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Hi and welcome back to the holiday edition of my bliki. Today, I'm in Ostrava, the third largest city and coke (both meanings) capital of the Czech Republic. I feel like I'm slowly turning this into a travel journal, aren't I? Is it okay? Am I taking up too much space on the server with the pictures below? You can never have too many dog photos.
Coal, rust and hipsters
Before we dive into the post-industrial extravaganza, let's ask ourselves: does anyone use the word hipster anymore? Yeah no, it's gone just like lumberjack clothing, thick glasses, PSY and other things that were big in 2013.
Ostrava has a rich history: it's located on the border of the historical lands of Moravia and Silesia, and in the past about a third of it belonged to Prussia. During WWII, sometimes the residents would wake up in a different country every morning: sometimes it was Hitler's Germany, sometimes the shambles of Poland, sometimes the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. However simply put, the most important historical event for Ostrava was when coal deposites were found in the area in the 18th century, which sparked the boom of heavy industry.
In terms of urbanism, Ostrava is probably one of the messiest cities in the country. As mayors came and went, so did the approach and plans, and so the city was mostly shaped by the factory owners, who not only decided where the plants are going to be, but also built homes for the workers.
The city went through serious decline and recession after the gradual fall of the heavy industry in the 1990s and was further damaged by the 1997 flood. I guess you could compare it to Detroit's situation post-2008? Most of the city is undermined by the way, which complicates new construction. But there's also the benefits to that: there's plentiful of green areas and finding a parking spot is never too hard either.
I spent a solid half of my childhood there, so I think I know a fair bit about Ostrava. I love the city. It's one of the places I have a special relationship with, along with Prague and a couple others.
What to do in Ostrava
If you're looking for more than generic castles and flocks of Asian tourists, and if you like industrial architecture, the city is a great choice.
- Buy a 24-hour public transport ticket.
- Visit the café in Laso at the central (Masarykovo) sqaure! It's on the third floor and features a nice view of the 'old' town. The food isn't outstandingly good, but it's dirt cheap.
- Get lost!
- Don't get too lost. There's oil sands and cinder dumps.
- Don't get too lost. There's gypsy ghettos.
- If you still want to get lost, practice getting lost at a Tesco first.
- Visit some of the worker colonies! They feature wonderful red brick industrial architecture.
- Explore socialist realism in the eastern uptown, Poruba.
- Take a walk around the steel mills and stuff!
- Relax on the bank of the river Ostravice!
- For the love of god, don't visit Colors of Ostrava, the music festival. I know it's got Bastille and Birdy and whatever, but it's like Coachella, in all the bad sense.
- Enjoy seeing interesting things on every corner without any other tourist being present?
What inspired me
Poruba, the eastern suburb, was a huge inspiration for Boravská Louka in Odrava and earlier Nultá Míle, Drahany (now somewhere in Neo Delta.) The post-industrial character of the city. Also, you might find yourself in front of a beautiful arts center and just two blocks away, you're in front of an abandonded coal mine pit. The random gaps between houses and unfinished blocks. Polluted areas, decay and dust. The rough Ostravan boys, obvi.
Comments are v appreciated
I like trains.