Ostrava, one of the most populous cities of the Czech Republic, is also one of the most interesting destinations in the country. It is a place where traditions, culture and contemporary lifestyles intertwine harmoniously, a destination for all ages. It has stunning landmarks, great cuisine, and exciting activities for the entire family. The city was a candidate for the European Capital of Culture 2015, but lost to another Czech pearl, Plzeň, which will share its title with the Belgian city of Mons.
The most stunning feature of Ostrava is the Vítkovice mining area, which opens up right at the heart of the city, with a spectacular labyrinth of iron towers, pipes and conduits that reminds of a sci fi blockbuster.
This landmark is a national monument and a European cultural heritage site, as the only place on the continent where the entire iron production process took place at one single site and where the facilities have been preserved.
The city is proud of its legacy, enough to make out of its Hradčany of steel a major tourist attraction. You can visit the mining site, and tour it from the blast furnaces, on a themed trail that takes you along the route once traveled by the raw ingredients. A skip lift will then take you up to the jaws of the furnace, and if you want in for a thrill, you can ascend to the very top of the tower for breathtaking views of the whole of Ostrava. On the way back you’ll see the terrifying innards of the furnace where the temperature often went as high as 1,500° Celsius.
When you are done with the world of steel, head down to Stodolní, Ostrava’s center of chic, the street that never sleeps. It’s packed with original bars, restaurants and clubs. You will enjoy ethnic cuisine, great parties, and friendly people from all over the world. It’s loud and fun, perfect for young travelers. There are opportunities for every budget, and the time is just right to enjoy Ostrava’s most treasured cooking ingredient: the mushroom.
The season is big in Ostrava. The locals enjoy mushroom hunting expedition a great deal, and even more, they enjoy cooking the gift of the forest traditionally: try the kulajda, a superbly thick soup with forest mushrooms and milk. Or go for a houbový guláš a traditional mushrooms goulash. Most restaurants in the city have mushrooms on their menu during the season, albeit very few offer the genuine forest harvest, choosing cultivated instead, to stay on the safe side. With mushrooms, it’s always best to count on expert mycologists.
If you are looking for a gourmet experience and the real deal, the best place to enjoy it is Mamaison Hotel Imperial Ostrava. The hotel has two gourmet restaurants, Legend and La Brasserie, and a new chef, Vojtěch Poštulka, who joined the team this September, bringing stellar experience, accumulated when he worked at the prestigious restaurant Daliborka of Villa Voyta in Prague, and at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze.
Vojtěch Poštulka’s gourmet mushroom menu for this Fall is full of flavor: wild mushrooms cream flavored with port wine and herb oil with chestnut ragout; pappardelle with mushrooms and spinach, sprinkled with goat cheese; mushrooms goulash with bacon dumplings and saver cream; veal breast stuffed with cream mushrooms and savoy cabbage, served with polenta croutons; and the best treat you can think of, grilled salmon on wild mushroom and bacon, served with vegetable and glazed onions which is priced at 355 CZK (about $18 USD).
Czech are mushroom fanatics, and their enthusiasm is contagious. They teach their children how to hunt for mushrooms early, and mushrooming is a favorite pastime for many families. The season culminates this month – if you happen to be there, or plan to visit the country, you still have time to enjoy mushrooming. You’ll still find mushrooms growing in the wild till late November and there are many ways to enjoy them, especially with a little help from the locals.