Karel Čapek was a leading Czech interwar novelist, playwright and journalist and is perhaps most remembered for works of science fiction such as The War with the Newts and R.U.R., which gave the world the word “robot”. But did you know that Čapek was also a travel writer? His pieces from around Europe are the focus of the book In Search of a Shared Expression by Mirna Solic, a lecturer at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Glasgow. I spoke to her on the phone from Scotland.
In 1987 a Czechoslovak Tatra truck set off on a trip around the planet that was to take in no fewer than 67 countries. The crew were treated like heroes when they left. However, by the time they returned communism had ended and interest in their adventures evaporated fast. Now long-lost footage from the trip is to be shown for the first time at Czech Radio.
Soldier, topographer, polar explorer, but also painter, Julius von Payer was a man of many skills. Despite being born in the West Bohemian spa town of Teplice, he is a figure unknown to most Czechs today. Nevertheless, his efforts were immortalised by the discovery of a polar island which he named Franz Josef Land.
The young Czech scientist Marie Šabacká has spent a considerable part of her working life in the Arctic, Antarctic and other remote areas, studying ecology of polar microorganisms and the impact of climate change on local ecosystems. This year, she received a prestigious grant from the Neuron foundation to explore tropical glaciers in Africa.
Two adventure-loving Czech bikers are fulfilling their dream of discovering the world on their Jawa motorbikes. Michal Franc and Martin Gregor have covered 35 thousand km across Europe and this year they headed for the ghost town of Pripyat in Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear accident in history. On their return they paid a visit to Czech Radio to talk about their experiences.
Linguist and budding historian Martin Neudörfl is on a mission to codify and save two languages from extinction: Sercquiais, a Norman dialect from the Channel Island of Sark only four people speak as natives, and Šumava Bavarian, the West Germanic language of his ancestors from Český Krumlov – where he’s helped revive the Schwarzenberg guard, of which he is the youngest captain in history and official archivist.
Monoxylon is the Greek term for a vessel chiselled out from a single tree trunk. It’s also the name of a Czech-led experimental archaeological expedition, which first set off in such a craft back in 1995. The aim then and now is to validate in practice assumptions and hypotheses about human migration in the Neolithic age, some 8,000 years ago.
For people from a land-locked country, boat hitchhiking may not seem like the ideal way of going places. But young Czech traveller Matěj Vohryzek, who has just returned from a hitchhiking trip across the Atlantic Ocean, has proved that with a dose of courage nothing is impossible. He covered the journey in just three weeks, losing eight kilos on the way.
The great traveller Miroslav Zikmund turned 100 on Thursday. For Czechoslovaks unable to travel much under communism, the books and radio reports produced by Zikmund and his friend Jiří Hanzelka served as a window to exotic parts of the world. However, the pair were barred from public life following the Soviet invasion.
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