To Zlin and back

I’m back from Zlin, Czech Republic and I do know how to pronounce it now, it is ZLEEN. Interesting trip. As a test run for the car and sat-nav it was a success. The car is a joy to drive at speed and for long distances although 7 hours in the car is a bind in any vehicle. Still, I worked my way through a P D James play and a few discs of Lord of the Rings. The journey down took only 6 hours, possibly helped by the sat-nav doing a lot of “recalculating the route taking traffic announcements into consideration”. This meant that instead of going directly south through Bielsko-Biała, I veered off to the right and wandered through country roads then back to the border at Cieszyn before wandering through Czech countryside to the destination. On the way back it took 7.5 hours mainly because of awful weather & traffic combined with the sat-nav deciding to take me a different route. The route was possibly shorter but took me over hill and dale into Slovakia and then back into Poland at Zwardon. The same way we came back from skiing in the Slovakian Tatras last year. Entering Poland this way is no fun as they are busy building better roads – God knows they are needed – and so it is a sea of mud for about 25km.

The Czech countryside I drove through makes a nice change from the flat plains of central Poland as it is all hills and valleys. There were some nice views but I didn’t have the time to stop and snap, I’ll get some next time though. The timber industry seemed to be a big thing and most of the houses were of wooden construction. Zlin itself is much more in the socialist architecture camp. A long thin place running down a valley, it owes its current size to Mr Bata who started his shoe empire here many moons ago and built much of the city either for factories or for worker’s housing. It all went horribly wrong thanks to the war and communism and so everyone who was left buggered off to Canada and have not been seen since! Here’s a bad view of Zlin (over the roof of the swimming pool) from outside the hotel which was up the North side of the valley:

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The view in the other direction, from the bedroom window, was not too exciting either although faintly artistic:

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From what I could see, the biggest employer now is the tyre factory of Barum Continental (used to be Barum, bought by Continental). Interestingly, this place started out life in 1924 as a factory to produce soles for shoes! I was lucky enough to get a tour of this place by one of the local consultants we’re considering using who did some work in there. It is massive, 3km by 2km of factory space, producing 20 gazillion tyres a day, or whatever, it’s a big number.

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I love seeing how places like this work and so it was quite fascinating to see the raw chemicals being turned into black rubbery carpets and then into bald tyre shaped things before having the tread and proper shape applied in a steam press. I was shocked at how many bicycles they had inside, all numbered. The highest number I saw was in the 200s. The place just so big that everyone gets around either on a bicycle or a fork lift. There were even specially adapted bicycles for delivering mail or for providing coffee!

The most fascinating aspect of the trip through Czech was to see loudspeakers on almost every pylon in the country.

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I asked what these were for and was given various answers ranging from “local radio station” to “flood warnings”. I never heard a sound from any of them so whatever they are used for it is not a daily event. I can’t believe the whole neighbourhood wants to listen to their local DJ spinning old Czech folk songs all day, nor can I believe these areas are prone to serious and regular floods. It all looks rather Big Brotherish to me – “Mrs Jones! I’ve told you before about hanging your washing on Tuesdays!”.

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3 thoughts on “To Zlin and back

  1. About the pronouncation of Zlín: Czech language has the nice accent ´expressing vocal’s length. Unknown in Poland, I know.
    About the speaker pylons: I mean, I’ve seen them in Poland too, as well as in Romania or Hungary. Of course in villages only. They are a left over of the socialist times, used to activate inhabitants immediately in case of need. Case of need could be also demonstrating on May 1st, or “voluntarily” work on Saturday, so called “Sobotnik”. Otherwise the authorities felt always shortly before World War III. Your assocation to BB isn’t too far away. Today they are there, because they are even there. If there happens a local fair, they are in use. But playing the same music like everywhere, but horrible sound.

  2. One more: After sending my comment, I spoke with my wife, who grew up in a village in the GDR. She still remembers the so called “Dorffunk” (“local radio”). They had a daily broadcast there including local news, f. i. when they had to put out the milk-churns, when the administration or district nurse had surgery, which work team produced highest results and so on. Nice topic, I’ll try to find out more about this gone part of everyday life.

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