If you know me well, you've probably learned that after more than 1 or 2 days off, I get stir crazy. I can't sit around and watch tv or movies for hours contentedly. I must be knitting or moving, otherwise I get completely miserable. Last Friday was a state holiday in the Czech Republic (Svatý Václav Day, or as we know him: Saint Wenceslaus from the song), and we had the day off work. Despite many attempts to contact friends, it seemed everyone had plans. But, about this time last Friday, I received an SMS about some friends going to Štramberk. Happy for my first train ride since coming to Ostrava, I agreed to meet them at the train station.
Štramberk is a lovely town with a lively history. As we entered the town, we viewed the following sign erected in 2009 to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the city's founding. So much for American bicentennial celebrations! And in its 653-year history, much has happened. The town is symbolized by a 14th century tower. The founding of this tower, the Trúba, is yet a mystery, but we know that during the same century the y the younger brother of the beloved King Charles IV (Karel IV), Jan, walled in the homes to form a town, thus increasing the importance of this "castle."
Aside from the iconic Trúba, the town is also known for selling Štramberské uší, which translates to something like Stramberkian ears. Yes, ears. They're similar to gingerbread in taste, but with a more fascinating history. Back in the 13th century, the region was under siege by the Tartars from Asia. As they approached present-day Štramberk, those living in the region cried out to God in prayer. It was the eve of the day honouring Christ's return to heaven. In response to their prayer, God sent down lightning and torrential rain. The waters rushed over the plane, flooding the encampment of their enemy. The people then went to a local lake to direct the waters to assist in the drowning of the Tartars. The people were thus saved. Legend has it that the Tartars would cut the ears from their victims in order to have proof of their conquests. A bit less brutal, the Štramberkians commemorate the "battle" with gingerbread. Nearly 800 years later, the tradition is maintained with the same recipe.
|translation of the last line:|
Whoever wants to live well must eat ears!
|I think Brittany (far right) may have been thinking of what the ears commemorate while eating hers . . .|
Thus filled, we descended from the town square and past the famous wooden houses that were built in the 18th and 19th centuries and on to the location of a great 19th-century discovery. There is a park of sorts in the town that has memorials to various notable Czechs. In this same park is Jeskyně Šipka, Arrow Cave. This cave achieved notoriety at the end of the 19th century due to the discovery of a child's jawbone, which is attributed to be of a Neanderthal. This cave also contained the remains of a lion, hyena, and some rhino-like animal. We didn't find any ancient remains, but we enjoyed the beauty of the cave and the nearby overlook.
History aside, I was completely charmed (again) by Štramberk. Cottages with joints hewn from old logs. Trees heavy laden with apple harvest, Czechs with backpacks or climbing gear, the sun glitzing off every surface that would permit. And all around, a crisp autumn air pungent with the denouement of the leaves' glory. There's nothing like a walk and a touch of beauty to heal the spirit.