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Zlín

A fairy-tale palace like in Kroměříž and picturesque wooden houses as found in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm? Don’t expect anything like that in Zlín! Zlín is situated in the same region, but its famous history took a different turn. It might not have medieval buildings or an old soul, but the legacy of Tomáš Baťa makes it so unique that some tourists don’t hesitate to travel all over the world to visit this town. The greatest Czech businessman of all time is very well known abroad. Baťa is Zlín and Zlín is Baťa.

More than a century ago, Zlín was just an unspectacular town with less than 3,000 inhabitants. And that is where the Baťa family opened its first shoe shop, which completely changed the lives of the local farmers. The small manufacturing production soon turned into a large factory that not only made shoes, but also tyres, machines and even airplanes. A few years later, a unique town was built around the factory, with 40 thousand people living and working there.

Twenty-foot Mantra

Just like the industrial shoe production, the architecture of the Baťa era can also be described as economical, fast, flexible and effective. Houses were built from standardised reinforced concrete modules with dimensions of 6.15 m x 6.15 m (20 x 20 feet), which made the housing development of Zlín incredibly fast, creating an impressive type of modern architecture that has been the mark of the Baťa Company ever since. Baťa houses (Baťovy domky) are the best representation of the typical industrial Baťa aesthetics – cheap, comfortable and functional. In addition to family homes and factory halls, the Baťa concern also managed the construction of villas, hotels, cinemas and film studios.

Architect Vladimír Karfík brought a new dimension to the rectangular character of Zlín by designing Administrative Building No. 21 (Administrativní budova č. 21). The Zlín skyscraper, once the tallest building in the Czech Republic, was not only tall but also boasted various hi-tech amenities: such as tube post, air-conditioning and a unique travelling manager’s office that goes all the way up to the roof where you can visit a café with a beautiful view.

From the skyscraper it’s only a few steps to the centre of other rectangles in the newly reconstructed 14|15 BAŤA INSTITUTE that currently hosts  “The Baťa Principle: Fantasy Today, Reality Tomorrow” (Princip Baťa: Dnes fantazie, zítra skutečnosti) exposition. The impressing industrial space of the former Baťa factory halls invites you into the world of shoe production, where you can experience the atmosphere of a progressive pre-war business. You can see the vast collection of shoes from all over the world, the complete Baťa collection and try to make a shoe. The exposition also includes a section about the adventurous trips of Hanzelka and Zikmund, famous Czech travellers, and a tour of the Zlín film studios.

City of Design

Not only did Baťa understand the advantages of modern production, but he also recognised the power and future of industrial design and thus, in 1939, he contributed to the foundation of the School of Arts (Škola umění) that educated new progressive designers for several decades. Today, this tradition is followed by the Department of Spatial and Product Design at the Tomáš Baťa University (Ústav prostorového a produktového design Univerzita Tomáše Bati), whose students regularly win design competitions and have exhibitions in Zlín. It’s very likely that you’ll be able to see one of the exhibitions when visiting Zlín. Event programmes are available on the website of the Regional Gallery of Fine Arts in Zlín (Regionální galerie Zlín). Student works are also available on the website of the Faculty of Multimedia Communications (Fakulta multimediálních komunikací).

Not Only Baťa

The spiky oval of the modern Convention Centre in Zlín (Kongresové centrum Zlín) by world-famous architect Eva Jiřičná (born in Zlín) will probably look a bit exotic to you among the straight lines and acute angles. Its rounded details disturb the strict order of the Baťa architecture and kindles both negative and positive passions among the local residents. However, the excellent acoustic properties of the organic interior are undisputable. You can appreciate that at a concert by the resident Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra (Filharmonie Bohuslava Martinů).

And maybe this is where it will happen. The southern Sun will rise above the city of steel concrete to invite you beyond the city boundary. You will slowly leave its austere concept, suddenly finding yourself surrounded by nature, hearing the call of distant shores. Give your farewells to the last Baťa homes when cruising along the Baťa Canal (Baťův kanál) and enjoy a pleasant day or a week on a boat. Give a toast to the successful end of the adventurous journey on the Moravian River with a glass of smooth fruit brandy that has a tradition far longer than that of Baťa. But be careful, the Rudolf Jelínek plum brandy from Vizovice can be quite strong.
And if you want something even stronger, come for a visit in June. One of the hardest music festivals in the Czech Republic – the  Masters of Rock – takes place right in the heart of the famous distillery.  

As you see, the world that is spread out beyond the gates of Zlín seems to be a complete opposite of the industrial city of Baťa. Slovácko is a region with the liveliest folklore tradition called the Ride of the Kings (Jízda králů) and the most richly decorated folk costumes in the country. Its character is as sparkling and sweet as the wine from local cellars, as inconsistent and warm as the brandy from the local highlands and as open and creative as the soul of the local people. There’s only one thing left for you to do: come and experience it!

Transport

The easiest way to get to Zlín from Ostrava is to take the train. From Brno and Prague, it is best to use the regular bus line by Student Agency; you can also travel by train from Prague. When in the city, use the public transport or train.

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and back

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Arriving in Brno

The Brno International Airport is a base for trips to Moravian towns. Take a look at all of the regular and charter flights to the Moravian capital.

Arriving in Ostrava

Fly directly to Ostrava. You can get to Leoš Janáček Airport from locations such as Great Britain, France or Germany. Search for your flight on the map of destinations.

Arriving in Prague

You will arrive at Václav Havel Airport in Prague, and can set off on a journey throughout the Czech Republic. Click here to find out from where and on which airlines you can get to Prague.

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