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.

IMG_7920

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.

IMG_7803

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…

IMG_7860

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.

IMG_7834

Good night from Zlin and sweet dreams :)

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 4 – Exploring Moravia

Day 4: August 30, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Skutec, Czech Republic
Destination: Olomouc, Czech Republic

Little past midnight we arrived in Skutec. Our original plan was to spend the night in beautiful town of Kutna Hora. Somehow with our short booking window and the late hour of looking for accommodation on Airbnb, we ended up grossly underestimating the distance between the two towns by a small 70 km. On the interesting side, nothing could beat our home for the night in Skutec.

IMG_7725

A picture says 1000 words. I hope this picture we took of our home in the morning sun is able to convey a little bit of that experience. A mixture of a clay hut and a nomad Mongolian tent, hand-made by our kind host Jan and his friends. Inside there was a mismatch of all kinds of furniture and hammocks occupying all nooks and crannies of the hut. The toilet was a dry closet, a polite way of saying hole in the ground. Quite an experience!

As it was a weekend, the local car workshop was closed in Skutec, so Kutna Hora, with its Bohemian charm stayed as an unexplored point on our paper map. Driving backwards with a car, whose behaviour couldn’t be quite predicted judging by its capricious actions of the day before was not an enticing option. Hence, forward lay the road. In the August heat across the Czech countryside to Olomouc in Moravia.

There is something very charming about Czech architecture. The cities feel like they are taken straight out of medieval fairy tales, the cobblestoned narrow streets, the colourful, beautiful buildings that are adorned with details ready to mesmerise you. Prague, the Czech crown jewel is of course hard to beat. But don’t underestimate the beauty that awaits you in the rest of the country. Beauty that is no less charming and comes with no tourist crowds.

IMG_7783
Olomouc is one of these small gems. We arrived in the city boiling in the heat to find charming streets, void of people, who probably had taken refugee in their homes to escape the summer heat.

_MG_4678

The multi-coloured facades of Olomouc

Our first mission was to locate food! On the way from Skutec the car kept us hostage, and we were afraid to do any extracurricular stops as long as the Rover baby kept on driving. So we arrived in Olomouc starving. With Andreas’ excellent food-spotting skills we found a charming café with a French name, tucked away in a quiet backyard, with plenty of cuteness and trees to shade from the sun. IMG_7729

Moving down the list of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we put a tick on the hunger box, and turned our attention to the next basic need – shelter. A quick Airbnb search brought us to a lovely apartment right in the center of the city overlooking the charming roofs of old buildings and with a prime view to the city hall tower. Our host was the sweetest Czech family, a young couple with two most adorable kids.

IMG_7797

Armed with local tips from our hosts, we set off to discover the city. First off, Olomouc is really small, you can walk across the city in practically 30 min. Nonetheless, the amount of cuteness we discovered was far enough to keep our travellers’ eyes occupied for a couple of hours.

IMG_7795

Cuteness overload. The cobblestoned streets and old buildings are a sweet sight for our eyes.

IMG_7740

Look at this mosaic! It is incredible. From this grandiose entrance you would expect to find at a very least a palace. Hold your breath. It is a restaurant! Supposedly gourmet and all, we didn’t try it but it had a sophisticated menu and matching prices to go with the luxurious entrance.

IMG_7756

Olomouc has surprisingly many churches for a city of its size. The imposing Saint Wenceslas cathedral is set on a hill and is a nice stroll to make from the old city center.

_MG_4655

Locals hanging out in a community garden.

IMG_7760

An abandoned venue turned into a “secret” cinema.

IMG_7767

During service times, bikes get a VIP parking inside the church.

When we travel, there is always one must-do item on our itinerary, and that is to get a bird’s eye view over the place. In European capitals, there is always a good chance to find a church, a hill or on few occasions a high-rise that has a commanding view of the surroundings. In Olomouc, this old charming city, the church of St. Michael had the honour to watch over the city. As we ascended its spiral staircase the sun was about to set, spreading a magical glow all over.

IMG_7771

The view from St. Michael’s church.

The main attraction of Olomouc is the city hall square with its Holy Trinity Column that is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is also the place where we kept returning to after criss-crossing the small streets. A pretty impressive sight.

IMG_7786

Besides the impressive column, the square has another highlight – an astronomical clock. Of course, Prague has its world-famous clock, so it would have been strange not to find one in Olomouc too. Don’t hurry to pass on judgement. It is not about copying all that Prague does. The one in Olomouc is not only astronomical, it is also very very Soviet. Yep! A remnant of the good old socialist times. As the cuckoo announces the strokes of an hour, slim figures of hard-working men and women pop out displaying the full glory and various trades of the Soviet era.

_MG_4670

The astronomical clock of Olomouc is quite a show.

After walking around for a couple of hours we ended the day’s adventures at a popular local brewery. The Czech food, at least this dinner plate we were served in Olomouc reminded quite a lot of Bavarian food. Simple delights, no effort spent on gourmet twists.

IMG_7787

Our dinner plate for two with the complementary Pilsner of course. Na zdravi!

On our way back home we passed by the impressive square again. The bustling liveliness of the afternoon had worn off and the beautiful silence was only broken by the steps of occasional passers-by. A beautiful day spent in a beautiful city. Tomorrow new roads await us.

IMG_7789

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan