Shining up Škodas and Polishing Pragas

Time for Some Deep Maintenance

It will probably be a while before my next larger article. Partly, it’s because I have quite a bit going on in life outside of blogging at the moment and also because I have to take a longer and closer look at all the changes WordPress has made to the editing functionality.

I’ll also be taking the opportunity to do more intensive housekeeping tasks on the blog. I’ll be keeping everything accessible to you, though you might see a few changes here and there from one visit to the next.

You might also see some of the older articles disappear for a while. The text is saved, but I might be taking them off the site for a bit until I can bring them up to scratch in quality and structure with more recent articles. Rest assured, if you see a favorite article of yours vanish, it’s not permanently gone.

I’m also testing the blog with different themes that WordPress offers, so a new look may become part of the changes you see.

Thanks for your patience and continued readership.

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Zlín – Built by Baťa

Built between 1936 and 1938, the Baťa Skyscraper remains the main landmark of Zlín today.

Walk a Mile in Zlín’s Shoes

Most people around the world are familiar with Bata brand shoes, a global brand that has existed since 1894, Perhaps you even own a pair of Batas yourself. Did you know that Bata was originally a Czech brand?

Located in the southeast of the Czech Republic, the small city of Zlín was chosen by Tomáš, Antonín and Anna Baťa as the place to establish their fledgling shoe business. Tomáš had a vision for the business that went well beyond making shoes. Many of his business practices and philosophies, such as fixed work schedules and weekly wages were quite revolutionary for the time, made his company a popular one to seek work with.

Tomáš also had a very distinct vision for the city that was influenced by garden city movement founded by English architect, Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928), that promoted an equal amount of urban parkland and greenspace to balance the construction in a city. Influence for what would become Zlín’s new face also came from the Modernist style of French architect, Le Corbusier (1887-1965).

To achieve that vision in Zlín, connections were made with Le Corbusier as well as Czech architects: František L. Gahura, Vladimír Karfík, Jan Kotéra and Miroslav Lorenc.

Baťa provided good quality living space for their employees in these distinctive housing distracts.

Through the interwar period, the face of the city was modernised with a distinctive Functionalist aesthetic where buildings with exposed red brick facades intermingled with parks and greenspace. The fortunes of the city grew with the fortunes of the Baťas. The population of the city grew as people came there to seek work with one of the best companies to work for in the country at the time.

The Baťa business model was one of self-sufficiency and employee care. Baťa employees were compensated well by the company and the city and its amenities were built with the needs and comforts of company employees in mind first and foremost.

All of this is not to say that Zlín had no history before the Baťa years. Indeed, the city can trace its history to the early 1300s. Its history up to the Baťa era is rather unremarkable and generally similar to that of many other places in the region. Overall, the city’s pre 20th century history was built on crafts, trades and commerce.

The interior of the Tomáš Baťa Memorial and the replica of the aircraft he lost his life in.

Goodbye to the Baťas

By the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Baťa company had diversified into many industrial fields beyond the shoes they started with and had established themselves as an international business force with many factories outside the borders of Czechoslovakia. It was a true heyday for both the company and for Zlín. Tomáš had even spent time as mayor of the city in the 1920s.

One of the business fields the Baťas had expanded into was aviation. In fact, Baťa is considered to be one of the first companies in the world to make use of aircraft in business; using them to quickly shuttle executives between their expanding number of factories around Europe. The Zlín aircraft company and the airport it calls home in the nearby town of Otrokovice, were both once holdings of the Baťa business empire.

In 1932, tragedy struck when Tomáš was killed in an aircraft accident as the company aircraft he was on crashed just after take off from the Otrokovice airport.

Tomáš left the company and its administration in the care of his half-brother, Jan Antonín Baťa (1898-1965), who stayed faithful to the family vision for the company and city.

Jan Antonín Baťa’s office on a lift in the Baťa Skyscraper.

Under Jan Antonín’s watch, the city’s landmark Baťa Skyscraper was built between 1936 and 1938. At 16 stories high, it was one of the tallest high-rise buildings in Europe when it was completed. As with the other buildings in the Baťa vision, it was a Functionalist structure with many modern features such as central heating and ventilation. It also included Jan Antonín’s unique office on a lift. He could travel to any floor in the building quickly to attend to business and always have his office nearby.

Jan Antonín was very respected for his business accumen and astuteness. He knew the threat that Hitler represented and had preparations underway to prepare for war before The German occupation of Czechoslovakia came in 1939. The company’s Jewish employees and their families were relocated to branches of the company in places around the world that Hitler couldn’t reach and Jan Antonín put the aviation arm of the company in Otrokovice on war footing by putting extra money into the flying school there so they could train more pilots quickly.

The modern face of the Otrokovice airport. the airport was founded by the Baťas in the mid 1920s.

Ultimately, it was too little too late. Jan Antonín and his family fled Czechoslovakia at the start of the German occupation and, after spending a short time in America, settled in Brazil.

Following the war, the company’s new headquarters were established in the UK in 1945 before going to Canada in 1964 and then to Switzerland in 2004.

While the company never brought its headquarters “home” after the fall of Socialism, it is still owned by members of the Bata family to this day and they do keep connection to their and the company’s Czech roots.

After the war and the dispersal of the family around the world, the apostrophe was removed from the original spelling of the family name. When said correctly, with the apostrophe in place, the family name is pronounced “BAT-yah”

The main buildings of Tomáš Baťa University seen from the viewing terrace of the skyscraper.

A Feel for the Place

It is impossible to experience Zlín without experiencing the legacy that the Baťas left to it. The history of the company and the city are inextricably linked.

In the contemporary sense, the city comes across as a distinctly non-touristy university town with a relaxed atmosphere.

If you’re interested in urban planning, Modernist architecture and the history of the Baťa family and company, you’ll likely appreciate Zlín as a place to visit. You’ll also likely appreciate a trip to the city if you’re looking for a Czech town that offers a distinctive architectural face that you won’t see anywhere else in the country.

Though not touristy, the city does offer a respectable selection of accomodations and restaurants to serve a variety of tastes and budgets.

The centre of the city is very walkable and there is a shared public transport system between Zlín and Otrokovice that can get you to points further afield.

Zlín’s zoo is one of its biggest tourist attractions

One place the aforementioned public transport system will take you to is the city’s Lešná suburb and the sizable zoo located there.

The zoo is the most visited tourist attraction in Moravia and considered one of the best zoos in the country. If you visit, expect to spend some time in a queue to buy tickets before entering.

One of the main draws in the zoo is a pool of rays which you can pet and, for a modest fee, buy a bit food to give them.

The zoo covers 74 hectares, 50 of which are given to the display areas. The facility is home to over 220 species of animals and many more species of plants in the botanic gardens on site.

Included in the ticket price to the zoo is admission to the Lešná chateau that sits on the zoo grounds. The chateau dates to the late 1800s and tours of it are available.

Monument to Tomáš and Jan Antonín Baťa near the skyscraper.

Paying a Visit and Learning More

Despite its status as a city, and a university town at that, Zlín is not a particularly straightforward place to reach if you’re going without a car.

There is coach bus service to Zlín from various places around, but one must be very careful when choosing which bus to take. While there are some bus routes that are fairly direct and time effective, there are others which make many stops along their routes and can take a very long time in relation to the geographic distance between their starting point and Zlín.

You can also get there by a combination of train to Otrokovice and public transport to Zlín from there. As with bus travel, care should be taken with which train to take there. There are some fairly direct lines, but many more indirect and time consuming ones.

This link will take you to the official website of Zlín, where you can find more information about what the city has to offer: https://www.zlin.eu/en/

This link will take you to the official page of the city’s zoo: https://www.zoozlin.eu/

A New Way to Explore Czech Monuments

 

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Vila Stiassni, in Brno, one of several monuments available to view and explore through a new 3D website launched recently.

Very recently the National Heritage Institute (Národní Památkový Ústav) of the Czech Republic launched a new website that allows you to explore various heritage sites around the country in 3D online.

The site works with both traditional mouse control and touch screen technology and can be used with virtual reality technology as well.

Follow this link to the site and have a bit of fun exploring. I hope it will be successful and we’ll see it grow and develop:

http://www.pamatky3d.cz/

 

 

New Czech Law Sticks it to Scammers!

Very recently, the Czech government passed a new law that puts more power in your hands when dealing with dishonest money exchangers. The law was put in to help combat money exhange scammers which are rampant in the centre of Prague. However, it’s a national law and can be applied anywhere in the country.

Very simply, the new law gives you the right to demand your money back within three hours of a bad exchange. You can involve the police if need be.

This video by the Honest Guide guys will tell you more:

https://d.tube/#!/v/honestguide/xy6v5zxt

 

We’re Getting Noticed Again!

Time to Show Some Gratitude

Very recently, Beyond Prague was noticed by a couple of parties and I’d be remiss in my duties as a blogger if I didn’t thank them publicly.

travelosource logo

Firstly, I would like to thank the Travelosource website for visiting Beyond Prague and thinking highly enough of it to place a link to it on their page of Czech Republic travel resources.

In the sidebar, you’ll notice their logo. Clicking on it will take you directly to their Czech Republic page.

 

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I also wish to thank the people at the Čezeta scooter company for paying a visit and linking my recent article about their scooters to their Facebook page.

It’s always great when those who I write about take notice and show their thanks.

The reciprocal effect is that through linking that article to their Facebook page, I got a big spike in my blog stats and the article became the blog’s most shared article literally overnight.

 

 

Made in the Czech Republic – Čezeta

Get on Your Pig and Ride! 

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An example of a 501 series Čezeta. The 501 was the first of the classic Čezeta line and debuted in 1957.

Motor scooters are a very popular way that many people around the world choose to get around, particularly in crowded cities where parking for traditional four wheel cars tends to be at a premium. Indeed, the entire point of the motor scooter as a vehicle has always been a balance of economical operation and effective utility.

The real heyday of motor scooters was from the immediate post World War II years to the late 1960s. Two of the earliest and best known motor scooters of this period came from Italy in the form of the Piaggio Vespa and the Innocenti Lambretta. Both types of scooter were immediately popular as the time period they debuted in was marked by recovering post war economies around Europe where many things, particularly petrol, were strictly rationed in many places

Through the 1950s, many more companies around the world began producing motor scooters as demand for them was growing. Through the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, the motor scooter truly came into its own as a popular vehicle with youth in many places as it came to be a symbol of status and affordable freedom for young people with lower paying jobs. The scooter became an inseparable part of the Mod subculture which was popular in Great Britain through the late 1950s to the mid 1960s.

The Čezeta debuted in 1957 and was the former Czechoslovakia’s contribution to this golden age of motor scooters. Immediately distinguishable from its contemporaries by its very different design which included a long front section ahead of the driver that terminated in a single headlamp, this aspect of the vehicle’s design would see it given the affectionate nickname of “Pig” in its homeland. Indeed, with its long snout, the Čezeta resembled that farm animal more than anything else.

The Čezeta exists in both a classic and a modern line. The classic line was produced from 1957 to 1964 and encompassed three versions.  The Čezeta was revived in modern form in 2017; though the classic shape has been kept, the modern version is a very different breed of pig from the classic.

Let’s spend some time with the Čezeta:

The Right Man for the Job 

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Another angle on a 501 series Čezeta, showing the lines that gave it the nickname of “Pig”.

The Čezeta was designed by Jaroslav František Koch (1893-1983). Born in a small village near Prague, Koch studied industrial design and spent the First World War and immediate post war years working for aircraft companies.

Koch was an accomplished motorcycle racer and was responsible for designing the legendary Praga BD 500 series of motorcycles which were produced between 1927 and 1935.

In 1940, shortly before being hired by Česka Zbrojovka (ČZ) at the company’s Strakonice factory, Koch took out a patent on a scooter of quite revolutionary monocoque design. A Monocoque design uses the vehicle’s body shell to give structural inegrity and strength rather than a separate internal frame that the body shell could be attached to. The biggest advantage to the monocoque frame was savings in materials and weight.

ČZ Strakonice became one of the world’s most prolific and successful producers of racing motorcycles from the immediate post World War two years to the mid 1980s. Koch was truly in his element and it was during his time at ČZ that he designed the Čezeta.

A Scooter Apart

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An example of a 502 series Čezeta with trailer attached.

The design of the Čezeta was a clear departure from those of its contemporaries. Other than satisfying the requirements to classify as a scooter for licensing purposes and giving young people in the former Czechoslovakia and other former Socialist countries in Europe a taste of affordable freedom that western scooters were giving to the youth in other parts of the world, the Čezeta was a very different animal indeed as scooters went.

Aside of the aforementioned monocoque body design and “snout” on the front, the Čezeta also featured a notably longer wheel base than other scooters. The advantages of all these features gave the Čezeta a very strong structure, better ergonomics for both driver and passenger as well as improved cargo carrying ability. The “snout” was the key to the Čezeta being able to carry more than other scooters as it allowed the fuel tank to be put out front in a position over the front wheel, thus freeing up more cargo space under the seat. It also created space for a small luggage rack to be mounted on the front section of the scooter.

The classic line of Čezeta scooters comprised three series: 501, 502 and 505. The 501 and 502 were scooters in the truest sense while the 505 brought the utilitarian qualities of the vehicle to the fore.

The 501 series was built between 1957 and 1960 and was built in six sub-variants which were primarily differentiated by changes to the engine and its cooling system.

Debuting in 1960, the 502 series brought a number of improvements including better suspension and engine starting systems. The 502 also brought with it a modest increase in maximum speed and significant improvements in cargo and passenger carrying ability in the form of an available trailer and the ability to be fitted with a side car. The sidecar itself was made by a company called Drupol and was given the name “Druzeta”. The 502 series was built until 1963 and existed in four sub-variants.

An interesting chapter of the Čezeta story occured in 1960 when the NZeta debuted. The NZeta was a license produced version of the Čezeta made in New Zealand from imported Čezeta components and 25% locally made parts in accordance with import laws at the time. NZeta production lasted for three years.

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The 505 series changed the scooter to a transport vehicle first and formost.

Built between 1962 and 1964, the 505 series took the front end of the 502 series and married it to a steel rear frame to create a tricycle vehicle with an emphasis on transport. The 505 could be fitted with a variety of rear cargo sections that included flatbed and cargo box options as well as a van body with a completely enclosed cabin for the driver.

The 505 series had a maximun hauling capacity of around 200 kilograms which made it quite useful for small delivery and courier work as well as light transport around agricultural and industrial sites.

All members of the classic Čezeta line could be fitted with an optional clear plastic windshield for increased protection from debris.

The “Pig” Today and Learning More

Roughly 20 years after the last Čezeta was built, ČZ Strakonice faded from the motorcycle manufacturing landscape and the scooters they produced became collectible rarities. Today, the best chance of seeing one of these classic scooters is at a vintage automobile event or automobile museum in the Czech Republic.

The rights to the Čezeta  name and design were purchased by Prague based British expatriate, Neil Eamonn Smith. Smith set up the Čezeta Motors s.r.o. company in 2013 to begin the production of a new generation of scooters under the Čezeta name. The first of this new generation debuted in 2017 as the series 506.

While the new generation of the scooter has faithfully kept the look of the classic line, everything else is different. The 506 series is fully electric rather than petrol powered and has a composite material body shell over an internal frame as opposed to the metal monocoque construction of the classic series.

The new Čezeta is planned to be limited production only and built to order by individual buyer. As such, the new series is aimed for those with a taste for nostalgia rather than a want for utility.

The following links will take you to articles that will give you some further reading about both classic and new Čezetas:
http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20151231-electric-power-for-an-icon-of-the-atomic-age

http://www.tresbohemes.com/2018/06/the-return-of-the-iconic-cezeta-scooter/

These articles contain some interesting reading on the NZeta.
https://www.aa.co.nz/membership/aa-directions/features/weird-and-wonderful-new-zealand/a-beauty-like-no-other/

https://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/bikes/91860773/could-the-iconic-nzeta-scooter-return-with-electric-power

Things People Grow

While taking a break between larger posts, I decided to participate in one of the various fun photo challenges that some other bloggers run.

This photo is on the theme of “Things People Grow” for the photo challenge run by Cee Neuner on her photography blog.

I took this picture in June of 2018 near the small village of Koněšín in the Vysočina region of the Czech Republic. The area has a lot of poppy farms around and this seemed to be one of the last flowers left intact in the fields when I passed by it:

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To see more of Cee’s blog and what other people may put up in this and other photo challenges there, follow this link:

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Things People Grow