Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic behind Prague and Brno, might not spring to mind when considering a trip to central or eastern Europe. However, things are changing in this Moravian city as it seeks to throw off its legacy image. Named after the Ostrá river meaning fast, Ryanair’s direct flights now from London Stansted make it far more accessible.
Many famous people hark from the area including Ivan Lendl, multiple Grand Slam tennis champion, and Emil Zatopek, the long-distance runner nicknamed the ‘Czech Locomotive’, who won three Olympic gold medals at Helsinki. These days Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt runs at the city’s ‘Golden Spike’ meeting and says: “I feel at home here.”
Zatopek chose to be buried at the enchanting Wooden Townlet at the Wallachian Open Air Museum in Roznov pod Radhostem – 25 miles from Ostrava and a €3 train journey. Opened in 1925 it presents an amazing collection of folk architecture.
A few miles further away one can meander along the Beskydy mountains at 1,000 metres above sea level. Enjoy some excellent Wallachian cuisine and local Radegast beer in Libusin Restaurant at Pustevny. The nearby ski lift offers an exhilarating ride down the mountain.
Dotted around are lush golf courses including one next to the funky Miura Hotel in Celadna village (pictured). It displays various art installations from the likes of Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and Bombay born Anish Kapoor. And, it certainly provokes a reaction.
Ostrava is unique, inspiring and perfect for a break. There are around 25 visitor attractions – including an impressive zoo, several theatres and a mining museum at Landek Park that once descended to a depth of 600 metres. Go underground, but before doing so down a glass of Miners’ Flag, a stiff drink offered to visitors.
The Lower Vitkovice area is a major highlight consisting of a huge steelworks dating back almost two centuries. At one time it produced 950-1,200 tons of pig iron a day and last tapped in 1998. (Note: ArcelorMittal’s steel plant in Ostrava still operates). A glass lift takes visitors to the top of Lower Vitkovice’s blast furnace 1 and secures an awesome panoramic view over the town.
Visitors can see inside the blast furnace, the energy exchange unit now housing a Jules Verne-themed museum and the amazing ‘Gong’, an imposing former gasholder that is now a multi-functional arts facility. The site also plays hosts to the ‘Colours of Ostrava’ festival, which last summer saw 70,000 visitors and Alanis Morisette perform.
Partygoers should head to Stodolni Street, a legendary entertainment district in the centre of town with over sixty bars and restaurants. It’s a street that never sleeps. Here I would recommend Potrefena Husa, 15 Stodolni, offering local and international fare. Kavarna Elektra near the town square provides a fine dining experience and a chance to taste excellent desserts from Ollies, a famous Ostravian bakery and cake shop. For more information on Ostrava see: www.ostrava.cz
– by Roger Aitken