where my feet were bring planted. Walk with caution around the Neptune Fountain, that is all I am saying! The other two fountains in the Lower Square are the Marian Plague Column and Jupiter's Fountain. The good citizens of Olomouc were enjoying the first signs of summer. A number of the bars and restaurants were about to make the great migration outdoors and were preparing their terrace areas for a good summer of business.
I walked the back streets - past the University area and on to the hotel. I spotted the first tourist bus outside the Wencelas Cathedral, which was what I had been looking at from my hotel window. A Russian Orthodox church turned out to be no such thing, but still made a good 5 minute distraction. The green and gold colours glistened in the continued sunlight. The Locomotiv Olomouc complex seemed to have been taken over by the
local rugby club, allegedly established 1953. A group of young athletes were warming up on the track surrounding the pitch. I ended up in an outdoor bar - seemingly the choice of the painters and decorators of Olomouc - who descended on mass about 2.30 pm presumably from the Town Hall renovations. 28 Czech Crowns a pint. Prices are going down! I knew last night, I was going to like this place.
After my beer sojourn, I retraced my steps around the Old Town. The sun was still beating down but as it moved round the sky during the day, different views caught my eye. I hadn't bothered with any museums on this trip. The weather was too good to hide indoors.
I figured that the temperature would drop quite sharply, once the sun went down and I popped back to my hotel to retrieve my jacket. The football kicked off at 6 pm, which just over an hour away. The approaches to the Andruv Stadium were not significantly busier that they had been on my reconnaissance mission earlier in the day. A fan with a Manchester United cap - there is always one
- parked his wheelchair in the centre of the access way and studied all as they went by. I nipped into the self-titled, Fan Shop. The usual range was on offer, but also as usual there were a distinct lack of pin badges. The 3 shop assistants reacted like this wasn't the first time they had disappointed a random passing English football fan. There was absolutely nobody queuing at the ticket office, which is a disturbing sight. It kind of makes you think the game is off or all tickets are sold. The latter is of course highly unlikely in the Czech 2nd Division, especially as it was live on TV. There was no need to panic. A bright red coach emblazoned with Hokej Club Trinec. Supported by Moravia Steel
was parked near the entrance - it was clear that FK Trinec were the second string jn their town. A top price Main Stand ticket was secured for a mere 80 Czech Crowns, which equates to a mere £2.70. I was surprised to see a programme. It was too good to resist at 20 Czech Crowns, even though the Other Half will be scolding me for bringing more into the
house. I acquired a second programme at the end of the game, when the guy in front merely left his on the seat after he had finished flicking through it. The Andruv Stadium ground was an interesting collection of 4 very different stands. At one end is a horseshoe full of red and blue seats and no fans. It remained closed, probably due to a lack of interest. The other end is a hotel / apartment complex with seats in front and a series of executive boxes at the highest points. A sum total of 42 executive seats were filled for this match. This was a high total compared to the seats below. For a long time, the only occupant was the above guy in his United cap. He was eventually joined by 25 additional fans, who brought with them 3 flags (one of which was a Cross of St Andrew). The group initially assembled behind their banner "1919 Sigma Fans From The South". I presumed this meant the South Stand. They later retreated to get a better view higher up, leaving their flags looking forlorn on the fence at the front.
The only atmosphere was created
by a group of 15, who randomly chanted Sigma at various points. The 4 away fans from FK Trinec contributed 2 flags and a drum. They kept up a drone of Trinec throughout the majority of the 90 minutes, after they had dispensed with the formalities of having their photo taken by the stewards. The chant heard at British grounds " You should have come in a taxi" could have been invented for this little group. The game itself was over in the first few seconds. ......literally. Sigma - top of the league - scored with the first attack in 15 seconds. After 45 years actively watching live football, this goes down as the fastest goal I have ever seen! Trinec had no answer. They were kitted out in all red and did a very passable impression of the shot shy Awesome Park gang for large spells. Aitor is probably out there somewhere thinking "I could do a job with this club". In all honesty, Sigma were not a great deal better. Organised. Compact. Good at keeping possession. Defence minded. As Lawrie McMenemy once said on his road to managerial success "Total Football it might be, but they would never
watch that every week at Grimsby". They weren’t watching it in Olomouc either. It was difficult to tell what 2,190 of the crowd thought. They rarely became animated throughout the evening. The bar was more attractive to many than the football. The 4 away fans from near the Polish border seemed happy to take the applause of their team and got in some quality drum practice.
I retreated for a very acceptable pizza under the Town Hall in the Main Square and let the Other Half know, all was well. In a normal Eastern Europe environment, football can usually about passion, flares, ultras and riot police. There was none of any of these categories at Sigma and it only dawned on me later, I hadn't seen one policeman at the game! Olomouc is an attractive place. You can’t help think that with great train links to Prague, it just doesn’t quite have the self-belief required to attract more visitors. In the words of Austra last week in Edinburgh, I love you more than you love yourself. Appendix 1 Fortuna Narodni Liga (Czech 2nd Division)
FK Sigma Olomoc 1 FK
Trinec 0 Date: 31 March 2017 @ 1800 Hours Venue: Andruv Stadion, Olomouc
Goals: 1-0 Petr (1 Min)
Tot: 0.064s; Tpl: 0.023s; cc: 13; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0085s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb