The first time I went to Olomouc was as a university student and just like my peers, I became fascinated by this small Czech town. To this very day, I cannot say what its charm was exactly, whether it was the beautifully refurbished university library, the cobble stones surrounding the centre and the university or the atmospheric inns with delicious cuisine. Perhaps it was the possibility of experiencing them all at the same time.
I was understandably overjoyed when I found out that my third year abroad will be at Palacký University in Olomouc. I was thrilled with the idea of studying there for the whole year and not only practising foreign languages, but also getting to know the town and the country.
It was a very interesting year academically. As a Socrates-Erasmus student, apart from the compulsory subjects, I could choose seminars I wanted to attend across the department. Among my favourite ones were history of cinematography taught by a truly passionate tutor in the university cinema room, history of theatre in the old building with a theatre stage, political studies where all the stormy discussions happened and Czech literature with an amazing intellectualist-lecturer.
In my free time I travelled a lot, as the train system in the Czech Republic works amazingly well and it is also attractive price-wise. I went to Prague, Brno, Ostrava, but also abroad to Bratislava, Vienna and Budapest. When travelling I became much closer to the idea of Central Europe where everything is ‘centred’ enough that it becomes a new ‘local’. I was utterly amazed by the idea that you could almost bump into a well-known writer or poet in a local café, and that does not only happen in Prague. Localness is felt everywhere, in the form of travelling distance, city & town differentiation, closeness of high culture, ease in making friends. It is also visible in the Czech prose of Bohumil Hrabal, Josef Škvorecký or Jaroslav Hašek where with a pinch of humour you are told a story where the important and serious is greatly mixed with the trivial and silly. Or even the real and fictional, like the extremely popular Czech genius (also a playwright) Jára Cimrman who is a fictional persona created by Czech artists.
As you can see, my stay in Olomouc was a great journey, I see it as my first step into adulthood, but yet under the umbrella of being a university student. Many years later, it still brings a smile to my face and many happy memories.
Written by Kinga Macalla
Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photo courtesy of Kinga Macalla