Every once in a while, you visit a place and absolutely everything goes wrong, almost to the point where you feel as though that place is cursed. For me, that place was Ostrava, Czech Republic.
This post certainly won’t be a ‘Best Sights in Ostrava!’ type post (spoiler – there aren’t any), and neither will it attempt to remain unbiased. I did not like Ostrava one bit, and if that sentiment alone offends you, then you’re probably not going to like this article.
Disclaimer – it should go without saying that this article is tongue-in-cheek and I mean no disrespect to Ostrava or its inhabitants. These are just MY experiences. I don’t have it in for Ostrava. Ostrava had it in for me. Lol.
SO, if you’re not averse to the cynical ramblings of a millennial travel chick then keep reading, because this post may just be for you (as well as this one, about the time I missed 2 flights and lost my luggage).
I also didn’t take a lot of photos in Ostrava because, well, usually I was just trying not to be lost or annoyed.
Ostrava – The Beginning
It all began one sunny morning in Prague. My friend Neneh, who I’d previously met on an English teaching Workaway project, were due to begin another project together, close to the Slovak border. The meeting point for all of the English teachers was – you’ve guessed it – Ostrava, and so we were both making our way there from Prague.
With my Flix Bus ticket downloaded on my phone, I made my way to the station where our ride was due to depart from. I’d taken many Flix Buses on the course of my travels, and they were, as the name would suggest, buses.
I arrived before Neneh and made my way to the place where all of the Flix Bus stops were. I read each timetable carefully but couldn’t find the right stop. There were plenty of buses heading to Italy and Croatia, but none to Ostrava! I asked a few locals, including two Flix Bus drivers, and nobody could help me.
Eventually Neneh arrived, and she couldn’t figure it out either. After the time of departure had been and gone, we started to worry, and found another Flix Bus driver to ask for help.
He was bewildered, and didn’t know where our bus was supposed to stop. The mystery was solved only when a local woman peered at my ticket and exclaimed ‘Oh! These stops are all train stations! You were supposed to take the train!’
Well. In almost one year of taking Flix BUSES, I had no idea that sometimes your Flix BUS could actually be a train. Not only that, but nowhere on our ticket did it say that this bus was in fact going to be in train form. We were livid. After spending 10 euros on a ticket, we were no closer to our destination.
Annoyed, we made our way to the train station to see if there were any trains heading to Ostrava that day. Luckily, there was one due to leave any minute, and so we bought tickets and legged it to the platform.
We thought that that was the end of it, until the ticket inspector told us that our tickets weren’t actually valid for this train because it was a ‘special’ train, and so we had to pay extra again. Why the woman sold us this ticket in the first place, specifically so we could take this train, I will never know.
After this debacle was over, we let out deep sighs of relief and settled into our seats. It had been a rough start, but surely the only way from here was up, right?
OH HOW NAIVE WE WERE.
When we pulled into the station at Ostrava, we opened up Google Maps to try to figure out how we would get to the hostel that we had booked. However, despite said hostel being over 4km away, the only option that Google was giving us was to walk.
I should mention now that poor Neneh had been living in Europe for a LONG time and had all of her worldly possessions with her. As well as the huge backpacks (yes, plural), she also had a humongous suitcase with a broken wheel that made it nigh impossible to pull along normally.
We were not equipped to walk.
Leaving me with the luggage, Neneh rushed off to ask somebody in the station why Google was saying that there were no public transport options available here.
‘Oh, Google Maps doesn’t work here!’
Did someone say the hills have eyes?!
I should mention at this point that I’ve been to some pretty remote places. I lived on an island with no hot water for a year. Never have I been to a place where Google Maps did not work.
As with the Flix Bus debacle, we felt as though this might be symbolic of how our time in Ostrava was going to be. Spoiler alert – it was.
Anyway, after being told which tram to take, we hopped on and Neneh left me sitting with the luggage while she went to the ticket machine. However, if we thought that buying a ticket was going to be simple, we were sorely mistaken!
On seeing that we had first headed to the seats to dump our luggage before purchasing a ticket, two plain clothed ticket inspectors blocked Neneh’s way to the machine, angrily beginning to write out tickets.
This was all we needed!
However, by some weird stroke of luck, they seemed frustrated that they couldn’t communicate with us in English, and Neneh was able to duck past and buy tickets from the machine while the two men pretended that they couldn’t see her. Very very weird.
When we reached our tram stop, we had a 20 minute walk to our hostel. Now, a 20 minute walk would usually not have been a problem, but it took us double that time to reach our accommodation due to Neneh’s broken suitcase refusing to cooperate with us.
Not only that, but the area was…interesting.
On the very outskirts of the city, we were walking through an area with some of the sketchiest looking people I’d ever seen in my life, who were all eyeing us up as though deciding whether to rob us or rape us, or both (no joke, it was really sketch, haha).
It was very obvious to us that these people had never even seen a tourist before, and certainly not a black person. It was safe to say we stood out a little.
After making it to our hostel without being murdered, we checked in, only to discover that it was a kind of halfway house for the homeless (?!). It was eerily quiet, apart from some guy upstairs that Neneh swore she could hear moaning (or crying, my memory is a bit foggy on the details of this guy). However, as strange as the hostel was, we were actually given a kind of 3-bedroom apartment for about £8 each, and as basic and jenky as it was, we weren’t about to complain about that!
Through the Forest…
OKAY, we thought. TODAY MIGHT NOT HAVE GONE TO PLAN BUT THE NIGHT IS YOUNG. LET’S FIND A NICE RESTAURANT AND GO TO A FEW BARS IN THE CENTRE. HOW DIFFICULT CAN IT BE?
So, off we toddled to the reception in our hostel, and through sign language, we asked the old lady which tram to take to town. She told us the number, and so we walked the 20 minutes to the tram stop. It was dusk by this point, and the area was feeling even sketchier than it had earlier, but hey ho, it’s all part of the experience, right?!
So. We get on the tram, and after a few stops, we get to somewhere that LOOKS like the centre, and so we ask a young couple if we’re in the right place.
‘Oh no,’ they said. ‘You need to get off and take tram number 7. That will take you to the centre.’
So we get off, get onto tram number 7 (obviously I’m making the number up, but u get me) and sit tight. We begin to think that it’s a little strange that we appear to be getting further and further away from town, and even stranger when we GO THROUGH AN ENTIRE DAMN FOREST, but hey, in just a second we’re going to emerge onto a bustling high street full of bars and restaurants…right???
Instead, the tram takes us to AN EMPTY TRAM DEPOT (?!?) and we’re all ordered to get off.
Seeing our bewildered expressions, a friendly old lady motions for us to follow the other passengers, who have formed a line and appear to be waiting for another tram.
So, we do. We wait patiently in line, and follow everyone else onto the bus that appears. Once we’ve been on said bus for about 5 minutes, a girl overhears us talking and interrupts us, saying ‘You do know you’re going in the opposite direction of where you need to be right?’
JESUS HOLY GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH WHAT???
SO. We get off and WALK back to the bus depot, and begin asking anyone and everyone how to get back to the centre. Of course, nobody speaks any English, and so it takes about 4 people before we finally have any success and a very nice man points us in the right direction.
So. We end up in exactly the same spot where we met the ‘helpful couple’ earlier, and decide to just give up on finding the centre and go to eat at the first restaurant we saw, which happened to be pretty decent. Do I remember the name? Of course not. The name isn’t the point.
Needless to say, we were so exhausted by the time we finished our meal that we just headed straight home and went to bed. After all, we had a FUN AND EXCITING WALKING TOUR to attend the next morning.
The Next Day…
The next morning, me and Neneh woke bright and early and met with our friend Graham, who had arrived in Ostrava in the early hours of the morning and would be teaching English with us. We enjoyed breakfast in a local cafe (where everybody was already getting drunk despite it being 9am???), before meeting up with our fellow volunteers for the walking tour that the programme offered as a way of getting us acquainted with the city that we were in.
Honestly, by this point, I was ready to write Ostrava off entirely, but I figured we may as well attend the tour. I mean, we may actually see the city centre now, right?
WELL LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, IT TURNS OUT THAT THE CENTRE OF OSTRAVA IS THE EXACT SAME AREA THAT THE YOUNG COUPLE SENT US AWAY FROM. THE SAME AREA THAT WE FOUND THE ITALIAN RESTAURANT. THE TRIP THROUGH THE FOREST AND SUBSEQUENT ADVENTURES IN THE BUS DEPOT HAD BEEN FOR NOTHING, DEAR READERS.
(Just so you all know, I keep having to stop writing to take a deep breath. This sh*t is still raw, hahaha.)
So, we plodded around Ostrava on the walking tour. It was eerily quiet despite it being midday on a sunny Saturday. The only people around were drunk old men. But no judgement here, if I lived in Ostrava I’d be drunk by midday too.
A Night Out in Ostrava…
After lunch, Neneh, Graham and I stumbled across a cat cafe. Now, it seemed odd to me that a place like Ostrava had a cat cafe but hey, I wasn’t mad about it. Once inside the cafe however, it became clear that this was an establishment that didn’t know what it was trying to be.
The food menu boasted a Spanish tapas selection, the drinks on offer were all hipster craft beers, and there weren’t many cats but a very friendly dog…again, not complaining, but it was a rather bizarre place.
After this, Neneh decided to go back to the hostel while Graham and I set about finding a place to get drunk. I mean, it couldn’t be that difficult, right?
We wandered around aimlessly for a while before eventually settling on an Irish pub. It was almost empty, but we figured that we couldn’t go wrong with an Irish pub and so we ordered our beers and grabbed a table outside.
The street itself was extremely quiet, with just a few dilapidated strip clubs and other empty pubs. We decided to turn to Google.
One place that kept popping up time and time again was a street named Stodolni Street. Reviews cited it as a crazy street with more than 100 bars and clubs, and promised that it was the place to be if you were planning a bachelor party.
‘Wow, this sounds promising, let’s try and find Stodolni Street!’ we enthused.
It was then that I happened to glance up at the forlorn looking strip club on the corner. Right there on the wall was a plaque with the name of the street we were on – Stodolni Street.
Giggling hysterically, we decided to try our best to find SOMEWHERE with more than 3 customers. And we succeeded. Kind of.
The bar that we ended up finding was a kind of cave bar with tree stumps for stools and a group of 8 or so women on a hen party. There were no other patrons inside the bar, but the bartender assured us that this was the place to be, and so we took a seat. It amused me to see that the ladies on their hen do were wearing the same Learner plates and pink feather boas as women back in Manchester wear.
To give the bartender his credit, the bar did fill up as the night went on. My personal highlight was when a slightly chunky male stripper came to surprise the bride – it’s safe to say that after witnessing his performance, I don’t feel the need to hire a stripper if I ever get engaged.
So guys and gals, FORTUNATELY this concludes my time in Ostrava. If you think I spent another night here after the English programme finished then you are out of your damn mind because I hot-footed it on a train to Poland as fast as my little legs would carry me. Perhaps Ostrava is a wonderful travel destination for some, but for Neneh and I, it was honestly cursed. I shan’t be going back anytime soon!
Do you have any similar travel horror stories? I’d love to know! Share them with me in the comments section below!