My mother and father met through climbing and it was totally natural that I would become a climber too. Everyone we knew climbed, hiked and biked – it was an outdoors community – so I started climbing when I was three and took part in my first competition when I was six. I came third.
When I was a kid, we used to drive out of Brno to an area called Moravian Karst every weekend. I still love it, there is a lot to do there – not just climbing! Punkva Caves are good for an underground walk, followed by a boat ride – the stalactites and other rock formations are incredible. In that area, there are two particular villages, Sloup and Holštejn, that hold great memories for me.
Don’t miss Holštejn’s great tavern, Pod Hradem, where climbers gather. Sloup is close to a fantastic cave, K?lna, where various Neanderthal remains have been discovered. It’s a cool place to visit. Sloup is also where I did the world’s second ever 9b+ route. The rock there is special. It’s where I learned to look for climbing lines and to try to find new routes.
Brno is a small city. You can walk everywhere. There’s also a big student population, about 60,000, which adds to a young and vibrant atmosphere. There are lots of good bars and restaurants. Even though Czech food is traditionally a bit heavy, especially for a climber, I can’t resist some dishes: sví?ková, for example, is beef in a creamy sauce with celery and dumplings. It’s probably fortunate that I don’t know how to cook it myself. I go to places like Soul Bistro and Café Franz. In the evenings, after dinner, I like to walk up to Špilberk castle, which is on a hill overlooking the city. It’s a pretty special place for a stroll and views.
I don’t drink much, rarely more than one beer, but a lot of people don’t realise that Moravia has great wine traditions. The rieslings are particularly good and there are some great wine cellars to visit south of Brno, towards the Austrian border around towns like Znojmo.
Czech people are quite hard to get to know, in my opinion. Foreign friends who live in Brno tell me that they don’t see it that way. It’s true that the country is changing – becoming more open – especially among young people. Communism had a very bad impact on our psyche, but now things are really changing. People are dreaming big in Brno. A lot of expatriates have returned and there’s a real buzz about the place.
Climbing is also about escape and travel. When I was young, I loved the feeling of escaping to the rocks on a Friday afternoon with my parents. Just jumping in the car and heading for the mountains. When I’m in Brno, I still train at Kotelna Boulder Club, a climbing gym and wall established by local enthusiasts a few years ago. If you’re a climber and in Brno, drop by and say hello.
• Adam Ondra is the only person to have won world championships in both lead climbing and bouldering – in 2014. In October 2012, he became the first person to climb a 9b+ graded route, a degree of difficulty that few people ever imagined possible