In my travels I’ve been lucky enough to make new friends and connect with old friends along the way. I tried my best to set up a network of couch surfing in order to release some tension on my bank account and (selfishly) give me built in tour guides to various foreign cities. It’s a highly recommended strategy for any of you would-be vagabonds. Ostrava is one such location and Chris is one such friend. Chris and I worked together at our former Amazon subsidiary, but have both since moved on to greener pastures. Chris’s pasture is currently Ostrava, where he works as a consultant and lives a life of central European luxury in an interesting Czech town that most would not consider to be on the top ten sightseeing tours. Ostrava is within 2 hours of the Polish border and is Czech Republics 3rd largest city.
A key contributor to energy production, you can see the remnants of the old communist coal mining town that once was. In present day the city has closed its black coal mines and now focuses on more modern methods of energy production and metallurgy, giving it the nickname of “the steel heart of the republic”.My time on Chris’s couch (usually sharing it with his Puggle, Lolly) was well spent as I got to explore a city outside the typical tourist circuit and indulge in more authentic Czech cuisine, scenery and nightlife.
The highlights of my Ostrava stint include visiting Stramberk castle, a wakeboarding park and several nights spent on the raucous Stoldoni street. Since Chris was given a company car (a sweet Audi)
he was kind enough to take me to see some sighs outside the city. As I was getting adjusted to the feeling of simply riding in a car again, we were speeding down the unpatrolled Czech highways at over 100mph. One of our first stops was a small lake, which contained a tow-rope wakeboarding park.
As I normally spend my summers wakeboarding in SC, I eagerly jumped at the chance to try my hand here. Fun ensued, which calls for a video:
Chris also took me to nearby Stramberk, a small town in the Moravian-Silesian region. It lies on the slope of a forested lime hill, dominated by the Trúba castle tower. Because of the town’s location, its many historical buildings and a unique collection of timbered houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, the town has nicknamed the Moravian Betlehem. Nearby there is the Sipka Cave where Neanderthal child bone remnants were discovered.
The Czech castles I visited were decidedly different than those of picturesque fame, these castles seemed more rustic and functional. Old and medieval, most lacked the flair of their western European counterparts but made up for it in history and authentic style. Just below the castle tower in Stramberk, I was able to enjoy some delicious Czech potato pancakes with strong sheeps cheese and a skewer of bacon wrapped chicken. Washed down with the darker variety of Czech pilsner, the delightfully roasty but clean finishing Kozel.
To cap it all off, just outside of Stramberk Chris and I got to visit the teadional Czech home of his ladyfriends mother in Koprivnice. There we were showed incredible hospitality and given a variety of snacks, including fresh fruit and one of the best (and largest) pineapple (ananas) cakes I’ve ever tasted.
One of the more enigmatic attractions I Ostrava is the infamous, Stoldoni street. Every Friday night, young and old flock to this one street lined with bars and clubs. Czech youth will travel from hours away by train, bus and car just to see and be seen on Stoldoni.
Around 2am the street becomes completely packed, a mass or drunken humanity, I’ve seldom seen anything like it. Perhaps the closest comparison would be Halloween night on Franklin St in Chapel Hill, but the mayhem on Stoldoni occurs EVERY Friday night. Everyone is throwing back cocktails and the popular local pilsner, Ostravar, followed up by dancing, rabblerousing, tail-chasing and most likely a Doner Kebap for fourth-meal. The bars don’t close until sunrise as the out of towers stumble back onto trains and trams to head back home, wether its 5 minutes or 5 hours away. Even though English speakers are seldom found, you can still notice their love for western style and culture. I experienced this love in the form of many free drinks, which apparently led Chris and I to become victims of a date-rape drug one cloudy night. No need for concern, we don’t think anything happened to us as we both woke up in Chris’s hotel with our clothing and belongings in tact. The situation simply led to a, “The Hangover”, type aftermath where we spent the entire next day trying to figure out who, what, when, where, why and how we ended up in that condition. Earlier that night, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at a concert on Stoldoni, here is a quick clip from the Czech bands set, showing their western love with a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s, Superstitious (coincidentally the lead singer is indeed blind):