City of Ostrava (Ostrau) is the largest city in Northern Moravia and the administrative centre of the Moravia-Silesian region. The first records of settlement date from the 13th century, when the so-called Amber Route, an important trade artery, led through the area from the Baltic to the Mediterranean coast. The settlement started to develop quickly in the 18th century, when high quality black coal deposits were discovered, and the fastest industrial and population growth occurred in the 20th century. Since 1989 the face of the city has changed radically - Ostrava City has become an important cultural, trade and sporting centre. Coal mining within the city was stopped in 1994. Ostrava with its 310000 inhabitants is the 3rd (in terms of total area it's 2nd) largest city of Czech Republic. It is an important transport centre, with a highly developed public transport network, 5 railway stations and the Mosnov International Airport. The Ostrava's 2 universities (the VSB Technical University and the University of Ostrava) have a combined total of over 15000 students. Fiscal stability of Ostrava is attested by the "A" rating granted to the city by Standard & Poor's. The last few years have also seen a rapid growth in tourist potential, helped by the Ostrava city's favourable location close to the Polish and Slovak borders, its wealth of unique industrial architecture and other sights, the rich historical and cultural heritage of the region and the sporting opportunities offered by the nearby mountains and countryside.
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