Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Statues of Olomouc

After I finished this year's Lonely Planet assignment in Poland, I hopped on a train from Katowice into the Czech Republic, getting off at the town of Olomouc.

Olomouc is in Moravia, the lesser-known eastern half of the Czech Republic, fated to forever play second fiddle to Bohemia (where the Czech capital Prague is located).

This relative obscurity means, of course, it's not as flooded with tourists.

The Prague hordes' loss was my gain, as Olomouc proved a very attractive burg, lined with beautiful monuments and facades from its time in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There's a fair bit of Art Nouveau architecture along its streets, a dash of Baroque and a decent dose of Renaissance (along with less attractive communist-era contributions).

Something which especially caught my eye was the collection of mostly Baroque statues in its city squares, all harking back to legends from ancient Greece or Rome.

Here's the first I happened upon in the main square, Horní Náměstí. It's a dynamic rendering of Julius Caesar, who legend has it was the founder of the town on one of his campaigns in the area:


Around the other side of the square is this statue of Hercules slaying the Hydra. As it was constructed soon after the Turkish Empire's 1683 defeat in the Battle of Vienna, it's thought to be not-so-subtly referencing the outcome of that battle:


The final statue in Horní Náměstí is a radical stylistic departure, and that's because it only dates from 2002. Maintaining the classical theme, this multi-part installation references the Greek legend of Arion, a musician who was rescued from drowning by a dolphin.

Because it's constructed as a fountain, this work is a lot of visual splashy fun, and there's even a second large turtle outside the fountain for kids to clamber over.


In the quiet square Náměstí Republiky, I found Neptune's son Triton holding two water-dogs on chains, supported by Aquarians with the whole company spouting water:


And finally, I located this unconventional statue of the god Mercury in a kind of wrapped plastic motif. OK, he's under wraps while some heavy construction takes place in the building next door, and will eventually be revealed once more.

But I don't know... he looks intriguing the way he is right now, prompting the observer to puzzle out exactly what's hidden beneath those contours: