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Czech travellers − Part 3

photo:  (Muzeum jihovýchodní Moravy ve Zlíně, archiv H a Z)

Every nation has its famous personalities, whose names immediately evoke adventure, exotic destinations and new discoveries. The Czech Republic is no exception to that. In the second part of our “travelling series,” we will set out on a journey with two famous travellers and writers, Miroslav Zikmund and Jiří Hanzelka.

Miroslav Zikmund was born on 14 February 1919 in Plzen and Jiří Hanzelka on 24 December 1920 in Štramberk (died on 15 February 2003). Both of them began studying at the University College of Business after graduating from secondary school in 1938, however the school was closed with the outbreak of the Second World War, and thus they were unable to graduate until 1946. They had both been fascinated by remote countries, natural beauties and travel and adventure books since their early childhood.

After meeting at school they gradually began preparing their future travel plans by working on the “5” project, which represented the number of continents they wanted to visit. They prepared their journeys in great detail including making copies of maps, studying history, researching the weather conditions, economy and social situation of the given countries. They perfected their language skills over several years. Hanzelka spoke German and French and studied Swahili as well. Zikmund spoke English, studied Arabian and also managed the basics of Italian and Dutch. They both took Russian lessons at university and studied several exotic languages.

Their industriousness paid off when they actually travelled across Africa and South America in the legendary Tatra 87 truck between 1947 and 1950, just as they had planned. They visited 44 countries in total, travelling a distance of 111 thousand kilometres, managing about 50 kilometres per day on average, although their record was 785 kilometres in 24 hours. They used 10 thousand litres of petrol in total and brought back 10 thousand photographs and 11 kilometres of film material from their journeys.

Hanzelka and Zikmund set out on their second journey in 1959. Their Tatra 805 truck headed to Eastern Europe, Asia and islands in the Pacific. The original ambitious plan of travelling around the world was not realised as a result emerging problems after writing a report commenting on the strange conditions in the Soviet Union. In 1964, they returned to the Czech Republic.

Miroslav Zikmund visited Australia in 1989, finally completing the plan he dreamed of at school. Unfortunately, he set out on this journey without the already ill Jiří Hanzelka.
Author: Petra Hubálková
Added: 15.12.2012

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