Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Hats off to Nový Jičín

Novy Jicin backstreet with the tower of the church of the assumptionMain square of Novy JicinThe main central square of Nový Jičín is one of the Czech Republic's most attractive. It's almost an equal-sided square and the two or three storey townhouses that line its edge have colourful facades and covered arcades that create an unbroken walkway around the entire perimeter. Not a single building looks out of place and towers of the town hall and the church of the holy trinity add an extra pinch of architectural drama.

House of the white angel in Novy JicinTwo of the nicest houses on the square are both towards the corner near the Church of the Assumption. The yellow and white one with the balcony on each floor was originally the town's post office but is now used as shops, a cultural centre and on the top floor an excellent little cafe with seating inside or overlooking the square from the flower covered balcony. Nearby, the sky blue House of the White Angel has the most elaborately decorated of all the street frontages and has served as the town's pharmacy since the early 1700's.

The plague column in the middle of the square has been recently restored and in front of it stands a small fountain with two dancing characters dressed in the typical German costume of the region. Nový Jičín was a Sudeten German town and if you meet ten locals, you'll probably hear ten different explanations for the figures on the fountain. If you meet the same guy that I met while I was crouching down to photograph it you might even hear a conspiracy theory or two.

Away to one side of the plague column and the dancing German settlers is a new statue of St Nicholas gazing across towards the church tower. Near his feet lays a large bowl shaped fountain and surrounding it are three small sculptures of apples. I've no idea what they represent but they're cool. I also quite liked the modern coloured lights that play unobtrusively on some the historic buildings after dusk.

Novy Jicin chateau-home of the hat museumJust off the square the renaissance chateau houses the museum of hats and millinery. Nový Jičín has a centuries long tradition of hatmaking (since at least the early 1600's) including the opening of the TONAK workshops in 1799. Anyone with the slightest interest in vintage clothing absolutely must pay the museum a visit. Darling.

With good transport links and good range of accommodation for all budgets, Nový Jičín is well worth considering as a base while you're exploring the countryside between Olomouc and Ostrava. Pretty little Štramberk is just a few kilometres away, as is Kopřivnice (and its Tatra automobile museum), Příbor (Sigmund Freud's home town) and the moody ruins of Starý Jičín castle.

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