This past weekend, I went to a music festival in eastern Czech Republic. The festival, called Colours of Ostrava, had everything from music to theater to poetry to lectures on Russia, Europe, and freedom. It was an amazing experience, with many different opportunities to learn about and explore Czech culture. One of the most interesting things about the festival, though, was the location.
Giant steel towers stood hundreds of feet above the stages, while huge buildings made of metal and brick, streaked with rust, spoke of the area's early days as a coal town. The festival took place in Dolni Vitkovice, a 200-year old coal plant where many of the city's people used to work. The factory once ran all day and all night, with giant machines turning coal into fuel, called coke. Coke was made when workers shoveled black, dirty coal into giant ovens, where temperatures usually went over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the ovens were so hot, bad parts of the coal, like tiny bits of water, were burned off.
Once the coal was burned down, or refined, into coke, the coke was then used as fuel in a blast furnace, a type of very powerful oven. Blast furnaces are used to make iron, which is then used in buildings. The plant at Dolni Vitkovice once produced 300,000 tons of foundry iron every year.
Then, the plant went out of business. Luckily, though, it has been protected by local people. Some areas are now used for meetings, concerts, and other events. Today, the biggest storage tank has been turned into a concert hall that seats 1,500 people. A science academy has also been built on the property.
In many places around the world, old factories are left to crumble away. It was very interesting to see how Ostrava's people transformed their old coal plant. Today, the site is a European Cultural Heritage Site, and guided tours are available throughout the year.
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Adam De Gree
I am a senior in college, studying philosophy, and am visiting family in the Czech Republic and travelling and studying in Europe and Asia.