AA on the road: Day 7 – Yet another 24 hours in Zlin

Day 7: September 2, 2015
Time: 08:00
Location: Zlin, Czech Republic
Our Zlin home

Good morning Zlin!

The heavy clouds clad in a long veil of grey are hanging over Zlin. It is the same window overlooking the same hills that greeted us for the past 2 days in our Czech home. Yet these clouds make the view so different, so intense. I love such days. The smell of the air is so fresh filled with a threat of a downpour, the scenery opening up to the eye is so crisp, sharp and intense. It is amazing what a difference clouds make to the day. This is the beautiful morning that greeted us on the 7th day of our adventures.

Today we have an important appointment in our calendar – at 13:00 our Rover is going back to the workshop and coming out of there hopefully in tip top condition so we can continue our trip towards our next destination Slovakia!

Until then though there are still a few hours at our disposal, so after packing and saying goodbye to our Czech family, we head to our usual starting point in Zlin – Building No. 21 on tř. Tomáše Bati 21, 760 01 Zlín, aka Bata’s Skyscraper.

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Andreas making it absolutely clear that we are standing by the entrance of Building 21 and leading the way into the skyscraper.

Some kind of government function is housed inside the famous building today. But back in its heyday it used to be the headquarters of Bata’s shoe empire. In the 1930s when the construction was completed the 21 was one of the first skyscrapers in Europe. The soul of Bata can still be felt in the long corridors, old elevators and countless of doors lining up all the 16 floors of the skyscraper. The interior was rather reminiscent of the Soviet taste in architecture. Inside we found Bata’s museum and a very interesting exhibition – an elevator that doubled as a personal office of no one else than Thomas Bata himself!

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It was quite a sight. Nothing luxurious and imposing to convey Bata’s rank and status. Quite the opposite, the big room was rather modest in decorations. The only “luxury” he allowed himself was to build his office inside an actual elevator so he could move in between the floors, attend meetings, be on the shop floor and check up on his empire with ease. This is one inspiring and visionary CEO I would have loved to have met in person.

Bata's office

Office inside an elevator. What a brilliant idea is that and something that many CEOs could take inspiration from.

Apart from the office-in-elevator there are other interesting details about Bata and his legacy to be learnt in the museum. If you ever make it to Zlin, do stop by Building 21.

After walking through Bata’s history down in the museum, we took an old-fashioned open-door or rather no-door elevator up to the last floor to look at Zlin, the city, boldly dreamt and meticulously realized by Thomas Bata. Up on the top floor of the skyscraper there is a open terrace overlooking the city. There was also a café that looked rather empty and off service when we were there, but it could be open in the summer months.

Zlin from above

Rows and rows of mostly identical brick and glass structures. This is Zlin from above.

Rows and rows of mostly identical brick and glass structures. This is Zlin from above. A city inspired by Le Corbusier’s urban modernism, a city designed for function and daily life. Today, decades after their completion, the brick and glass structures still stand tall, however there is a certain air of sadness that has descended on them. Maybe it is the longing for the good old days, maybe it is a cry for maintenance… It is hard to say.

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View to the Letna district, where the lovely family hosting us was also living.

IMG_7920After getting our fix of bird’s eye view over the city, we descended back to the ground floor to find the restaurant we read about online. The restaurant turned out to be the canteen for the people working in Building 21 and we arrived right in time for the busy lunch hour.

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Luckily we weren’t asked to produce employee IDs, nor asked to pay with a lunch card. After humble attempt at explaining that we would like some food we were shown to an empty table and brought what happened to be the day’s menu of complimentary soup and this delicious lentil and sausage dish.

Though delicious, the lunch was no gourmet 2-hour long affair, we had to be done very quickly and rush back to the car workshop. It is time!

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Two happy travellers waiting on the oh-so-familiar sofa on the second floor of the oh-so-familiar Land Rover dealer shop.

Here we are waiting for hours while our car is in the workshop mostly sitting idle waiting for the mechanic to exchange the faulty part. In Zlin we did a lot of waiting but hopefully it will be over today and we can get on the road again.

Finally after around 4 hours of sitting on the oh-so-familiar sofa on the second floor of the oh-so-familiar Land Rover dealer shop and keeping our fingers crossed for the car, we get the news that the Rover is ready! Hurra…!!! After 3 days in Zlin, way behind our schedule we are longing to get on the road and reach Slovakia. After settling the rather fat invoice we, all in smiles of getting the car fixed head to the front where our green-coloured beauty is awaiting us.
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Alas today wasn’t our day. After driving for about 10 km the car stops again showing the exact same problem of the engine simply dying. It is past 17:00, the dusk is approaching and there is still a few hours of drive to get us to Slovakia. I am on the verge of screaming, which I do getting on the phone with the workshop guy who was spellbound that after making us wait for days they did NOT fix the right problem and unfortunately cannot do anything anymore today as the workshop is about to close. Having no other choice we drive back to our wonderful Czech family to spend yet another, needless to say, not so carefree night in Zlin.

As Alena, our host was hurrying calming tea and her home-made honey to help us get through the stress of the day, Andreas took the matters in his own hands and spent a few long hours scouring the Internet on the potential causes of the car malfunction. It must have been our day after all, as his patient efforts paid off, and people, real Land Rover aficionados and experts, unlike the official branch we had the “pleasure” of dealing with, knew exactly what was the root cause of the car misbehaviour. And of course it was not the throttle body that the workshop diagnosed and made a hefty invoice for, it was nowhere even close to that. Something quite different and very easy and far cheaper to fix was to be blamed for. But the hour is way past midnight and we need to sleep.

Good night! Tomorrow is the day we will be on the road again…

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 6 – Exploring Zlin

Day 6: September 1, 2015
Time: 07:00
Location: Zlin, Czech Republic
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Early bird catches the worm – aka this gorgeous sunrise…

Well, hello there pretty! What a gorgeous view to wake up to. It is a brand new, beautiful day to create some wonderful memories in Zlin, our temporary camp until the car is fixed.

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It seems that Andreas made a new friend :)

Our sweet Airbnb host, Alena, has surprised us with a lovely breakfast and the company of her fashionista puppy, which seems to have taken a liking to Andreas. Today’s schedule stands completely free, so after a lazy morning spent savouring this delicious breakfast we are off to a quiet stroll in the city.

Our first stop of the day starts with paying homage to Thomas Bata of Bata Shoes, the mastermind behind Zlin’s modern-day development and its architectural look.

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Czech Republic’s answer to Danish ECCO. in Zlin Bata Shoes is more than a shoe store, the company’s legacy is deep engraved in the city.

Zlin lacks the grandeur of Prague, where regardless of which direction you turn your head, a mesmerising vista is right there to make your mind’s Polaroid go wild with processing it to postcards of memories. It is just a small town deep in the countryside, where sophistication has been replaced by functionalism, and the tourist crowds of Prague with the kindest Czech people.

Zlin apartments

After some obligatory shopping time checking out the local stores we found this inviting patch of green for an impromptu sun-soaking and feet-stretching time.

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AA in Zlin

Slowly soaking in the day we set course to the hills of Zlin into a deep, deep forest to hunt some game for our dinner. After what seemed like eternity of hiking up the hills, but in reality must have been only 30 min or so, we reached our hunting ground.

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Our hunting ground for the evening – Black Bear restaurant

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Mhh what a delicious 3-course meal that was! The picture above is just one of the highlights that was wildly delicious. Black Bear has been worth all the effort of getting there.

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Le Corbusier’s legacy in Zlin. More insider scoop on this functionalist architecture and a look at the city from above is coming up in our next post.

At the last rays of the sun we left the bear’s home, rolled down the same hills and descended onto the city’s heart for an evening stroll back home. Good night for now and fingers crossed that our car will be fixed tomorrow, so we can continue our trip.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 5 – Arriving in Zlin, the home of Bata Shoes

Day 5: August 31, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Olomouc, Czech Republic
Destination: Zlin, Czech Republic

We are on the road again. To a destination capriciously thrown at us and pencilled in on the map by our strong-willed ride – the Rover. The ride needs an urgent pit stop, and of course it gets what it needs. By the end of this trip we (read Andreas) will have become experts on common Freelander issues and most importantly, official and unofficial dealers in Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey that can service your car. So if ever needed, don’t be a stranger, drop us a line, the chances are that we know the right people :)

Workshop 1 – with the help of our lovely Airbnb hosts, we get hold of a workshop that might be able to fix the car problem. Driving 15 km north of Olomouc, we arrive at a big industrial yard, that also happens to have a car repair station. First try brings us no closer to a solution. The guy, unable to even find the computer plug on the car to run a diagnostic test, shakes his head and sends us off to an official Land Rover dealer in Zlin.

Zlin oh Zlin… A small city that we never heard of before, never planned to stop at, but one that we would end up spending the longest time in, not voluntarily… A city that would introduce us to the sweetest Czech family, bring tears of frustration to us, leave me bee-stung and on the verge of calling the whole trip off… The 3 days we spent in Zlin were full of drama that could provide for a rather amusing content for a soap opera now that I look back and down the memory lane.

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Zlin has a very distinct functionalist architecture built by the shoe magnate, Thomas Bata, and inspired by Le Corbusier

But I am running ahead of things. First getting to Zlin. The trip was quite an adventure. The first 20 km went fine, then the car decided to be capricious again. It began shutting off every 10 minutes and in the end we could just drive 2 km before it had to be restarted. Very annoying and tiny bit dangerous to stop for 30 seconds in the middle of Czech roads. Though as we would learn later on the trip – if not Germany, then this country was the best place for the problem to appear. Czech drivers can still be considered civilised.

Workshop 2 – After fighting a couple of hours with the car, we finally arrive at the official dealer / repair shop, hoping that they can easily find the faulty part and provide quick help. We must have been dreaming. Apparently being an official dealer is no guarantee for expertise. We would end up coming to this place 5 times in 3 days and spend a combined 10 hours waiting for magic to happen. But let’s focus on the first visit here. The car is taken to the workshop, the hood is popped open and the diagnostic machine is hooked up.

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According to the machine, the throttle body is the guilty part. So we place an order for a new body trusting that a dealer only carrying Land Rover brand knows what they are doing. The order is placed, now we just have to wait for the part to arrive, which will take 2 days. Not a major issue, as long as we get this car fixed, we are still in good time to stick to our original plan going forward. Little did we know…

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Hopefully changing this little baby will get us back on the road. A new throttle body is on its way.

Content with the outcome of the day we drive to our home in Zlin – an Airbnb room in a house in the hills of the city, hosted by wonderful Alena and her son Zdena. Meeting this sweet family was one of the best experiences of our trip. For us travelling is just as much about discovering new places, as it is meeting people from cultures different from ours that leaves us with wonderful memories. Alena and Zdena did just that, and we couldn’t have been more grateful to our car for taking us to Zlin.

Now it is time to say good night, we are tired after a long day on the road and have this beautiful view of the city to fall asleep to. Tomorrow new adventures await us in Zlin.

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Good night from Zlin and sweet dreams :)

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Winter on the beach in Denmark

Copenhagen has been my home for a few years now, but for some reason I have only discovered the urban beach of Amager Strandpark and the stunning public sea bath of Kastrup Søbad only a few days ago. Perhaps because I was usually away when the summer sun was shining brightly in Denmark over the years, or perhaps because you get this idea in your head that Amager is sooo far away when you live in the inner city, or perhaps because as extremely embarrassing as it is, to confess I don’t know how to swim…yet! There is no excuse for this.

As it usually goes in fairy tales, once upon a time, on a cold winter day in the start of the new year to be precise, I woke up in the morning feeling the playful rays of the sun on my face. Right then and there I decided that today would be the day when I would finally visit this much-hyped about city beach. Of course, having an appointment on that same day with a friend that lives just a stone’s throw away from the beach was very conducive as well.

As we spent a few hours walking along the coast and towards the sunset, I was in complete awe of the surrounding prettiness.

Kastrup søbad – everything in Denmark just needs to be postcard-perfect, even a public sea bath

In harmony with nature

Øresundsbroen melting with the sea in the horizon

Øresundsbroen melting with the sea in the horizon

My first reaction: I am on Bornholm – piercing dark blue water, clear sky getting pinky in the glowing sun, whitish sand and tranquility. That is the image that is greeting you when you direct your gaze towards the sea. Yet when you turn your head, you see the Amager Strand ‘skyscrapers’ in the horizon. Then you realise this is not quite the paradise of Bornholm, but it comes very close.

The ugly duckling

The ugly duckling gliding gracefully

A swan family. Careful not to get too close, they are rather fast in turning from graceful birds to angry warriors

In motion

Soaking in the view

My winter sunbather :)

Family hygge

Stunning sky over a stunning piece of architecture. Now I just need to learn how to swim.

Giant stones on the hill by the beach

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Helsingør’s Museet for Søfart – a must-visit hole in the ground!

A couple of months ago the world’s attention was drawn to Hamlet’s city in the shores of Northern Zealand. New York Times has included Elsinore, or if you prefer the prettier Danish equivalent Helsingør, in their 2014 must-visit travel list.

Surprisingly, the famous castle of Kronborg, where the eternal question of “To be or not to be…” is pondered over day in and out, was not what put Helsingør in the spotlight.

It was the town’s newly opened attraction – Maritime Museum of Denmark! A few weeks ago we made a family trip up north to check up the place and experience what all the buzz was about.

Put in a nutshell, it is a fantastic museum, one you will never get bored in. Clever architecture + amazing space + interesting mix of film, exhibits, history. During the 3 hours I spent roaming the various halls I have never experienced the sleepy feeling of boredom.

Firstly, Denmark’s darling, BIG Architects, designed the museum, and that in itself is  a reason enough for me to check out the site. The experience was amazing, and a feeling that I was aboard a ship never left me in that huge space.

The museum is located on the former shipbuilding yard right by the foot of Kronborg Castle under the watchful eye of Hamlet’s wandering ghost. Seen from above it resembles a skeleton of a ship.

Kronborg Castle keeps a protective eye over this amazing hole of a museum. What better neighbour to wish for!

Ahoy landlubbers, all aboard! The first steps toward the museum already set you in a dramatic mood.

The museum “sails” you through the Danish maritime history from 1400’s up to now in a very interesting, informative and most importantly interactive manner. There were different artifacts belonging to sailors, letters written to dears left back at home filled with nostalgia and excitement of the adventures, films, audio conversations, ship models and different essentials, goods traded back and forth and extravagant presents brought from exotic lands. Even a possibility to run a shipping empire through a fun game. There was a good deal of text and explanation, but not in a dominating way, rather in a nice harmony with all the surrounding interactivity.

Walking through different halls, passing through many zigzagging corridors it felt like we were uncovering different chapters from the lives of sailors. From more exotic image of sailors back in the old days, the course was then set toward the devastations of the World Wars and the participation of the Danish navy in the war operations.

The Blue Hall – as the introduction to the museum, it has many memorabilia about sailors, their favourite items and short films.

The tattoo parlor – to give a real taste of sailor’s life! In the foreground is a film projected on wooden crates from a ship. A very original movie setup!

Definitely not landlubbers, a prime specimen of baby seals – this jolly bunch very much enjoyed being aboard a ship.

A rare souvenir brought home by a sailor from China some hundred years ago. It is made of ivory, so it surely would not pass through customs today.

A fancy compass that is made especially to hang above the bed of the captain so he can keep a watchful eye over the course.

The view from the café.

Stairway to …

The last deck of the ship introduces Maersk and boldly displays some very curious facts about maritime and sea trade. The peculiar stairs make you feel almost seasick, they are designed especially for that purpose, to bid you a farewell and remind you that a ship does not always sail on calm waters.

The Danes are good at creating experiences, adding nuances and taking a holistic approach to things. In so many ways it makes you feel like you are getting the full experience, the real feel. This museum was no exception.

Even if ships and sailors, history around it and all the exotic adventures are not a bit intriguing for you, this is one museum you will still enjoy visiting.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

LEGO Architect for a day

I have a confession to make: we are officially obsessed with LEGO. An innocent mini-figure collecting has turned into addictive brick shopping. The recent LEGO movie didn’t help matters much, on the contrary it has generated an even more rigorous wave of addiction. The movie is awesome by the way, so if you share the LEGO love, make sure to check it out.

Let the fun begin! LEGO architects in action

To further fuel our addiction, on Saturday we joined the big army of kids at a LEGO workshop held at the Danish Architecture Center. The room was packed with tens of over-excited kids and their even more eager parents. You never grow out of LEGO age, and that is the secret formula.

The mission was one: to build a city of the future. A pretty exciting task, especially if you let kids run their imagination loose.

City of the Future

There was everything from Burj Al Khalifa replicas to futuristic houses to dinosaurs and windmills.

Apparently someone dreamt that dinos will be resurrected in the future.

We have decided to build a city hall, an open elevated building to conserve space and open the ground floor for people of the city to enjoy. The idea was to incorporate many glass elements into the building design, however the little architects seemed to be very fond of glass as a building material. So it was a very scarce material to get our hands on.

Voila! Here is our City Hall of the future proudly presented by LEGO architect Andreas :)

A proud moment!

Fun times! Cheers to all the LEGO enthusiasts out there :)

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

 

Rotterdam – a tale of water, love and daring architecture

Kijk-Kubus

The Netherlands… a destination I have always dreamt of visiting. My dreams mostly revolved around the canal city, pretty Amsterdam. But it was with Rotterdam that I started my Dutch journey.

Once upon a time there was this Danish guy, Andreas’s friend, who fell in love with a sweet Dutch girl in MoMA of NYC. After a year or so of courting, their love story was to be sealed with a wedding. The wedding was to take place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands one fine day in August.

The Netherlands – here we come! Normally I love to spend hours doing travel research on the to-do and the must and the insider. With Rotterdam I happily let the city to surprise us. And surprise it did.

You wouldn’t expect that from a city that was completely destroyed during the WWII. There are very few historical buildings preserved, but the city has fully compensated for its loss with some insane architecture. And it is so attractive.

Crazy architecture at its best. That’s Kijk-Kubus or cube houses. Designed by architect Piet Blom, it’s a definite darling in the Rotterdam sightseeing scene.

This was our home for the two days we were there. There is a hostel in a part of this oddly shaped structure, the rest are apartments and shops on the ground floor. Frankly, it looks much better from outside than inside, the interior is pretty weirdly shaped.

Water, bridges and crazy architecture – that’s Rotterdam for you. The famous Erasmusbrug, Erasmus bridge, is spanning across in the distance.

Water is what gave birth to the city hundreds of years ago and made it into the largest port in Europe today. It is what makes this city so charming and so airy.

Bridges fascinate me. This reddy, the impressive Willemsbrug, was definitely love at first sight.

The traffic on the bridge is quite busy but cars are not the main reason: watch out for bikes, motorcycles, runners, roller skaters, joggers and anyone who is in the sporty mood. Can’t blame them – the venue is perfect with unbeatable views of the city skyline.

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The marine industry and Rotterdam sail hand in hand. Everywhere you look there is a reference to this. In the center of the city we found this open-air Havenmuseum, where you can walk on a long deck and check out many cool ships and even climb aboard some of them. Very interesting!

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The city also had surprisingly many playgrounds. This one is especially cool for kids of all ages that grew up with Tetris mania!

De Kralingse Plas – If you are into jogging or water sports, this is the place for you. If you, on the other hand, are more into good food and peaceful nature, this is the perfect spot for you. Dutch windmills, Dutch food and good nature looks, all you could wish for on a nice weekend.

We have a sacred tradition of manhole photography. Yeah, you read it right! Wherever we travel, mostly during our urban escapes, we find the most special looking manhole to document. In Rotterdam we found this pretty lady bug, a very special symbol indeed!Lady bug

And here come the happy newlyweds! Tillykke tillykke :)IMG_1899

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Here are some of our Rotterdam highlights.

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