Štramberk is an adorable little town in the Czech Republic and a lovely place to spend a weekend. Nestled in the lime foothills of the Beskids (a mountain range in the Carpathians), Štramberk is a town of 3,500 inhabitants in the Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic.
The town is characterized by its unique collection of Moravian timber houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, earning it the nickname “Moravian Bethlehem”, as well as the 40m high Trúba tower, the only remains of a castle built by the Moravian margrave Johann Heinrich, brother of Emperor Charles IV, in the second half of the 16th century. A climb to the top of the Trúba tower will cost you 30 Czech korunas per person and is totally worth it for the fantastic views you have of the town while you’re up there.
For our stay in Štramberk I knew we wanted a central location, so we opted for the Hotel Šipka, a cute little family-run hotel right on the main square which is lined with colorful historic houses and restaurants with outdoor seating. Hotel Šipka, which means arrow, is named after a cave on the neighboring hill Kotouč. This cave is significant because in 1880 a fraction of the lower jaw bone of a Neanderthal child was discovered here (estimated to be 9 or 10 years old), along with tools and traces of a hearth. A hugely important archeological find in its time, this was the first discovery of Neanderthal remains in their cultural context. In addition to the child’s jaw, they also found the bones of 100s of species, including bears who used the cave as a den for some time, mammoths and rhinos. Unfortunately, the “Šipka jaw” was destroyed in a fire in 1945. The anthropological collection from the Moravian Museum in Brno was moved to the Castle Mikulov during WWII for safekeeping, however as the German troops were withdrawing they set the town on fire and the castle was destroyed.
In addition to the historic tower, you can also hike up the neighboring hill Bílá hora where there’s a lookout tower. The lookout tower was completed in 2000 and is meant to resemble the structure of DNA with 161 steps. Admission to the tower costs 25 Czech korunas and is open May through October, Tuesday through Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. It’s a nice hike and not too difficult, but the views from the observation tower here are less interesting than the castle tower, in my opinion, because you can only see surrounding countryside and not the town of Štramberk.
While we were in town we decided to try something that is either a typical Czech tradition or something they market to tourists like us – a beer bath! We had our beer bath for two in the Štramberk Spa in a wooden tub filled with a mix of brewer’s yeast, hops and water. The hops are supposed to be good for the skin and the yeast can help increase circulation. Naturally, while we bathed, we enjoyed beer from the Štramberk municipal brewery. The atmosphere in the bath was really relaxing, with a beautiful historic room and views of the hillside out the windows. My only recommendation would be to book your bath a bit later in the day. One feels a bit woozy and unmotivated for hikes after a hot soak and beer before 11 a.m.! In case you are American and wondering, you can take this bath either nude or in a bathing suit – it’s up to you! The room includes two bath tubs, so you can have a partner bath in one tub or bathe together with as many as four people total.
While you are in Štramberk it’s said that you must try the local delicacy, Štramberk ears (Štramberské uši). These cone-shaped treats made of gingerbread dough have a less-than-sweet origin story. According to legend, the treat is connected to the Mongol Invasion in 1241. It was said that the Mongols would cut off the ears of their victims. In memory of the dead, the people of Štramberk have made the sweet pastry since then using a secret mix of spices. The ears are protected by the EU – only certified producers from the town can be labelled as such. The ears are best enjoyed fresh, filled with whipped cream and chocolate sauce or fruit, though you can purchase a package in several locations around town to take home to your mom as a souvenir.
Štramberk is a bit difficult to reach by public transport. It’s about 430 km away from Görlitz, with the fastest route by car through Poland. The closest bigger cities are Ostrava in Czech Republic (45 km away) and Katowice in Poland (135 km away).