Ostrava – Lower Vitkovice, an alternative way to explore
Just a short drive from the Polish border you can visit the third largest city in the Czech Republic – Ostrava. At first glance, Ostrava can even scare off tourists. Chimneys, mining shafts or large steel halls are certainly not a relaxing environment. However, the city authorities have turned all these disadvantages into an asset. The old mining and steel complex was turned into an interactive cultural and educational center.
However, before we reached Ostrava, we decided to visit another place that also was closed some time ago. About 30 km from the border with the Czech Republic in Raciborz, you can visit an abandoned hospital. The hospital building is over 100 years old and the times of its greatness are over.
It was closed in 2004 and it’s been falling into ruin ever since. Unfortunately, we visited it a little bit too late, because there wasn’t virtually any medical equipment inside. Currently, the interior has been completely ransacked and destroyed. A lot of homeless people stay here and they are happy to share information about the building.
In the years of its greatness, the interior of the hospital must have looked very interesting. Even now, despite the total demolition, it’s impressive.
In Ostrava we are heading straight to the largest industrial open-air museum in the Czech Republic – Lower Vítkovice. While preparing a trip to this place, I saw a lot of pictures of this place, but none of them reflected its real scale.
A maze of rusty pipes, chimneys, huge tanks, metal footbridges, all these look like a catastrophic movie set. Wow! It’s so ugly that this ugliness fascinates and delights! We are waiting for a guide to come, like children before opening a huge playground.
We find out that nearby coal deposits and access to the Ostravica river were a decisive factor for the location of the smelter plant in 1828. Lower Vítkovice was a unique complex, due to the fact that the entire technological process was carried out here, from coal mining, through coke production and ultimately crude iron.
The elements of bridges and rail infrastructure were produced here. The plant was closed in 1998. Now we can see it all up close.
The most impressive is the big forge on which in 2015, a high lookout tower called the Bolt Tower was built.
The name perfectly describes its appearance. In fact, it comes from the name of Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt, who supposedly visits Ostrava regularly. The Bolt Tower is an observation desk with a height of almost 80 meters high and it’s the highest point in Ostrava. You can rest at a café located at the top and admire surroundings.
An important point in the production chain in Lower Vitkocice was the Hlubin Mine (in the picture on the left), opened in 1843. It is also available for sightseeing and is currently a cultural and educational centre.
The round building in the picture below served as a gas tank with a capacity of 50 thousand cubic meters. It was closed in 1998 along with the whole complex. Since 2012 this space has been used as a cultural and entertainment center, which can accommodate 1500 people.
During the trip you can also visit the control room of the large furnace.
There you can also visit an interactive museum, which consists of four permanent exhibitions: Children’s world, the World of Science and Discoveries, the World of Civilization and the World of Nature.
In a huge hall, which is the former power center you can see an exhibition dedicated to technical achievements from the invention of the steam engine to modern times, actually you can experiment and discover its secrets on your own.
You can check your hand at the wheel of various vehicles. More information you can check here.
Lower Vitkovice is also a place of numerus events. Every year there’s a four-day festival – Colours of Ostrava. Then the complex looks totally different. Old installations become a colorfully lit stage. It’s worth coming even just only to see it then.
In the Lower Vitkovice you can choose between two main sightseeing routes:
– Blast-furnace tour, including the Bolt Tower, during which you can familiarize yourself with the production process of crude iron. Trips start every day at 10.00, 12.00 and 14.00 pm from the information point. They are run in Czech but i’s possible to rent headphones (cost 100 CZK in 2020) with Polish, English or German language.
– Coal route – including visiting the Hlubin mine, getting acquainted with the technique of coal mining and processing it into coke. The trip ends with a visit to the mining tower.
Map from the website: https://www.dolnivitkovice.cz/en/dov-map/
More information about tickets and various sightseeing options can be found here.
While in Ostrava, it’s also worth visiting the Old Town square.
There’s an interesting mural right next to the square.
In Ostrava you can also see many other attractions such as:
– Ostrowar Brewery Museum,
– Michael’s mine
– Landek Park – the biggest mine museum in the Czech Republic.
Ostrava is an ideal place for weekend break.