Štramberk is situated in a notch in the foothills of the Beskydy mountains in the Moravian-Silesian Region. the two most famous sights are the castle, perched atop Bílá Hora, and Šipka Cave. the castle tower can be readily seen from the surrounding mountains — as I learned throughout my hike. the northern path from the town square takes you under an arch with the inscription ‘Cuius regio – eius religio – 1111’ (‘Whose realm, his religion’). I can’t find any conclusive explanation (at least in English) as to whether the Romans visited or occupied the site that early, but it seems possible. the town was formally established in 1359, though the first recorded settlement dates from 1211.
the castle itself was constructed sometime in the 12th or 13th century, either by the Benešovic family or by Přemyslide princes (one of the oldest and most revered dynasties in Czech royal history). at some point, it fell into the keeping of the Knights Templar, but upon the abolition of the order reverted to the hands of the king and spent considerable time passing between owners. eventually, the Benešovic took possession, but by the mid-16th century the castle began to deteriorate. the city, who now owns the site, spruced up the structure that remains, including the recognizable cylindrical tower known as the Trúba. the tower is 40 m tall and 10 m in diameter and was covered at the turn of the 19th century and turned into a lookout tower under the guidance of a famous Prague architect.
the other famous site is a cave where, in 1880, the mandible of a Neanderthal child was found. archaeological excavation in the cave occurred between 1879-1893 and evidence suggests the cave was inhabited by Neanderthals and cave bears alternately. apparently, this was the first discovery of Neanderthal remains in a cultural context.
another interesting piece of history I discovered while researching for this post concerns “Štramberk ears”. I saw people eating these odd, cylindrical treats (check here for a picture), even carrying away bags of them. turns out, these treats stem from a Christian victory over Tartar invaders in 1241. townspeople managed to flood the Tartar camp and allegedly, when checking the wreckage for spoils, found bags of severed ears, which the Tartars had removed from their victims to bring back to Genghis Khan to prove their kills. the inscription on the arch seems to allude to this victory as well — whomever rules the region gets to choose the practiced religion. ever since the defeat of the Tartars, people in Štramberk bake these ear-shaped biscuits to commemorate the event. today, only eight people are licensed to bake them, which explains why I saw Czechs carrying bags of “Štramberk ears” away with them.
(more information can be found here)