Štramberk is known as the Moravian Bethlehem, located in the Beskydy Mountains of the Czech Republic. Aside from just being gorgeous, this is a village where you can eat ears.
Štramberk was formed in 1211 in the Moravian region which includes the eastern portion of the Czech Republic and a bit of the western part of Poland. Moravia is no longer an official region, but the locals consider it is.
In 1241, a Mongolian horde came through and sacked the village. As the legend goes, the Mongols cut off the ears of the Christians as trophies for their khan. Before the Mongols moved on, a storm hit in which the Christians created a trap that flooded the Mongol camp. When the water receded, the bag of salted ears meant for the Khan was found in the debris. Eight centuries later, the ears are used in the town’s most famous creation.
For centuries, Štramberk has been baking gingerbread cookies in the vague shape of an ear. At a bakery in town called Cukrárna U Hezounů, I had a chance to see the creation of the ears. The formula of the cinnamon-heavy gingerbread is secret and several of the companies claim to be the oldest. The ears are exported to countries around the world, although they’re particularly famous throughout the Czech Republic.
In the late 13th century, a castle was built on the hill above Štramberk. Not a lot is known about the castle beyond that it was owned by the Knights Templar. Today, all that remains of the castle are the tower and the ramparts. For 40 Czech crowns (about $1.80), you can climb to the top of the tower and get a wonderful view of the town and surrounding Beskid mountains. The view is certainly worth the fee.
Městský Pivovar Štramberk
For dinner, I ate at Městský Pivovar Štramberk, which is Czech for Štramberk Municipal Brewery. The restaurant is centuries old and looks like it, especially down in the wine cellars. They serve one of the more popular Czech dishes – french fries topped with cheese. I’d already had that a few times, so I went for the sausages instead. I love how each country has its own variety of sausage, and the Czech Republic is no different. Theirs are thinner than the Polish sausage but more flavorful than many others. With several styles of mustard on the side, it was a fantastic and filling meal.
I was honored to stay at Hotel Štramberk for my day in the town. The hotel has the distinction of hosting the president of the Czech Republic when he passed through the village. Aside from the rooms being really warm (which is nothing uncommon in a country that almost never uses fans or air conditioners), it was luxurious in a historic sort of way. I liked the business feel of the room, complete with a big desk – but the internet was severely lacking. Blogger problems aside, I slept like a baby on the big, soft mattress.
Štramberk isn’t far from Ostrava, the main city in the eastern side of the Czech Republic. If you’re planning to visit Prague, I would highly recommend spending a few days in the eastern half of the country. There are plenty of beautiful villages to explore, and ears to eat.
The Czech Republic is full of surprises. For visiting here and other spots on the continent, follow this link for Europe tours and find your dream trip.