Discover excellence off the beaten track in Moravia and Silesia, the little known regions of the Czech Republic.
International eXcellence Magazine went off in search of something different in the Czech Republic, looking for adventure, mountains, history and landscapes. Ryan Air have now started flying direct to Ostrava so it's a quick and easy, if spectacularly uncomfortable jaunt over Western Europe (it takes skill to make a seat that badly, or is there some deal going on between Chiropracters and Ryan Air we don’t know about!).
Once there it’s a short journey into Ostrava and you are ideally placed to wander over Moravia and Silesia, exploring at will. Think of it as Tintin in Moravia and you will have a good idea of the scenery and architecture that you will pleasantly discover in your travels.
My companions and I commenced our journey with a trip to the Troyer Hotel nestled in the Beskydy mountains which are the largest in West Carpathian. After a lovely dinner of chicken and delicious dumplings, typical of the region, we indulged in a few bottles of the southern Moravian red Frankova which remained my favourite for the trip and is smooth and velvety with a little hint of spice.
Up bright and early to catch a swim in the lovely Spa pool before breakfast and a ride up to Pusteveny by cable car to the restaurant at the summit, which had just mysteriously burnt down..! The view from the cable car is magnificent, you are bang in the middle of rolling hills and mountains overlooking lush green valleys as far as the eye can see. Pusteveny is a colourful melody of folk wood architecture sprawled between two peaks and once the restaurants have been restored will be an idyllic setting to lunch in. These refuges were designed by architects Dušan Jurkovič and Michal Urbánek who took their inspiration from the Carpathian mountain folk style.
You can also do a number of activities here, skiing in season, hiking, mountain biking and there is a serious marathon that takes place every year, for those who want a proper challenge and a unique experience. The Addidas Continental B7 race was started by the famous mountaineer Libor Uher taking in 7 mountains, above 5000 feet, covering 96 Km and the fastest complete it in 12 hours! There is also a winter version racing up and down the mountain for 24 Hours, this is macho stuff ladies and gentlemen.
Next we take in the Tatra Museum of classic cars in Kopřivnice. This is a little known treasure trove of classic cars, with every body shape from the 40’s to the 70’s when Tatra was the name in cars in the Eastern block. There is definitely an investment opportunity here snapping up some of the more prized models for sale abroad. Look out for the Czech Hero Ride classic car rally organised by the chateau Loučeň Concours d´Elegance, definitely a great way to enjoy the area in style. Tatra really made some stunning classic beauties that compete with any of the top garages of the time. Next we took in the town of Stramberske which is the most picturesque cobbled village square of wooden chalets overlooked by a fairy tale castle tower that Rapunzal would have been pride of, and may even have had to grow her hair a little longer. Also home to numerous Spas, such as the Lašské Beer Spa, that specialise in beer or wine baths with each on tap for drinking. You can even finish off by relaxing in a moodily lit salt cavern set in the mountain side. You will be so relaxed I would heartily recommend ordering the travel back to the hotel beforehand.
Whilst the area is dominated by Empire architecture there is also a good smattering of post war communist buildings which are always fascinating. So much of it pre dates post modern architecture on a grand scale, mixed in with communist industrial utilitarian factories typified by the Michal Coal Mine which is now open to visitors. If you like to really feel your history and have any penchant for photography then do not miss this. This is a very raw experience. Vast rusting black machines surrounded by a conveyor line of rooms designed to prep, clean and equip an army of miners to descend deep into a tight shaft. They extracted a ton of coal per person per day on average. The colours of these rooms are a distressed worn green made luminous by the flickering luminescent, florescent tubes filled with brown-green breathing and protective equipment. It is a surreal experience to be in an environment with such single purpose and it begets a large amount of respect for the men who worked and survived in such harsh conditions. The hulking great black Victorian machines are artworks in themselves, and it must have been an extraordinary, but dangerous life to work in and amongst them every day. Continuing with the mining theme is Landek Park which is another mine that is open to the public and takes you down the main shaft to get a taste of the working conditions for the miners.
Ostrava was known as the industrial centre of the Czech Republic and this is due to the lower Area of Vítkovice which was the main mining and iron smelting complex which has now been turned into a Steam Punk gothic dream museum and concert area. This complex includes the Gong, a gas container converted into a concert hall and stages music festivals and events both inside and out. This area is a UNESCO site national monument and is being brilliantly used as a social and historical entertainment park. Imagine black iron trains rusting in the middle of a sprawling industrial vista of cranes, pipes and towers, all interweaving between gas containers and sprouting chimneys. Look out for The Colours of Ostrava Music Festival in this city of steel.
We dined and rested at the lovely boutique and historic design Zámek Zábřeh Hotel, which also has a beer and wine Spa. The rooms are stylishly renovated and they have live local music in the restaurant which is very popular.
We spent the following day in Kunin bowling with the lovely and welcoming mayor who also showed us around Kunin Castle which is an architectural gem, displaying modern building methods way before their time, check out the attic for a very modern style thinking and design. This is a splendid castle rich in history and character and the guide is passionate and well informed. Our glorious evening was spent singing in Silesia at the Avalanche Hotel in the Jeseníky mountains. This is a marvellous complex of chalets set in rolling verdant hills, perfect as a family bolthole from which to ski, play and explore the surrounding countryside.
Early morning saw us indulging in a little Bond style recovery Spa at Karlova Studánka Spa, which is right out of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. An entire village given over to a Spa providing two centuries of cures for various ailments. Do pop over to Příbor to see the birthplace of Sigismund Schlomo Freud, you can even sit on the couch. The father of psychology was clearly a little loopy himself, brilliant but chock full of nuts, some of his early theories were hilariously misguided. Finally it was time for a little R&R Czech style with a wander through the cafes of the magnificent Imperial Masaryk Square in Ostrava and relaxing at the Park Inn Hotel which has an excellent restaurant, Then gliding out to the legendary Stodlni Street for a few of the local beers and some dancing. Radegast Beer brewed in Nošovice was my favourite and for good reason, it is excellent. Aptly named after the God of Fertility, it has no doubt been responsible for much fecundity.
So what’s excellent about Moravia and Silesia? Quite simply it’s the history, the architecture, the adventure sports, the landscape and the people. This is a country steeped in a rich history that is still undiscovered by the average tourist. The architecture mingles wood folk natural with Gothic Empire and Grand Empire Style. The people take great care maintaining and preserving their cultural heritage for others to enjoy. Everything is immaculate and clean set in undulating hills of unsurpassed beauty. Perfect for families or couples who want to relax in beautiful surroundings or for thrill seekers looking for adventure sports and to take in the sites. I can recommend Mushing with Huskies across the snow driven landscapes, where else offers this only a few hours from London?
Jet over for a weekend for adventures you can dine on for weeks. Best of all, it's unbelievable value for money, but that won’t last forever. Combine a work-pleasure trip and take a look at property investment while you are there. The Muria Hotel located right on the 36-holes PGA Golf Course of Čeladná is a great place to stay, combining graphic art and post modern design with a smart collection of modern art: such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Henry Moore, Tony Cragg and David Černý. The Muira was conceived and designed by LABOR13, the architectural studio in Prague, led by Albert Pražák, Martin Vomastek and Jiří Bardoděj, it is the start of a new trend of modern design hotels making the best use of unexplored spaces. Discover this land before everyone else!
Classic Car Rallies:
Parachuting, Paragliding, Archery, Cycling:
Circuit 4 Wheelers, Mushing, Extreme Tatra trucks:
Mountain Race: www.beskydskasedmicka.cz/b7/
Car Museum: www.tatramuseum.cz/index.php?r=5&idj=2
Lašské Beer Spa: www.relaxvpodhuri.cz/cs/lazne/lasske-pivni-kupele
Lower Area of Vítkovice: www.dolnioblastvitkovice.cz/
Michal Mine: http: www.dul-michal.cz/en/
Landek Park: http: www.landekpark.cz/
Jakub Glass Workshop : www.sklarnajakub.cz/profil.html
Czech Dance Classes at Dance Palace: www.dancepalaceostrava.cz
Zamek Zabreh Hotel: www.zamek-zabreh.cz
Troyer Hotel: www.troyer.cz/hotel-troyer.aspx?culture=EN
Avalanche Hotel: www.skiareal-avalanche.cz/
Karlova Studánka Spa: www.k.studanka.cz/en/
Muira Hotel and Golf: www.miura.cz/en