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The Svata Katerina Resort possibly seems out of place in the country that has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. But when you factor in that the Czech Republic also has some of the best spas in Europe, it totally makes sense. It also made sense that I had to visit the spa myself while I was in the country to learn just how good the Czechs are at relaxing.

The Czech Republic readily boasts the fact that they drink more beer than any other country in the world – over 42 gallons of beer a year. That’s an average of a pint a day, but that’s also averaged out among every citizen in the country, babies and grannies included. When I first heard that the Czech Republic was big on wellness centers, I thought that was a joke considering their drinking habits. Then again, if you drink a lot and like to relax, why not visit a spa as well? Of course, many spas in the country combine drinking and relaxation in their beer and wine spas, where you actually bathe in a tub of fermented barley or grapes.

What is the Svata Katerina Resort

Svata Katerina Resort doesn’t have a beer or wine spa, but they have just about everything else. Located about an hour and a half southeast of Prague, the resort covers several acres of rolling hills and forests. Also contained on the grounds are horseback riding facilities, seven different gyms, tennis courts, sports fields and a golf course. But those pale in comparison to the actual facilities of the spa.

Svata Katerina Resort

Centuries ago, a spa was built around the Saint Katerina spring after the healing properties of the water were discovered. Over the years, the spa has flourished and expanded. There are now several dozen staff delivering massages and manning the three hotels, a restaurant and two cafes. Others groom the grounds, offer yoga classes and pilates, and generally make one’s stay as pleasant as possible.  The resort even has a salon where you can get manicures and pedicures.

Svata Katerina Wellness Suite

There are many treatments and packages offered by the Svata Katerina Resort. You can either order à la carte, choosing which massages, meals, activities and accommodations suit your fancy, or you can pick one of the dozens of packages. Many of the packages are for two or three days, perfect for a weekend break, and include yoga, massages, healthy meals and fitness activities.

Svata Katerina Massage Room

My First Time Going Horse Swimming

This is a bit of a tangent since it’s not something actually offered at the Sveta Katerina Resort. On the way there, a fellow blogger and I were asked if we wanted to go horse swimming. Of course we said yes. After dropping off our bags and having a quick lunch, we went to one of the nearby lakes where two horses had been brought to swim in the water and escape from the blistering heatwave the Czech Republic was experiencing.

After taking some time to get photos and videos of the two horse handlers swimming around with the horses, and then a brief indoctrination, we were given a chance to try out horse swimming for ourselves. Now, just to clarify, this was bareback riding and we had to launch ourselves out of the water onto the back of the horse. With nothing to hold onto but the reins, we took the horses into the center of the lake where the water is deeper than the horse.

There’s a magical feeling when the horse suddenly becomes weightless beneath you and you realize that you’re actually swimming through the water with the horse swimming beneath you. The trick is to keep yourself positioned just right over the horse for when he gets his footing and comes up beneath you. It didn’t last nearly long enough, and soon we were headed back to the spa for our first day for our entrance consultation.

Checking Into the Svata Katerina Resort

The Svata Katerina Resort puts relaxation above luxury. You won’t find the crystal chandeliers, gold handrails and lapis lazuli tile floors you might expect in a 12-star resort. Instead, the simple, elegant decorations promote calmness and peace of mind. Then again, you don’t need all the fancy decorations when you’re surrounded by beautiful forests and fields, sunbathing on one of the patios, or swimming in the ponds.

Svata Katerina Decorations

There are several classes of rooms available, from standard to superior. Sticking to my lifestyle, I had a simple, standard room. It’s what I expected to see at a yoga retreat – a bed, bathroom, closet, and a table to work at. I’m always happy to find rooms without a TV. Why would you want to waste time watching shows when you’re at a resort?

Svata Katerina Bedroom

The staff was very accommodating, ensuring the stay was as comfortable as possible. Although this is the Czech Republic, I didn’t have trouble conversing with them in English. If I did run into a staff member who didn’t speak my language (which was rare), they were quick to get someone who did.

Along with my room key, I was also given a yoga mat, yoga roll and a hot water thermos to use during my stay. In the room, a bathrobe and slippers were neatly packaged for me, and there were plenty of towels to use throughout the day, whether I wanted to go swimming, visit the fitness center or clean up after some sports.

The Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Program

Among the many packages offered are five Ayurvedic treatments. I’d heard references of Ayurvedic massage through friends visiting resorts in India and Bali, but I’d never experienced one myself. Perhaps it’s a little strange that I should pick a resort in the Czech Republic to get my first Ayurvedic massage, but Svata Katerina hires all their Ayurvedic staff directly from Kerala, India where they are trained by the Kairali Group, one of the leading Ayurvedic centers in the world.

The Ayurvedic packages offered are for weight loss, back pain, yoga detox, rejuvenation and panchakarma (a five-fold detox program). The rejuvenation program has packages for 4, 6 or 8 days, while the other packages start at 8 days and go up to 22 days. Accommodations and meals are provided in the Ayurvedic packages, the latter created by Kairali-trained chef Rahul. Ayurvedic meals are vegetarian and are made without oil (except coconut oil) and very little dairy. Plenty of Indian spices and herbs are used, and the meals are simply delicious.

Svata Katerina Special Ayurvedic Meal

The rejuvenation program that I took was tailored for three days but included most of the regular package. I had my intro and outgoing consultations, an hour yoga class, an hour lecture on what ayurvedic massage is, and four massages – two Abhyanga and two Shirodhara. I enjoyed both of them, as unique as they were. It was particularly interesting receiving the Shirodhara massage, which started off with warm oil getting slowly dripped on my forehead.

What is an Ayurvedic Massage

Read my article on What is Ayurvedic Massage for the rest of the details about my Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Program.

Meals at the Svata Katerina Resort

I have a confession to make. I didn’t stick to the Ayurvedic menu for the whole weekend. Don’t get me wrong – I ate every meal they served me, but I had some additional meals!

In the morning, there was a large breakfast buffet available to all guests. Among the selection were pastries, meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, bread, hard-boiled eggs and homemade yogurts. At the end of the buffet was a cooking station where Palacinky (Czech crepes) were prepared on request and topped with powdered sugar, fresh cream and berry jam. These are one of the most common breakfasts in the country, and I’ll admit I had one each morning I was at the resort.

Another treat that the other blogger at the resort and I shared was the grilled teriyaki salmon steak with fennel salad, radishes and fresh basil. The Czech Republic is a landlocked country, and I assumed that they used frozen fish shipped in from the Nordic countries. Our grilled salmon steak certainly didn’t taste like that though. Maybe a nearby salmon farm? I didn’t bother to ask.

Svata Katerina Salmon Steak

On my final evening at the resort, I went for the 1/2 lb beef steak with baby leaf salad and cherry tomatoes, and a side of potato puree. I’m not usually a big fan of steaks, especially when the meat is too chewy. This one was anything but. I followed it with the chocolate fondant with raspberry sauce and coconut-chocolate ice cream. Can you say decadent?

Book Now at the Svata Katerina Resort

The Svata Katerina Resort is open year round, and some of the more beautiful packages are available during the winter when everything is covered in snow, and ice skating is available on the pond. The prices at the resort are fair. The Czech Republic is one of the cheaper countries in Europe, so don’t expect to spend a month’s rent for a weekend of relaxation.

Click here to book your package at the Svata Katerina Resort.

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Further Reading

Are you visiting Ostrava and looking for more activities? Here are some other articles to help you out.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Would you build an artificial, giant hill with a fun park just for your two kids? I certainly would! That’s just what a guy did near Ostrava, Czech Republic and now Heipark is open to the public.

What is Heipark

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that a father built a giant hill (think a small mountain) to create various outdoor activities for his kids, but I’m certainly glad he did! In 2001, Heipark opened up to the public, becoming the first artificially-made ski resort in the Czech Republic. Skiing is only one of the many activities. There’s tubing, rock climbing, zip lines, a mechanical bull, and even an alpine sled.

I saw my first alpine sled on YouTube a few years ago and I was dying to do one ever since. I knew there were a few in Italy, Germany and Austria. I had no idea that there was one in the Czech Republic, so you can imagine my surprise when my bus pulled into Heipark and the alpine sled was the first thing I saw. An alpine sled is very similar to a toboggan for snow, but this one is built on rails that wind down the side of a mountain. Some of the courses I saw on YouTube had a single rail, but the one at Heipark has two. You’re first brought up a usual roller-coaster incline to get to the top of the hill. From there, it’s high-speed laughing and screaming…or just screaming…until you reach the bottom. It takes about a minute and a half to get to the bottom…if you don’t use the breaks. I didn’t.

The next ride I went on was the inner tube. The ride is only a couple hundred feet long, and I didn’t think it would be that much of a thrill, especially after the alpine sled. I was wrong. I don’t know if the ride always drops you off going backward at the beginning, but the plastic mats that the inner tube slides down have sprinklers keeping them wet, and the tube picks up quite a bit of speed. Some of the other adults I was with actually found it a little too scary!

Of course, I also had to try the mechanical bull. I’ve been on a few of them in the past, and there’s a pattern that always happens. The operator tries his hardest to get me off the bull. After a few seconds, I hear a distinct click as the operator shifts the machine into a higher gear, at which point the bull goes into overdrive and it’s literally impossible for me to stay on. The mechanical bull at Heipark was no different, except that instead of a single click, I heard four, each time putting the bull into a faster frenzy. At the final stage, the bull was spinning so fast that I simply went into hysterics and fell off. Forty-five seconds I held on for. I challenge anyone to last longer.

The attractions didn’t stop there. Many were designed for kids and are a bit small for adults. Such activities include bungee jumping, a treetop rope course with ziplines, a trampoline park, an archery range, giant slides, bouldering, and a small golf range. There’s also a large disk golf range which I would have loved to spent time at, but we were on the clock during our visit.

Heipark Disk Golf Course

In the winter, the tubing goes on the slow and the ski slopes open up. There’s ice skating on the pond and even a giant airbag to bounce off of. All in all, it’s an absolute paradise for kids, which is why I loved it so much. When was the last time you released your inner child?

Heypark Alpine Sled

Other Attractions in the Kravařsko Region

Heipark is in the Kravařsko Region in the eastern Czech Republic, although for some strange reason this region doesn’t show up on Google Maps! While I try to remedy that, here are some other attractions you can check out if you happen to be in the region.

Kunín Chateau

The Kunín Chateau was constructed in the first half of the 18th century by the same architect who designed some of the more impressive buildings in Vienna, such as the Belvedere Palace. The chateau has gone through a colorful history, including getting used as a headquarters by Communist troops. It recently went through a full restoration and is now a museum you can tour through to see the decor and lifestyle at the time of its construction.

If you want a more unique place to stay while visiting this region or nearby Ostrava, you can even rent one of the upstairs rooms in the chateau. They also have a restaurant where you can get some really delicious meals from the region.

Wesselsky Watermill

This large watermill was one of the last to operate in a region which used to have hundreds of such mills. Originally constructed in the 16th century, it operated for nearly 500 years and is fully functional to this day. You can take tours of the mill, learning about the mechanisms on all five stories and how the mill not only functioned to grind wheat but also provided electricity to the nearby town.

Here too, you can rent a room for the night. Adults are a mere €15 each ($20) and kids are half that! Or, if you’re passing through on your bike or backpacking, you can get the dorm room for about $6 a night! The rooms have been restored to how they looked in the first half of the 20th century. There aren’t a lot of frills here, but you’re out in nature and it’s a beautiful location. Besides, you’ve got Heipark just a couple miles down the road.

Wesselsky Watermill Accommodation Bathroom

Summary

Heipark is located a half an hour by car southwest of Ostrava. The park is open year round. On weekdays in the summer, it’s open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Every other day the hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Most of the attractions are priced separately but don’t expect to pay more than about $20 per person, and half that for kids. This is the Czech Republic after all, not Disneyland. Prices are reasonable.

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Further Reading

Are you visiting Ostrava and looking for more activities? Here are some other articles to help you out.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

For some reason, when I was first offered a trip to the Beskid Mountains, I had the hardest time committing the name to memory. Now that I’ve visited, I’ll never forget it, nor how beautiful they were.

The Beskydy Mountains (as they’re called in the Czech Republic) start in the southeast corner of the Czech Republic and stretch nearly 400 miles along the borders of Poland and Slovakia until they end in Ukraine. They are part of the larger Carpathian Mountain Range of eastern Europe. For this article, I will focus on the portion of the range in the Silesian Region of the Czech Republic.

Arts and Crafts in Mosty u Jablunkova

I actually made two trips to the Beskid Mountains during my three weeks in the Czech Republic. On the first trip, we first went to the village of Mosty u Jablunkova to visit the local arts and crafts museum. I fell in love with the place as soon as I got off the bus and saw the hand-carved slide with a bear crawling underneath it. Then I tried to go down the slide and got my ass stuck, which really hurt!

Wood Bear Under Slide at Museum

Outside the museum were several booths and workstations where local crafters were demonstrating various skills associated with the region. The first we saw was a guy carving wooden bowls with a lathe. Next, there was a guy using handheld planes to make roof shingles the old-fashioned way. For the kids, there was a large tent with dozens of pails contain a pulp from which they could craft their own paper.

Shilgle Making at Mosty u Jablunkova

Small food stands were set up with some of the local products. One had several different kinds of cheese from the region, and another was serving homemade coffee. We also tried the potato pancakes, and a wafer-like cookie which was produced as we watched.

Inside the museum were more arts and crafts stations, including a man missing his legs who was crafting gorgeous walking sticks, all decorated with various animals on the handles. Upstairs was a room filled with all the herbs and flowers in the region, as well as a great testing station where you could try to guess over a dozen different smells.

Carveed Walking Stick in Mosty u Jablunkova

There were dozens of hand-crafted, wooden sculptures and designs around the museum. It only took us about an hour to see everything, but I really liked getting a better understanding of the lifestyle of the locals there.

Wood Carvings in Mosty u Jablunkova

The Trójstyk Obelisks

Our next stop was the small village of Hrčava where the village mayor was waiting to meet us. At a little food hut, we were given more potato pancakes (which we could hardly eat as we were stuffed from the museum) and the local beer made by the mayor himself. He was also walking around with a big bottle of vodka, begging us to do shots with him.

Group Photo at Trójstyk

Hrčava is the trójstyk, or tripoint, where the three countries of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia come together. There is a large stone obelisk to represent each of the three countries, as well as a small one at the bottom of a ravine to mark the actual meeting point of the borders. There used to be a bridge across the ravine, but it’s long since collapsed and it doesn’t seem to be getting repaired anytime soon. There’s also a noticeable difference between the Polish/Czech side of the ravine and the Slovakian side where the path is barely maintained.

Trójstyk Three Obelisks

Nový Jičín – The Town of Hats

During my second visit to the Beskid Mountains, the first village we visited was Nový Jičín, located at the base of the mountain range. The town had a beautiful historic city square dating back to the 14th century, although the town was partially damaged in World War II.

Nový Jičín Town Square

The town’s claim to fame is the hat museum on the town square. There is a full exhibit of how they made the hats from felt, which I found really informative. There was also a room where kids (and adults) could design their own small hats. Finally, there was an exhibition room with hundreds of different hat styles, all of which had been produced in Nový Jičín. We had fun trying on different shapes and sizes. I think I liked the fedora the most.

Group Photo at Hat Museum

There isn’t a lot to see in town, and there were only a couple restaurants for us to choose from for lunch. We ended up at Colores Restaurant, barely locatable down a side street and with a nondescript entrance. While their location might not be great, the food was. I went with the bacon cheeseburger. If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know I fell in love with burgers in the Czech Republic. I still can’t get over how massive they were there!

Bacon Cheeseburger Lunch at Colores Restaurant

Štramberk’s Bloody Ears

That evening, we ended up in Štramberk, the “Moravian Bethlehem” with a rather bloody history related to ears. As the legend goes, there was a Mongol invasion in 1241 in which the Mongols were taking ears of the Christians as trophies for their Khan. The locals managed to dig a trap for the Mongols during a storm and flooded the camp. When the water receded, they found bags of bloody, salted ears meant for their khan.

Stramberk Town with Tower

To commemorate the incident, the locals started baking sweet pastries in the vague shape of ears. The companies baking the ears have been around for centuries and export around the world, although the cookies are particularly popular in the Czech Republic. There is a secret formula which has a lot of cinnamon, and perhaps a touch of nutmeg and cardamom among other spices.

Stramberk Ears Factory

Štramberk is built around a tower fortification which provides an excellent view of the surrounding mountains. It’s only about 20 minutes to get to the top of the tower from the village square. There was a castle built in the late 13th century, but the tower and battlements are all that remain. Tickets to climb the tower are 40 Czech crowns (about $1.80).

For dinner, we went to Městský Pivovar Štramberk (Štramberk Municipal Brewery), again one of the only restaurants in town. The designs and furnishings inside were awesome, The wine cellar went back centuries, and there are even working wells in the basement.

Městský Pivovar Štramberk Basement

After a beer flight of the local brews, I went with the sausage platter. They weren’t your average sausages you find at the supermarket, nor the thick Polish sausages from just over the border. They were tough, deliciously flavored and served with spicy mustard – one of the most popular dishes in the region. Some of the other bloggers went with the fried cheese and fries (another popular dish in the region) on my recommendation, while Mark got the pork knuckle. You should have seen it! I swear it was over half a foot high!

Dinner at Městský Pivovar Štramberk

We spent the night at Hotel Stramberk, famous as the hotel where the first president of the Czech Republic stayed when he visited the town. The rooms were nice, clean and large. My only problem was the lack of air conditioning or even a fan, but that was because of unusual circumstances. First of all, the Czech Republic is very far north and the average temperature is quite cool. Second, Štramberk is up in the mountains and even cooler than the rest of the country. Lastly, I was there during a very unusual heatwave. Beyond that, the hotel was great and I’d love to stay there again someday.

Click here to make a reservation for Hotel Štramberk.

Golf and a Spa at the Prosper Golf Resort in Čeladná

The Prosper Golf Resort was designed by the professional golfer Miguel Ángel Jiménez and built in 2001. It’s surrounded by the beautiful Beskid Mountains. There are two golf courses – the Old Course and the New Course. The PGA has been hosted there three times from 2009 to 2011, and the Czech Open in 2010 and 2011.

Aside from the two courses, there is also a driving range, and even a putting course (similar to miniature golf but for pros). Along with a group of other bloggers, I went through a couple baskets of balls on the driving range. We then moved to the putting range, learning how to play on the green. We then played a scrimmage to see which team to get the ball in the hole first. Finally, we had a chance to drive golf carts around the course to see its beauty. Basically, we spent the morning being big kids and having way too much fun.

We all went to the clubhouse for lunch. Don’t laugh, but I had the spaghetti carbonara. It’s not that I don’t like Czech food; I love it. If anything, I’d eaten too much and the pasta at the golf course just looked really good.

Spaghetti Carbonara at Prosper Golf Resort

Our final activity in Čeladná was a trip to the spa at the Miura Hotel, located on the Prosper Golf Resort. This four-star hotel is a real work of art. More than that, it’s surrounded by rather interesting statues by the famous sculptor David Černý who also has several works of art throughout Prague, including the “Pissing Men.”

In the bottom floor of the hotel, there is a large wellness suite with a beautiful hot tub, several saunas, and even an ice chamber. While I would have loved a massage, I was more than happy to spend an hour moving between the different saunas and relaxing in the jacuzzi.

Perhaps the greatest claim to fame that the Miura Hotel bosts is they have the top chef in the Czech Republic! He’s trained all over the world, and his skill set is impressive. Our meal consisted of the following: soup – potato cream, egg 63 °C, dried mushrooms from Beskid; main course – regional chicken fillet with spinach spaetzle (a local tortellini-like pasta), cream and bone ham; dessert – orange creme brulee. As it happens, most of the main headline acts at the Colours of Ostrava music festival stay at the Miura Hotel, and the chef has had the likes of Alanis Morissette and Pharrell Williams raving about his dishes. Suffice to say, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Hiking to Lysá Hora

Of course, you can’t go to the Beskid Mountains and not go hiking. Well, I suppose you could but that would suck! There are hundreds of miles of trails within the mountains. What’s more, the conditions are excellent for marathon training, and there were quite a few runners on the trails while I was there. Even Usain Bolt comes to this region to train!

We were scheduled to sleep at a chateau on the summit of Lysá Hora, the “Queen of the Beskydy Mountains” and the highest peak in the region. While it would have been possible to drive to the hotel, where’s the fun in that? Instead, we were dropped off near the village of Ostravice and, while our baggage was shuttled up the mountain, we hiked up.

The 3-mile hike up the hill was both beautiful and fun, even though I did get ahead of most of the group. Monique of Wanderlust, My Way was the one who kept pace with me the entire way, despite never having done a hike like that before.

Group Shot on Lysa Hora

We got to the summit just before 6 p.m and checked into the Emil Zátopek-Maraton mountain cottage. Dinner was cafeteria-style in the lodge and nothing to write home about, but we weren’t there for the dinner. We all rushed through it, grabbed our tripods and went outside to get photos and time-lapses of the sunset. Alright, there wasn’t some epic cloud cover that I loved seeing in Sweden or a reflection on the sea, but it was still beautiful. Funny enough, we almost missed the sunset as we were so distracted by the ridiculously well-trained collie that two of the hikers had brought up with them.

Video Credit: Omo Osagiede of Hey! Dip Your Toes In

The hotel was really nice with well-decorated rooms and an epic view. The lack of an AC or fan wasn’t a problem as, with the altitude, it was quite cool at night. Usually the resort operates as a ski lodge, and I saw some amazing photos when it was covered in snow. I’d love to be back someday to see that for myself! But there was something else that the hotel had. Down on the ground floor, there was a bowling alley! Not full length and only two lanes, but you can bet we made good use of it, even though it was nearly midnight and we were planning for a very early start.

Click here to make a reservation for the Emil Zátopek-Maraton mountain cottage.

The next morning, we were up at 5 a.m. for the sunrise. It was just as good as sunset, and the dog was there and happy to perform more tricks. A bunch of hikers had bivouacked overnight outside the lodge just to see the sunrise with us. If you can make it up for sunrise or sunset, I’d definitely recommend it. If not, I’d still recommend an excursion from Ostrava to the Beskid Mountains to hike, golf, eat some ears or just enjoy nature.

Sunrise on Lysa Hora

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Further Reading

Are you visiting Ostrava and looking for other activities? Here are some other articles to help you out.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Are you planning a trip to Ostrava and looking for things to do? Perhaps you could consider visiting the Jeseniky Mountains. If you like nature, hiking, adventurous activities or sunbathing on the shores of a lake, the Jeseniky Mountains will be perfect for you.

The Jeseniky Mountains are a little over 60 miles northwest of Ostrava near the Polish border and take about two hours to reach by car or bus…although there aren’t a lot of direct trains or buses. Better to rent a car. Rental companies from the Ostrava airport are as little as $15 a day (plus insurance).

I had the chance to visit the Jeseniky Mountains on a day tour with a group of other bloggers through TBEX. Within ten hours, we learned all about the mountains, what kickscooters were and how much fun (and dangerous) they could be, and how the Slezská Harta Dam helped to save the region.

Praděd National Nature Reserve

Our first stop was at the Praděd National Nature Reserve. At 4,893 feet high, Praded is the highest mountain the Jeseniky Mountains, and the fifth-highest in the Czech Republic. Our bus had to wait quite a while for the final stretch of the road as it narrows down to a single-lane up in the mountains. We parked at the Chata Sabinka chateau and from there hiked to the radio tower atop the summit of Praded.

The radio tower was completed in 1983 and rises another 531 feet above the summit. You can buy a ticket for the viewing platform halfway up for about $5. Unfortunately, the platform is fully encased in rather dirty windows and the photos from there aren’t the best. The tower also has accommodations you can rent. A group of my friends did so a week after I was there, although I don’t think they had the best experience. It’s not exactly a 5-star hotel.

Jeseniky Mountains from the Radio Tower

The best views were from the base of the tower, which afforded a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Our guide pointed out a particularly interesting rock formation to the south called Petrovy Kameny (Peter’s Stones). Locals used to believe that witches lived there and practiced rites among the stones, kinda like the standing stones in the UK. Nowadays the area around the stones is off-limits due to the rare flora (plant species) growing there.

A Crash Course on a Kickscooter

How do I describe the kickscooter we used. I used to think of a kickscooter as one of those little Razors that kids would race around on. The Czech version is quite different. It looks more like a bicycle, with a regular-sized wheel on the front, a smaller one in the back, and a skateboard-like platform between.

Kickscooer in the Jeseniky Mountains

We rented our kickscooters from the radio tower at the top and without further ado, took off down the mountain trail. Kickscooters are popular on the trail, and the hikers are used to making room for them. There was a small section at the beginning of the trail when we actually had to “kick” our way up a short incline, and then it got fast. Really fast. There were a couple of bloggers who took it easy. A couple others, myself included, went all out, barely using the breaks at all! We continued down the road far beyond where the bus was parked, learning that the single-track road also afforded us more safety on our way down without having to dodge oncoming vehicles.

At one point, I attempted to get a selfie video while riding. I captured just a few seconds before I started really picking up speed and had to put the phone away. Later I found out that another blogger on a different tour had tried the same stunt, but with less success. When I saw him a couple days later in Prague, he was missing significant patches of skin on his arms. Yet another girl had been run off the road when a car got too close to her. Not that kickscooters are inherently dangerous, but you need to know what you’re doing on them…just like a bicycle.

To book your own tour on the kickscooters in the Jeseniky mountains, click here.

Lunch at Centrum Slezska Harta

Having worked up an appetite, we went for lunch at Centrum Slezska Harta. After a week in the Czech Republic, I was thoroughly in love with the local cuisine. I started with a beef broth soup with noodles, and then went for the pork schnitzel with french fries and vegetables. For dessert, I had the apple strudel. Somehow with all the fried food and french fries that I had while in the Czech Republic, I still managed to lose ten pounds within three weeks!

Lunch in the Jeseniky Mountains

Boating on Slezska Harta Dam

Our next stop was the picturesque village of Leskovec nad Moravici on the shores of Slezska Harta Dam – the newest reservoir in the region. When it was finished in 1998, it was said it would take ten years to fill. Instead, later that year there were heavy rains which filled the reservoir completely. At the same time, it’s believed that the dam saved Ostrava and other cities from severe flooding. Also, there were six villages at the site of the dam. Five were partially flooded, while the sixth was completely destroyed.

Boat Rental on the Slezska Harta Dam

Unfortunately, our lunch ran way too long and we arrived an hour after we were scheduled to take the boats out. We were initially told that we had missed our window and there were no boats left for us, but I pleaded with them and found that there was one boat available. They were small, electric boats and I had 20 minutes to take three other bloggers out onto the lake for relaxation and some wonderful shots. We couldn’t get too far as there were strong winds that day and the manager of the boat hire was concerned we wouldn’t be able to get back in time.

Selfie on Boat Ride on the Slezska Harta Dam

The lake is massive, and a very popular vacation spot for the locals. Even though it was a Wednesday, the shores of the lake were packed with families and sunbathers, and the boat rental was fully booked.

Summary

Our tour got us back in Ostrava by 7 p.m., an hour later than scheduled. Although the tour lasted nearly ten hours and we had a wonderful adventure, it wasn’t nearly long enough to really enjoy the Jeseniky Mountains. If you’re planning to go, consider going for more than just a day. Besides the radio tower and Centrum Slezska Harta, there are plenty of other accommodations available in the region.

Click here to book your accommodations in the Jeseniky Mountains.

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Further Reading

Are you visiting Ostrava and looking for other activities? Here are some other articles to help you out.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Hardly anyone ever thinks of Ostrava when they think of visiting the Czech Republic. Most people head to Prague, and some also make it to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cesky Krumlov, but the east side of the country holds some true gems. Central to these is the city of Ostrava, third-largest in the country after Prague and Brno. Here’s a full guide to Ostrava.

Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic, Chechnya or Czechia

While Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe, it’s quite possibly more known than the country it’s in. The Czech Republic. In 1918, Czechoslovakia split off from the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I. Then in 1993, Slovakia peacefully seceded as its own country, leaving the Czech Republic. A couple of years ago, politicians chose to rename the country Czechia, which is how it’s now called in Google Maps and Wikipedia. However, most citizens still refer to the country as the Czech Republic, and I shall do the same. Oh, and please don’t say Chechnya! That’s a region in Russia.

After watching a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmell where Americans were completely unable to name a single country in the world, I started to despair in the relevance of giving geographical information for places I visited. However, if you are relatively familiar with Europe, just think of the Czech Republic as being in the dead center of Central Europe. Germany is northwest, Poland is northeast, Slovakia is southeast and Austria is southwest.

One thing to know is that nearly the entire country is further north than any point in the Continental US. As such, it can get really cold in the winter. On the other hand, during the two times I’ve visited, temperatures were in the 90’s! While that might not be that hot for a Californian, it’s certainly unusual for central Europe. Unfortunately, most hostels and hotels aren’t prepared for that kind of weather, and fans and air conditioners are in short supply.

Getting to Ostrava

Chances are, if you make it to Ostrava, it will be after Prague. If so, there are plenty of trains and buses going across the country every few minutes. The journey takes about three hours by train and five hours by bus. Some of the main companies are Cesky Drahy and RegioJet for trains, and Flixbus and LeoExpress for buses.

I learned the hard way that after you book a train ticket with Cesky Drahy, you then have to purchase a separate ticket for your seat. Otherwise, you’ll be standing in the very narrow walkway beside the cabins for the whole journey.

My favorite by far was RegioJet. Their trains are clean and comfortable, have power outlets at all seats for your phone or laptop, and good AC during hot summer months. They also have Relax Class which have tables to work at and free hot drinks, or even a Business Class with a glass of free champagne and a private, quiet cabin of four seats to work in. All their trains also have free WiFi. There are food and drinks to purchase onboard for very reasonable prices. Tip: Go for the sushi; it’s surprisingly good!

Selfie on RegioJet

If you want to fly in, chances are you’ll want to fly to Katowice in Poland instead. All the budget airlines go there instead of Ostrava, although the bus between the two cities takes nearly an hour and a half. Direct trains aren’t an option, as the Czech Republic and Poland have different size train tracks!

Where to Stay in Ostrava

I personally got crazy lucky staying in Ostrava. Although I was visiting during the Colours of Ostrava music festival, I started searching for hosts months in advance and secured two for the duration of my stay. I always recommend Couchsurfing as the best way to travel. It’s a great way to meet locals, you usually get a very secure place to stay and quite often you’ll be invited to special activities with the local. As it turned out, the first host I had was also attending the music festival and was able to take me along to show me around.

If you’re traveling on a budget, there are plenty of hostels and even cheap hotels to choose from for as little as $13 a night. Most hotels are around $40-50 a night. Even the fanciest hotels in town are under $100. Just beware – the prices do go up for things like music festivals and other holidays.

I did chance to stay at the Brioni Hotel on Stodolni street for a couple days, thanks to my fellow travel blogger Anneklein. I was a little worried that the rooms would be too noisy, as Stodoldi is the main walking street lined with bars and pubs, and the nightlife can get quite loud. However, the room had good soundproofing and, more importantly, air conditioning.

Where and What to Eat in Ostrava

I found some surprisingly good restaurants and cafes to try in Ostrava. Although the city is not overly touristy, they have a wide range of international cuisines, and they must have kidnapped a lot of Italians to get their coffee culture to the fantastic standard that it is.

Hogo Fogo

It’s quite possibly the most popular restaurant in Ostrava as the usual two-hour wait for a table suggests. I made reservations with a large group of bloggers and, to my knowledge, no one was disappointed. The menu isn’t big and changes regularly. While other bloggers ordered tuna and tabbouleh salads, vegetarian quesadillas, aged beef steaks and chorizo ragout, I had the four cheese jalapeno beef burger with fries. The inch-thick beef patty topped with different jalapeno cheeses was yummy, and not too spicy. Unfortunately, they didn’t have real Belgian fries, but I’ve just been spoiled in my travels. I also tried the blueberry cheesecake. That was yummy too.

Tuna Salad at Hogo Fogo

Comedor Mexicano

If you love real Mexican food as much as I do, this is the place for you. I’ve been shocked at how few restaurants in Europe even serve corn tortillas or guacamole in a traditional molcajete (volcanic basalt bowl), not to mention all those Mexican restaurants that only serve burritos. That’s Tex-Mex American food! Anyway, Comedor got it right. Corn tortillas, great guacamole, sizzling fajitas and stringy quesadillas, just like the ones I used to eat in Mexico.

Dinner at Comedor Mexicano

Bistro Boule za Ušima

The translation for this place is “Boil on the Ear.” A rather strange name for a restaurant, but in the Czech Republic, that’s what you say when food is particularly good. It certainly was here. Yeah, I went for another hamburger, but damn they are good in the Czech Republic! Come to think of it, I actually had very little Czech food in Ostrava. I saved that for my excursions to surrounding villages where they showed me just how good small village fare could be. Anyway, not much more to say about my dripping bacon cheeseburger other than it was waaayyyyyy too big to get into my mouth and I had to resort to a fork and knife. Not Tuliyani of The Willing Road though! I have no idea how that little adventuress managed to devour her hamburger in half the time it took Andy and me.

Bistro Boule za Ušima Hamburger in Ostrava

Le Petite Conversation

I didn’t actually get a chance to try out the food here, but their coffee was an excellent testament to Ostrava’s coffee culture. Third-wave artisan roasts are really popular in a way I’ve only seen in countries like Scotland and Romania. I just had an iced latte. If you’re not familiar with single-origin roasts, then it’s not easy to say just how good their coffee is. That’s a reason to travel the world all in itself.

Le Petite Conversation in Ostrava

Cross Cafe

Ah, my home away from home. I stumbled on this place my second day in Ostrava, and ended up there nearly every day thereafter. For a digital nomad, the place was perfect. Lots of space, a quiet atmosphere, good air conditioning and excellent WiFi. The food wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was really cheap. For $5, I got a grilled ham and cheese panini, chocolate pastry and blueberry lemonade.

Breakfast at Crosscafe in Ostrava

Just Donut

And then there was this place. Oh my god! First, their name was inspired by Shia LaBeouf. Don’t just do it, Just Do…Nut. Unlike the usual Czech filled donuts, they serve giant American-style donuts with simple toppings like chocolate, cookie or pistachio. They’re probably one of the best donuts I’ve ever had, and I’m not just saying that as a hyperbolical blogger. I was expecting such a giant donut to be way too sweet, but instead, it was just right. I kept going back for more, but sadly they are only open until they sell out, and every single day they sold out before I could get back. Oh well, just another reason I’ll have to return to Ostrava someday.

Just Donut Selection in Ostrava

What to Do in Ostrava

Ostrava isn’t really a city set up for tourists. Perhaps that’s what made it so much more appealing to me. As such, there aren’t a ton of tourist activities, tours and attractions. There are, however, some really unique spots to check out.

Lower Vitkovice Mines

For years, Ostrava was one of the leading steel manufacturing cities in Europe. That has slowly changed since the fall of communism in 1989 and now the city is quickly modernizing. In the forefront, it’s hosted a range of sports activities including the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2014 and 2015, and the PGA at the nearby Celadna golf course in 2009-2011. Usain Bolt also likes to train in Ostrava, which is why they named their highest tower in town after him – the Bolt Tower in the Lower Vitkovice Mines. If you’re looking for the best viewpoint in town, the Bolt Tower is definitely your spot. Head up to the Bolt Cafe at the top for a chai latte and the panoramic view. Sunset is the best time to go. While you’re there, explore around the derelict buildings of the mines. As much as I love exploring urban ruins, the structures were unsafe and impossible to enter.

Colours of Ostrava Venue from Bolt Tower

Halda Ema

Another great vantage point is Halda Ema. This hill on the other side of the river is actually a slag heap – an artificial mountain made from the waste pulled out of mines. There are several of them in the region. A fascinating fact about them is that their interiors are slowly burning at temperatures up to 1200 °C (2200 °F)! You can feel the heat through your shoes when you hike up to the top, and many citizens go up there to sleep in the winter when it’s the warmest place in town.

Blogger Group at Halda Ema in Ostrava

Old Town

The Old City Center is definitely worth visiting. Other than being the location of most of the best restaurants and cafes, you’ll also find the mosaic-patterned central square with the nearby Old City Hall, now converted into a history museum. I was shocked to hear that the city once considered tearing down the city center to get to the rich coal deposit beneath. There are already several mines within the city limits.

Ostrava Old City Center

Cathedral of the Divine Saviour

Within the Old Town is a very unique Cathedral of the Divine Saviour (not sure why Ostrava likes British spelling so much). It’s a Roman Catholic cathedral, and really interesting in that the “stained glass windows” are actually digital screens. I’ve certainly never seen that before!

New City Hall Tower

On the edge of the old city center is the New City Hall. Built in 1930, it’s the largest city hall the Czech Republic and, if I remember my tour correctly, one of the largest in Europe. The construction was protested against heavily by the locals, as they didn’t like the idea of city funds going toward such a useless endeavor. The tower with a viewing platform 240 feet high offers a fantastic view of town, perhaps even better than that of the Bolt Tower. The fee for the tower is 60 koruna ($3).

View from Ostrava New City Hall

Church of Saint Peter of Alcantara

One of the disadvantages of being in a mining region is the subsidence of the land over the mines. Entire castles have been ruined as they slowly shifted 250 feet into the Earth. Not far from Ostrava, you can visit the Church of Saint Peter of Alcantara in Karvina. Once on a hill, the church has not only sunk several feet but is also now leaning a massive 6.8 degrees. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is only leaning 4 degrees.

Leaning Church of Saint Peter of Alcantara

Miniuni

The one attraction I regret to have missed was Miniuni, a park near the city center with replicas of many of the world’s famous structures. The entrance fee is a mere $3.50.

Day Excursions

If you’re more of the adventurous type and like excursions, there are plenty of day trips you can take to surrounding regions, mountain ranges, fun parks and lakes.

Tips and Tricks

Transportation

The first important information to know about Ostrava is that the tram and bus systems don’t show up on Google Maps. Instead, you need to download an app called IDOS which is fairly easy to navigate as long as you can find the spots you want to travel to on Google Maps. Tickets are really cheap; a 10-minute ride is 16 koruna ($0.80), an hour is $1.40 and 24 hours is $4. If you have coins, there are ticket machines near most of the tram and bus stops. You can also purchase tickets from the tourism offices or the round structures selling magazines and cigarettes. However, all the trams and buses are set up with contactless! If you don’t have a contactless card, it’s time to set up Google Pay, Samsung Pay or Apple Pay and use your phone as a contactless card.

Currency Exchange

If you need to exchange money, know that the Czech Republic doesn’t have the best reputation for honest exchanges. To play it safe, make your exchange at the tourism bureau at the main train station, in the old town or other locations. Otherwise, just withdraw money at a bank ATM (not EuroNet or some other ATM at an exchange office).

English Speakers

Finally, I’d give the city a 5 on a scale of 1-10 for getting around as an English speaker. Not a lot of signs or menus are translated into English, but a good portion of the population does speak English to some degree. Of course, as you should do in any country you visit, get familiar with some of the local lingo and the locals will like you even more!

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Further Reading

Once you’re finished exploring the city, here are some more ideas of things to see in the surrounding parts of the Czech Republic.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.