Štramberk – The Town with Ears

As Old as the Hills… Almost

A view over the town and to the Beskydy foothills from the castle tower
A view over the town and to the Beskydy foothills from the castle tower

This charming and picturesque town, nestled in the foothills of the Beskydy mountains in the north east of the Czech Republic, was established in 1359. However, human activity in the immediate vicinity goes back to prehistoric times; archaeological explorations have uncovered remnants of Neanderthal, stone age and bronze age settlements in the hills which surround the town.

Today, the town is dominated by the ruins of Štramberk Castle whose distinctive tower rises above the town’s centre to give outstanding views of both the town and the surrounding country side.

Getting Above it All

The tower of Štramberk Castle.
The tower of Štramberk Castle.

A trip up the wooden staircase inside the castle’s trademark tower, nicknamed “Trúba” will allow you to take in the breathtaking surroundings and get some nice views of the town square directly beneath. There is a small restaurant on the castle property near the foot of the tower where you can refresh yourself after going up and down all those stairs.

The castle itself has rather unclear origins with regards to ownership and exactly who initiated the construction. What is known is that the castle is older than the town and was built in the 13th century.

The castle passed through a variety of owners, including the Templar Knights, until it was abandoned and fell into disrepair after 1533. In the 1700s, it partially collapsed and the rubble was used for building purposes by local people.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a roof was constructed on the castle tower and it was converted into a viewing point. The castle was eventually named a national cultural monument and became property of Štramberk in 1994.

The Sweet Square

The fountain and church on the town square.
The fountain and church on the town square.

Štramberk has been an urban conservation area since 1969 and the small but lovely town square lined with Renaissance and Classicist facades reflects that. The square is host to a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes as well as the inescapable aroma of spices used to make the town’s signature product: Štramberské uši (Štramberk ears).

Štramberk ears are a delightful, and protected, gingerbread snack that are made exclusively in the town. Those who make them must hold special permits to do so; accordingly, those people guard their recipes jealously.

The ears come in large and small sizes and you can buy them singly or in packages. When bought singly, they can be filled with whipped cream and served with a choice of toppings.

While it is possible to buy packages of these snacks anywhere in the country, a trip to the source will certainly ensure that you get the freshest and most authentic Štramberk ear experience possible.

A Snack and a Story

Štramberk ears, tasty ties to history.
Štramberk ears, tasty ties to history.

The Štramberk ear is not simply a proud local product, it’s also a connection to a historical event that happened in the area in 1241.

According to legend, the Tartar army was invading Moravia and drawing very close to Štramberk. Many local townspeople went into hiding on nearby Kotouč hill; those who resisted or could not escape the Tartars were killed and their ears cut off. The Tartars typically preserved the ears of their fallen victims and adversaries to send back to their Khan as proof of how many people they had killed.

One night, a huge storm deluged the Tartar camp and drowned the invaders. In the aftermath, the returning citizens found many sacks of their compatriots’ severed ears that the Tartars had not managed to send home.

Whether out of thankfulness for the storm that saved them or out of happiness that the Tartars had not lived to gloat about invading the area, the Štramberk ear was created to mark the event and has remained a tradition and symbol of the town through the centuries to the present day.

Learning More

This link will take you the town’s official web page which contains lots of useful information about the town, surroundings and accommodation among other things:

http://www.stramberk.info/en/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s