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Zikmund and Hanzelka, Legendary Czech World Travellers

             60 years have passed since the legendary adventurers Zikmund and Hanzelka left from Zlin, Moravia, for their first journey around the world, bringing back ground-breaking film footage, photos and stories about their contacts with aborigines in Africa, Latin america and Asia. This year, surviving member of the team, Miroslav Zikmund, is an honoured guest of the 47th Zlin Childrens Film Festival.

             The whole Czech Republic is commemorating the 60th anniversary of their first departure around the world using their 1940's model TATRA vehicle. They brought back fabulous records and went on writing best-selling books. The festival joins the celebrations of their remarkable achievement. Zlin Film Studio keeps all the unique film material the adventurers shot during their forays in the wild. Although little-known outside their native country, lovers of the travel stories of the Czechs Jiri Hanzelka and Miroslav Zikmund during the late 40s and early 50s will thrill to their well-documented episodes with their famous Tatra car. Books have been published related to their Africa, South and Central America and SE Europe/Middle East travel diaries. A photo expo of further trips to Asia and Australia appear at the Zlin Castle Museum and were shown during the last Childrens Film Festival Zlin 2007.

             Post-War travellers Jiri Hanzelka and Miroslav Zikmund are extremely well-known in the Czech Republic . Although Jiri Hanzelka passed away two years ago, Mr. Zikmund is still very much alert at 86, discussing his past travels on Czech TV and opened an expo of 160 photos they took at Prague Castle's Stary kralovsky palace (Old Royal Palace), followed by the one at Zlin Castle Museum.
            From 1947 to 1952, both did a weekly show for Czechoslovak Radio, one of the most popular programs ever.
Mr Zikmund, after meeting George (Jiri) Hanzelka at University in Prague in 1938, began the series of world wide travels which were to continue for 9 years through Africa and Latin America, 1947 to 1950 for a period of three and a half years, non-stop, then followed by Asia, 1959 to 1964, for 5 and a half years.
Who took all those photos?
Both contributed equally in shooting the footage and taking the snap shots, producing the films and writing articles for Czech Radio and newspapers.

Two of the vans - Tatra 805s - exhibited at the Prague expo were the original vehicles used. The Tatra 87, passenger car originally used however is now exhibited at the Prague National Technical Museum.
Six and a half million books sold and translated into 11 languages.
Upon their return in 1950, their popularity reached a zenith with the publications of their reports and audiovisual material.
In Czechoslovakia at that time, the first edition of AFRICA DREAM AND REALITY, relating their first trip printed 50,000 copies which sold out within three days. Followed by.six and a half million reprints in 11 languages.

As to the present state of how hard it is to find their early publications, Zikmund notes : "They're difficult to find in antiquity shops. You see, that time cannot be repeated, because I would say there was some hunger for adventure at that time. When we returned it was two years after the Communist coup d'etat in 1948, and people couldn't travel out. So I think it was not just about popularity but the closed nature of Czechoslovakia at that time."

Early broadcasting methods on Czech radio :

"We had not technical means at that time. So we were writing the stories and they were read on Czechoslovak Radio by two actors who actually simulated that one of the speakers was Hanzelka and the other was Zikmund."

About travelling when travelling wasn't so common. Nowadays everyone travels - travelling today is quite easy?
"Yeah, definitely. You see the difference probably is shouldn't forget that when we started our trip two and a half years after the end of the war, there were no travel agencies at that time. Because Europe was hungry, there was a lack of everything. People didn't want to travel, they had to build their houses and so forth. The difference between now and fifty years ago is enormous."
About their risk of physical danger during their travels?
"Many times. Even in the regions which we went through but that's part of the profession".

Zikmund and Hanzelka prohibited to travel and publish their books in the 1970's.

"Well, the end of the adventures - I think the adventures were everlasting. I think this is probably the...most beautiful adventure, that you never know one day what the next day will bring to you."

The exhibition is on at Prague Castle until the 24th June 2007.

Zikmund and Hanzelka, Legendary Czech World Travellers
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