boydog(Vsetín, Zlinsky Kraj, Czech Republic) – One thing I like about Vsetin, is that there are no fast food franchises. I guess I didn’t remember how ubiquitous (your $25 word for the day) fast food places are in our culture back home. In Pacifica there is a Starbucks across the parking lot from a Starbucks. Normal I guess. But here there are no Starbucks, McDonalds or Burger Kings. Like having no TV, I don’t miss them, any of them. But I know they exist  in the bigger cities here in Eastern Europe. Such is the case in Olomouc about an hour train ride from Vsetin. But more about that later. Yesterday, Susan of Scotland and I ventured into the unknown, with a travel book in hand and a vague list of things to seek out and see. Typical touristy things.

Our arrival in the late morning would give us time to leisurely walk around looking at stuff and taking it all in. Susan is a perfect travel companion because she isn’t pushy and all consumed with spending a certain amount of time here and there. I waited for her at the train station in Vsetin hoping she would be able to pronounce Olomouc correctly so we wouldn’t end up heading to Romania. (not that Romania would be bad. One of my former English students in California lives in Romania with his family…and wolves…and vampires and stuff)

The train trip was pleasant and the lady with the mini-bar on wheels came through and I had a coffee and watched the countryside go by out the window. It was so very very civilized.

Olomouc is in the heart of Moravia and is the historical capital city of Moravia for those of you keeping tabs. It’s the sixth largest city in the Czech Republic with a very cool town center only marred by the presence of a McDonald’s. I was almost embarrassed to see it in this old town square. Yes I did go in because I was curious to find out if it smelled like the McDonald’s back home. It didn’t. I didn’t buy anything, keeping my vow to eat locally while in this beautiful country.

In our wanderings we came across two weddings, an Orthodox and a traditional Catholic one. No one seemed to mind two wandering tourists taking pictures and looking like they really didn’t belong. It all started when we were walking along the river and saw a pink church (St. Gorazd…say that fast 5x) down the street. We were actually headed for a Gothic Cathedral but the color of the church caught our eyes and so we took a detour. Bingo! The service had just ended and people were milling around the newlyweds so we decided to “mill” too. The church itself was very small so it seemed crowded. We, of course, took lots of pictures of the couple and the interior of the Church.

Our second wedding of the day was at St. Wenceslaus and home to the Archbishop. The bride was outside the church waiting for everyone to show up. A woman was passing through the crowd offering little pastries to everyone. Again, no one even noticed that maybe we weren’t in the wedding party. Inside the cathedral a violinist and organ player were practicing music for the ceremony. It was beautiful. I wish I had a full recording of the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen they were playing.

Off to the town square and Octoberfest music, wine and of course, beer. Great music, some contemporary and later more ethnic tunes. It was a very relaxing afternoon people watching, trying not to look over at McDonald’s and wandering the curving streets with no plan. Earlier we had bought tickets to climb to the top of the Town Hall tower so we could see the whole city. I walked super slowly up the million or so stairs favoring my sore knee and finally reached the top. The view was outstanding and we saw the old Jesuit College from there as well as the Church of St. Mořice. (did you know that St. Ignatius Loyola is the patron saint of Olomouc? Neither did I)

Great food, great afternoon and of course great company. We made the train back to Vsetin with five minutes to spare and the ride home in the dark was quiet and peaceful. We are already planning for our next adventure someplace. I told Susan to close her eyes, open her guide book and point. We’ll see what new stuff we can see. As for “I’m lovin’ it” on the door of McDonald’s, I think I’ll stick with fried cheese and ham thanks and not in a “Happy Meal.” My happy meal is with the local food.

and so it goes…