An October 2005 trip
to Jesenik by captain oddsocks
Quote: The gentle foothills and sleepy villages of the Lower Jeseník Mountains reward their visitors with berry-lined forest paths, waterfalls, medieval castles, and historic tales of emperors and invading armies.
The smaller settlements in the hills were primarily mining or farming communities. The slopes are suitable for barley, rapeseed and wheat farming, but more valuable crops such as hops, vegetables and sugar beet were only farmed on the more fertile lower plains. The areas unsuitable for agriculture are used for the grazing of herd animals, or are covered by forest, predominantly spruce and pine.
Northern Moravia, including both the Upper and Lower Jeseníky, was one of the largest areas of the so called Sudetenland. During the rule of the Habsburg dynasty (1526-1918), ethnic Czech and German nationalities had lived side by side in the Czech lands for centuries, in varying degrees of harmony. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist at the end of WWI, the minority German population of the newly formed Czechoslovakia found their culture and language in the inferior position previously occupied by the Czechs within the empire. During the prosperous 1920’s they were able to bear their fate, but during the depression of the early 1930’s many longed for the reassurance of belonging to a ‘greater Germany’. With the consent or agreement of the British, French and Italian governments, Hitler and the Nazis forcibly occupied the Sudetenland in October of 1938, and less than six months later, the remaining parts of the Czech lands were declared a protectorate and absorbed into the Reich.
Six years later, for their perceived role in the events leading up to WWII, remaining ethnic German residents had their possessions confiscated and were driven from the Czech lands in appalling and sometimes brutal circumstances, in a move known as the Odsun (resettlement, evacuation or expulsion). This is one of the reasons that there sometimes appear to be more houses than people. Some are used as weekend cottages, and others not at all.
The area round Sovinec is a designated Přírodní park/nature park. Within nature parks it is prohibited to damage or collect plant matter with the exception of forest fruits. Nor are camping, the lighting of fires, or leaving designated roads in a motorized vehicle allowed.
To reach the smaller towns by public transport, you will probably need to change trains or buses in either Olomouc or Zabřeh na Moravě, both of which are on the main international Prague-Poland high-speed line. The online timetables are thorough and accurate.
By road, you would approach the area from the south on route 46 through Šternberk or from the north via Šumperk on route 11 to Rýmařov.
Hiking and cycling trails are well marked and the 1:50 000 scale, Number 56 Nízký Jeseník map issued by the Czech Tourist Club is an excellent companion.
Attraction | "A visit to Šternberk"
The original village grew up around the gothic castle which guarded the northern trade road to Poland from Olomouc. An Augustinian monastery was founded in the 1370’s but in 1430 Šternberk was captured by the Hussite army during their war against the Catholics. A ruinous fire in 1538 damaged much of the rebuilt town including the castle and monastery. The Swedish army occupied Šternberk from 1645-1650 during the thirty years war, but the towns most famous military visitors were to come in 1805 during the Napoleonic wars. Russian Czar Alexander met Austrian Emperor Franz here prior to the unfortunate events at south-Moravian Austerlitz.
Šternberk castle was built between 1253 and 1269. Legend has it that the founder of the castle Jaroslav of Šternberk defeated the Tartars in battle on the plains before Olomouc, thereby saving not just his own lands, but the whole of western Christian civilization. In the 15th and 16th centuries the castle was extended and remodelled in the renaissance style and its current neo-romantic appearance dates from the late 1800’s. The main sections of the original early gothic castle that remain are the 13th C round gothic tower and the 14th C castle chapel, with it’s valuable statue, the Šternberk Madonna. The newer parts of the castle house an art collection featuring Dutch masters, and a museum of timepieces from the beginning of time measurement (water and sun clocks) to the 1940’s. The main season to visit the castle is May-September, when it is open six days a week (closed Mondays). In April, November and December it is only open on weekends and from January-March it is closed.
Below the hilltop castle, construction began on the original gothic Church of the Annunciation / Kostel Zvěstování Paně and the adjacent Augustinian monastery in the year 1371. In the course of the following centuries the complex suffered severe damage during the Hussite wars and several extensive fires. The monastery was renovated in the baroque style in the early 1700’s and in 1775 it was decided to completely demolish the church and begin work on a replacement building in the classicist style. Construction lasted 8 years and the current church was consecrated in November 1783.
Along with the three dominant architectural monuments, the town hall, baroque plague columns and collection of townhouses in the classicist and empire styles help to give Šternberk its pleasant overall atmosphere. The absolute best time to visit would be during the annual Slavnosti celebrations in June, when the entire centre is transformed into a mediaeval marketplace with music, dance and traditional handcrafts on display.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 8, 2005
Šternberk Day Trip
Sternberk, Czech Republic
Transport to and from the area can be a bit of a challenge. You’ll need to get yourself to one of the nearby villages and follow one of the marked hiking trails from there; Tvrdkov and Dlouhá Loučka are possibilities, but the day that I went, the train and bus connections to Břevenec worked out best.
The walk from Břevenec will take you past Křižový Vrch /Hill of Crosses, which is a pleasant short detour to the peak of a small hill. Lining the path up the hillside is a row of statues representing the Stations of the Cross, and on the top is a large statue of the crucified Jesus. There are 360-degree views from the top of the hill, and it’s a good spot for a picnic. Downhill from Křižový Vrch, you’ll walk through the village Růda. Its former names, Německá Růda (German ore) and Železná Růda (Iron ore) before that, give clues to the village’s history. Between the world wars, it was one of the ethnically German villages that made up the Sudetenland, Hitler‘s excuse to occupy the area in 1938. The rich iron content is easily visible in the stone that was used for the statues leading up the hill.
The yellow marked trail follows the main road out of Růda, then turns off through fields towards the pine forest. Keep a close eye out for trail markers in the forest, as there are lots of logging trails that just love to lead you in the wrong direction if you’re not paying attention. The hiking trails cross at Fialův Mlyn/Fiala’s Mill, which looks like an abandoned building as you approach it from the rear but is actually quite a good refreshment stand around in the front. They don’t have much in the way of food, unless you’re like me and count ice cream not just as food but a food group.
From there follow the river upstream 500m to the waterfalls. The trail continues past the falls farther up the river valley, and there are some excellent places to stop and soak your feet, even if swimming, as we know it, is probably out of the question. The waterfalls are not huge, and if you walk as far as the wooden shelter and the tall rock faces, you’ve seen them all. The rock faces are often used by climbers, so if there’s an odd smell as you get close, it’s probably a mixture of sweat and testosterone.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 8, 2005
The original Gothic castle was built on a rocky outcrop before 1333 as the seat of the Lords of Sovinec, as the landowning nobles of the area were to become known. During the Hussite wars of the early 15th century, Sovinec served as a base for the anti-Catholic forces. The castle's Renaissance extensions were added in the late 15th and 16th centuries, and at the time of the Thirty Years War in the early 1600s, the castle came into the hands of the Teutonic knights and was further extended and fortified. In the year 1643, the Liechtenstein Tower was completed but was not enough to prevent the castle being overrun and severely damaged by Swedish troops. The siege by the Swedish army is reenacted every year in July during a weekend-long cultural festival.
In the course of the following centuries, the castle slowly fell into disrepair and in 1784 was damaged by fire. In 1844, part of the forecastle was demolished to enable the building of St Augustine’s church, which is the only other building of note in the township. In front of the church is the statue of St Jan Nepomucky, dating from 1726, and a stone cross from the middle of the 19th century.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the castle was refurbished as a summer residence of the Teutonic knights, and during the Second World War, it was used as a prison for French soldiers and anti-Fascist resistance fighters. The castle today is accessible to the public from 9am to 5pm May through September but is closed every Monday. In April and October, the castle is open only on weekends. By far the best time to visit though is during one of the many weekend-long cultural festivals in the summer, such as the commemoration of the Swedish siege or The Ring of the Black Widow Gothic Hubbub. The festivals always have food and drink stands and access to all areas of the castle, including the viewing platform of the tower, is included in the overall ticket price (usually about 80Kc for a 1-day visit).
The best way to get there using public transport is to take the bus from Šternberk or Olomouc either to Paseka Sanitorium (one stop farther than Paseka Village) and walk along the road to the north (clearly signposted to Sovinec) OR stay on the bus to Dlouhá Loučka (one stop past Paseka Sanitorium) and follow the much more pleasant green-marked walking trail through the forest. The trail is reasonably flat and gives an excellent view of the castle as you emerge from the forest.
Enjoy the hike.
Hrad Sovinec 58
Sovinec, Czech Republic
Attraction | "Unique Uničov"
In the 1420s Uničov sided with followers of the Hussite movement and remained loyal to Hussite king Jiři of Poděbrady and his chosen successors up until the Thirty Years War. The townspeople managed to repel the Danish army in 1626, but in 1643 the town was occupied by the Swedish army and suffered a devastating fire. Uničov’s 15 minutes of fame came in 1770, when Habsburg Emperor Josef II temporarily relocated his court there to meet with Prussian King Friedrich II. By the time the Fleischmann sugar refinery, the oldest in Moravia, was established in Uničov in 1850, the town had almost forgotten its brush with royalty and become a centre for the surrounding agricultural region. After World War II, the Uničov machine works were established and remain the town’s major industry and a huge influence on its character to the present day.
If you’re coming from the direction of the bus and train stations, you’ll probably still enter the historic core through the Medlovská brána/Medlov gate, part of the preserved Gothic fortifications. The vodní brána/water gate at the other end of town serves as a museum, which is open in July and August from 10am to noon on Wednesdays and 2pm to 5pm on weekends. In May, June, September and October, it’s open only on Sundays from 2pm to 5pm. The most dominant of Unicov’s cultural monuments is the beautifully restored Gothic Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The originally Gothic church from the 1330s was rebuilt several times over the following centuries, and today it’s brilliant snow-white walls and towers illuminate tiny Kostelní Náměstí/Church Square. The most impressive building on the main square is the 15th-century Town Hall. Originally a market hall, it was rebuilt in the baroque style in 1670 and again in the neo-renaissance style in the 1890s. Close to the town hall is the baroque plague column from the early 1700s.
Uničov has all the practical facilities necessary for a short visit. Tourist information is just off the main square at Dr Beneše street 15, and I ate at U Dvě Cisáře/The Two Emporers, quite a reasonable courtyard restaurant with an entry on the main square. I had the lunch special for 55Kc, which included soup. Trains are the best way to get to or from Šternberk or Olomouc, but the bus is best for everywhere else. The train station is a 15-minutes walk north of the centre, but the bus station is much closer (in the same direction).