Why haven't you heard of Olomouc?

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You should have-especially if you plan to visit Prague or Krakow anytime in the near future

Too many tourists endure the nine-hour train trek between overcrowded Prague and Krakow when they should be breaking the journey midway in the Czech city of Olomouc ("olla-moats"). The most important city in Moravia, its appeal includes six baroque fountains and a renowned flower show each spring. What else is to love about Olomouc?

Holy Trinity Column

Especially for those crossing UNESCO World Heritage Sites off their to-see lists (yes, such tourists exist), the Column doesn't disappoint: a 115-foot-tall, early-18th-century riot of blackened masonry, tangled statuary, and gilded copper, with an atmospheric little chapel tucked into the base. It towers penitently over the expansive main square, and its weathered steps collect amorous students from the town's 400-year-old Palacky University, one of the tinderboxes for the Velvet Revolution.

Astronomical clock

Locals despise it for its Socialist kitsch. But tourists adore this giant mechanical clock on the face of the town hall, which replaced the priceless original after World War II. On the hour, when the clock is working, little craftsmen industriously smite an anvil above a parade of laborers, mothers, and athletes--all turned out in natty '50s garb and set into a mosaic of cracked tile.

City palaces

Premyslid dates to the 1100s and awes with Romanesque walls, windows, and untouched 15th-century frescoes, plus it's next door to where an 11-year-old Mozart wrote his sixth symphony. Nearby, the Archbishop's Palace is where 18-year-old Emperor Franz-Josef I was crowned in 1848.

Bezrucovy Sady

Just left of the baroque St. Michael's Church, duck through a shadowy doorway and down the seemingly endless set of dank stone steps. At the bottom is Bezrucovy Sady, the leafy park that meanders far below the ancient city battlements along a branch of the Morava River. Loafers and lovers exist here as if dislodged from time and space.

Bouzov Castle

References to this picture-book stronghold (moat, trellis, chilly flagstone) go back to the 1300s, and a late 19th-century renovation gave it an over-the-top Gothic personality that truly makes it a castle for the ages. Extra credit for ghoulish authenticity: The Nazis used it as a Czech HQ. Nine miles northwest of town.

Arigone

Once derelict, this former home of an 18th-century Italian painter--in its own quiet grotto of cobbled streets--was, like the Republic itself, reborn. Now it's a rambling, airy B&B with creaky wood floors, chocolate-colored beamed ceilings, and antique furnishings. $58-$70, Univerzitni 20, 011-420/585-232-351, volny.cz/arigone

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