OLOMOUC (pronounced "Olla-moats" and known to the city's sizeable prewar German-speaking community as Olmütz) is easily the most immediately satisfying of Moravia's three big cities, thanks to its well-preserved staré město, sloping cobbled squares, Baroque fountains, and healthy quota of university students. Occupying the crucial Morava crossing point on the road to Kraków, Olomouc was actually the capital of Moravia from 1187 to 1641 and the seat of a bishopric (later archbishopric) for even longer. All this attracted the destructive attention of Swedish troops in the Thirty Years' War, and their occupation in the 1640s left the town for dead. During this period, Brno took over as capital, in reward for its heroic stand against the Swedes; only the wealth of the church and its strategic trading position kept Olomouc alive. Meanwhile, the military threat from Prussia confined the town to within its eighteenth-century red-brick fortifications, and only after these were finally torn down in 1888 did the city begin to evolve into the industrial centre it is today.
If you're coming in late April, late August or late October, you may well coincide with one of the huge flower shows, or Flora Olomouc (Web: www.flora-ol.cz ), which bring hordes of Czech visitors to the city – hotels fill up quickly at these times and it's advisable to book well in advance.