111 Places in Ostrava You Shouldn’t Miss – unusual guide to North Moravian capital

Jana Macečková with the authors of the book

For many years, Ostrava has been associated with coal mining and steel production and was not exactly regarded as a tourist destination. But over the past three decades, the city has undergone a huge transformation, turning its industrial past to its favour. A new book called 111 Places in Ostrava You Shouldn’t Miss (111 míst v Ostravě, která musíte vidět) takes you on a tour of the north Moravian city, highlighting not only the most obvious tourist spots, but also some of the less obvious targets, which are worth a visit.

I discussed the book with Jana Macečková, who photographed all the sites featured in the book, and I first asked her how she got involved in the project:

“My friends, Vasilios, Honza and Adam, were offered the opportunity to write this book about Ostrava, which is of course our favourite city. And we as a team decided to write it all together. So the guys divided the 111 places but I was the only one from the team to actually visit all the places to take all the pictures.”

Are you all natives of Ostrava?

Eduard Liska's villa | Photo: Jana Macečková

“Yes! Some of us were not born here, but we chose to live here. Some of us had the opportunity to live somewhere else, for instance in Prague or Brno, for studies or career.

“But we all patriots of Ostrava, so we chose to stay here, because we see the city’s potential and it is an interesting place to live in.”

How did you select the places in the book? And was 111 too many or too few?

“There were many obvious places to name in the book, we had about 80 we knew we were going to write about from the very beginning. And then we had a list of another around 160 places, so we had to choose the ones we found interesting and important, that we wanted to show to other people.”

As you said, all of you are either Ostrava natives or you have lived in the city for a long time. But still, are there any places in the book that you have only discovered when you were working on it?

“Not really. Personally, I have been familiar with all of the places. But I was really glad I had the opportunity to visit all the places and take the pictures, because I have a photographic memory and this way, the places will stay in my mind forever.

Dock | Photo: Jana Macečková

“I actually haven’t been to the Church of Kateřina Alexandrijská, because it is not walking distance from the city centre. It’s one of the furthest places.

“It’s a simple wooden church from the 16th century and it’s actually one of the oldest constructions in the area. I think it’s really worth a visit!”

The places include some of the well-known tourist sites, such as the industrial area of Dolní Vítkovice or the Viewing Tower of the New Town Hall, but there are also many less obvious targets, such as the Ema heap, or a place you call the local Grand Canyon. Can you tell us a little bit more about them?

“I would say Ema heap is actually one of the top places people from Ostrava would tell you to visit. So for us, it was actually one of the most obvious choices to write about. But perhaps it is not really that known to foreigners or to people who are not familiar with Ostrava.

“It is a place closely connected with the history of our city and it is made of waste from coal-mining. It is still active and there is fire inside, so you can actually feel the heat. It’s really hard to miss.”

Photo: Jana Macečková

The other thing I noticed was the so-called local Grand Canyon. What is it?

“This place is also connected to the industrial past of the city, just like most of the places in the city. It’s a huge dam in the middle of Ostrava. There is this huge gap right in the middle of the city made of stone and sand and it looks just like the Grand Canyon.”

One of the pages is devoted to a non-stop bar called Baník, which also doesn’t seem to be a very likely tourist destination. Why have you decided to put it on your list?

“We wanted to portray Ostrava as it is; not to spice it up or make it seem like something else. We wanted to include all the places we think are vital part of the city. Some of them are not exactly beautiful or pretty, but we actually spent part of our youth in the old bars and pubs.

M. Sýkora bridge | Photo: Jana Macečková

“There is also a place called Hladové okno or Hungry Window, which is a kiosk where you can get a burger and fries at any time of the night. It is located at a very lively part of the city. There is a frequent bus and trolley stop and a university nearby. So it really shows the other side of the city.”

Ostrava has been mostly been associated with coal mining and steel production, but the city has undergone a major transformation in recent years. Would you say it has succeeded in turning its industrial character in its favour?

“I think the process has only just started. But everything in Ostrava is dictated by our industrial past. The core part of the city, the Dolní Vítkovice mining tower, is part of the landscape of our city. It’s one of the things that we are really proud and now we have to turn it into our favour. But it’s a slow process.”

As you said, you spent most of your life in Ostrava. How has the town changed during your lifetime?

“It has changed tremendously. I am from the city centre, so I know it through and through, and I would say that almost every street has changed. There are still many building sites that will change the city’s landscape.

Streetfood | Photo: Jana Macečková

“We address the issue in our book. The chapter is called Future Ostrava, and it features for instance a picture of the building site of the new faculty building of the Ostrava University. That is going to bring a huge change to the city, especially to the river side, which had been forgotten for many years.

“So I think this is one of the greatest changes that have recently happened. And there is are a lot of interesting points by the river that you can read about in the book.”

Perhaps we should mention one of the places that is probably very close to your heart. It is Provoz, an alternative cultural space in Ostrava, and you are one of the people who run this place along with the other authors of the book.

“Provoz u řeky, as it is called today, is a cultural centre. It originally started in the Hlubina mine in Dolní Vítkovice but it was really hard to make people travel such long distance.

“So after many years, we moved right to the city centre to the riverside. We reside in one of the villas on Havlíčkovo nábřeží.

“We mainly focus on organizing music events and festivals and as a group we all work together on various different projects, including this book.”

You were saying that Ostrava has changed tremendously over the past years. Is there something Ostrava is still missing, something that you would like to see in the city in the future?

Photo: Jana Macečková

“More culture, of course! There are a lot of things happening here, it’s not that there is something missing in particular. It’s more about quantity and quality, I guess.

“But there is definitely still a lot of work for anyone willing to do anything in this city. I am really looking forward to the future. The foundation is there, it just needs more work.”

What do you like most about your life in Ostrava? Why have you decided to stay in the city?

“For me personally, I was born and raised here, so I know the city through and through. It would be really hard to leave and also, there was really no need for leaving. Everything I need is right here and there is endless opportunities to build and create new places.

“Most of the young people just lave and go to the capital in search of new opportunities. But I think it is actually the other way round. You can do anything here, because there is still space for it, unlike in Prague, for example.”

“Ema heap is one of the top places people from Ostrava would tell you to visit. It is a place closely connected with the history of our city.”

“Everything I need is right here and there are endless opportunities to build and create new places.”