10 Stops at the Technical Route in the Moravian-Silesian Region

Technotrasa

It is no longer true that the most popular tourist attractions include only castles, palaces or cathedrals. I was convinced of that during my recent trip to the neighbouring Czech Republic.

I remembered the map of Czechoslovakia which once hung on the blackboard in our classroom for geography lessons. One of the most industrial areas of our country was the Moravian-Silesian Region.

Many things have changed since then. The blast furnaces were closed, the mines buried. Many buildings went to rack and ruin but others were turned into cultural monuments. Some of them are included in the Technical Route – a new project which offers authentic experiences directly in unique, original places. From a collection of around 50 objects, I would like to introduce at least the ones I have visited so far.

(1) Lower Vítkovice

Since, in the past, this region was known mainly for the mining of black coal and smelting iron, one of the most important objects of the Technical Route is the Lower Vítkovice Area – the most visited monument in the Czech Republic outside of Prague! In the places where the TV-news once brought reports of fulfilled plans, one can learn about the iron making process and even look into a (extinguished) blast furnace. You can read more about this site in a separate article: Hradshin Castle of Ostrava

Opening hours and other practical information: here

Extra tip: In the area, you will also find a very nice, modern restaurant CO KAFE – excellent coffee (own roasting), excellent bread (own bakery). As a small snack (or breakfast), I definitely recommend bread with spinach, prosciutto and poached egg or toast with herb curd, radish and egg.

(2) Landek Park

The complex of the oldest Ostrava mine shows the hard work of miners. First, we drove down into the shaft by the original mining cage. In the 250-meter-long underground corridors, there are still functional machines, as our guide convinced us by turning on a coal plough. It was a real rattle, and still one has to add heat like hell, damp and a lot of dust. A large part is devoted to mining rescue, because on average there were up to four injuries per day. However, there were also some men who deliberately slammed their fingers to get sick leave. There were still clothes hanging in the chain changing rooms, it looked like a meeting of spooky bats. Outside, we had a ride in small trolleys that had been used to transport people in the mine, and had a look at huge mining, punching, drilling and other heavy machines.

Opening hours and other practical information: here

(3) Michal Mine

The pit, excavated in 1850, was named after an important court mining expert. Its present appearance is from 1912. The whole exposition is called Last Working Day and indeed, everything looks like the work shift has just ended: identification signs hung onto the control panel, stores of lanterns (“miners’ eyes”) and masks, changing rooms with showers, a tailor’s workshop for repairing torn clothes, a serving hatch – the soup was often the only hot meal for a day, and snacks, which were eaten immediately because otherwise there was no time or conditions in the mine, or it would be eaten by mice, the place where the miners were given water, tea and “kalinka” – the very first energy drink (a fruit juice with minerals), the place where they could still smoke their last cigarette before they went down the mine, the window from which they got their salary… All these places were brought to life before us and it was fascinating to hear the stories and fates of the miners – especially when they were told by a person who once worked here.

Opening hours and other practical information: here

Extra tip: If you are hungry after the tour, go back to Ostrava and visit the Potrefená husa restaurant where you can enjoy delicious traditional Czech dishes.

(4) Stone Quarry Kotouč

For those who would prefer to get familiar with the working regime in a quarry, the Kotouč Quarry near Štramberk opened its doors. It was founded by the Viennese company of the Guttmann brothers in 1880. We were given the bright orange helmets, got into the – properly dusty and muddy – off-road cars and took a round trip on this limestone quarry – accompanied by an employee and during full operation! The limestone that is being mined here, once went to the blast furnaces in Vítkovice or to the concrete used to build military bunkers (see articles 8 and 9). However, different entrepreneurs have been interested in this mineral wealth since the end of the 19th century, when lime was obtained by burning limestone. From the quarry, there was a nice view of the hill with the “bite” half, we stood on the 7th floor, but they are also working on the 8th and 9th and starting on the 10th floor. The 11th floor is also allowed to be exploited. The height of one floor is 24.5 meters. We also saw the result of the latest blast – 11,000 tons of stone! More than enough work for the trucks. One truck can transport about 20-40 tons. From the lookout point, however, these large trucks looked like small toy cars.

More information: here

Extra tip: when you are in Štramberk, I suggest you replace the limestone dust with another white powder – flour. At the U Hezounů confectionery, they will show you how to bake the local speciality: ears made of spice, gingerbread dough. Read a separate article about its history and present: Ears – A Speciality from Štramberk

Uši – špecialita zo Štramberka

(5) Technical Museum Kopřivnice

Looking at the cars in the quarry that looked like toys reminded me of the times when the boys brought their big orange Tatra cars to the sandpit. Real Tatra vehicles can be admired today at the Technical Museum in Kopřivnicie. You will see really beautiful pieces here, such as a replica of the first factory-produced automobile in Austria-Hungary – Präsident from 1897, but also the favourite car of the travellers Zikmund and Hanzelka. The five-seat aerodynamic car T600 – Tartraplan was produced after World War II and was very popular, but in 1951, the Czechoslovak government moved its production to Mladá Boleslav. There are also the famous T603 and T613 which were very often used by the communist leaders. The first prototype of T603 as a luxury limousine was created in 1955. And we also discovered the winning truck of the 10th Dakar Rally Paris in 1988. Imagine that the name Tatra was first used as a brand on the door of the TL4 truck in 1919! The museum also shows the development of this logo.

Opening hours and other practical information: here

(6) Narrow Gauge of Osoblaha

Not only car enthusiasts, but also train lovers will find something interesting on the Technical Route. The narrow-gauge railway – with an atypical 760 mm gauge – was put into operation in December 1898. The twenty-kilometer route is also called the “Track of 100 Curves”. There are 102 curves. Just behind the Třemešná station, there is the smallest curve (75 m radius) on Czech railways. The train is pulled by a blue steam locomotive. It whistled from time to time and emitted white smoke which sometimes turned into a really black cloud. The set also included a wagon for bicycles and a beer wagon. The trip was very pleasant, the track passed through a pretty forgotten country, between meadows and fields which were full of white poppy flowers in June. The nostalgic atmosphere was complemented by small station houses, wayside shrines and decorated gingerbreads in the shape of a locomotive. The train runs several times a day throughout the year. Occasionally, special trains are dispatched – with ghosts, robbers or Indians.

Timetable and other information: here

Extra tip: when you get off in Osoblaha, visit also the Jewish cemetery in the village. There are 313 tombstones, the oldest ones are from the end of the 17th century. This monument is a little hard to find, you have to get to the square Na náměstí and to ask somebody for directions there.

(7) Krnov Synagogue

You may wonder why this building is included in the Technical Route. The reason is a permanent exhibition dedicated to Jewish industrialists, entrepreneurs and inventors who, despite the hatred and adversity of their surroundings, became the founders of the modern industry not only in this region but throughout the Czech Republic. These include names that do not even need to be specially introduced: Rudolf Jelínek (plum brandy), Josef Kohn (furniture), Ludwig Löwi Moser (glass) or Anselm Salomon Rothschild (metallurgy), who also made the iron columns in Vítkovice which support the ceiling of the synagogue in Krnov. It is one of the few synagogues that escaped destruction during the so-called Crystal Night in the fall of 1938 and actually the only one that has retained its original appearance. It was built in 1870-71 by the Krnov builder Ernest Latzel. With our guide, we also climbed to the roof of one of the towers, but I was particularly attracted by the interior with some elements of the so-called Moorish style which was inspired by the buildings of Sephardic Jews. The visit to the synagogue was pleasant, we were sitting and talking at the kosher-wine with traditional matzo.

Opening hours and other practical information: here

Extra tip: this time a tip for accommodation – just 2 km from Krnov, there is the excellent hotel Cvilín with a restaurant and wellness, situated in a quiet area on a hill with a beautiful view of the city and its surroundings. In the neighbourhood, there is only the Church of the Exaltation of St Cross and Virgin Mary, a popular pilgrimage site in Moravia.

(8) Infantry Bunker Hlučín-Darkovičky

The Technical Route also includes concrete bunkers which were built in 1935-38 as part of the Czechoslovak border fortifications to defend the country against Nazi Germany. For their construction, experts were sent from France. However, these bunkers have never served their intended purpose, since Hitler got our border without a fight as a result of the Munich Agreement. In Hlučín, you will find a two-wing, two-floor infantry bunker with two observation bells and one machine-gun dome. The concrete front wall has a thickness of 2.75 m! Inside, there are various machine guns and cannons, they fired one of them, we had to cover our ears. By the way, there are much more bunkers and the Czech Ministry of Defense is selling some of them. Every year, about 20 objects are sold. So if you have no place to store potatoes or play paintball, you can buy one!

More information: here

(9) Bunker „Na trati“

A similar object is the infantry bunker MO S-5. As one of the first bunkers to be built within the border fortifications, it demonstrated the advanced technical level and military strategy of the young Czechoslovak Republic. It is a unique one that cannot be found even on the famous Maginot line in France. The railway line divided the bunker into two parts which were connected by a 22-meter long corridor. The guided tour takes about 60 minutes, you need to dress properly, because it is cool inside, only 12°C even during a hot June day. Here too, we got acquainted with various weapons (but we didn’t fire any), we looked at the station of the commandant and telegraphist, the engine room, the flush toilet (what a luxury for those times!), the room where the soldiers used to sleep and other areas. The soldiers took turns after 14 days. For one combat day, each soldier was allowed to get three hot meals, 20 cigarettes and rum to strengthen his combat discipline. It looks almost unreal that this object was built in only 14 days! From the outside, you can see only one quarter of the building, which is peaceful today, butterflies sit on the openings of loopholes…

More information: here

(10) Nový Jičín – The City of Hats

I will return to the map of Czechoslovakia from the geography lessons when we were supposed to show cities on it and talk about what industry is developing there. The food and engineering industries were almost everywhere but I remember the cities best that had some special production that was not anywhere else. And that was also Nový Jičín and its hat factory. Today, there is an interactive exposition in the visitor center on Masaryk Square, where we got acquainted with the technology of the production process and were allowed to try one hat after another as well. It was fun not only for the ladies because there are also men’s hats. There are a total of up to 300 pieces, so for sure, you will also find one for your head! The guide pressed a mini-hat from the felt which we could decorate by ourselves. And to learn more about the history of hat-making, we also visited the museum in the local castle Žerotín with one of the largest hat collections in the world. You can find here, for example, the hat of President Masaryk, traveller Emil Holub, the successor to the throne Franz Ferdinand d‘Este and other famous personalities.

Opening hours and other practical information: Visitor Center: here and Žerotín Castle: here

As the authors of the Technical Route have said, the goal is to offer interesting activities that bring closer the lives and stories of clever people who have transformed the gifts of nature of their region into noble beauty with their hands and hearts. Perhaps that is why the logo of the Technical Route is a rough heart. Inside this heart, there are the links of some monuments on the map.

Detailed information about the project: Technotrasa

Finally, I would like to thank Moravian-Silesian Tourism for inviting me to visit the listed monuments and museums.

Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri

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