Czech travel writer Miroslav Zikmund dies at 102
PRAGUE (AP) — Miroslav Zikmund, a legendary Czech travel writer, has died. He was 102.
The museum in the eastern city of Zlin, where Zikmund had lived, announced his death in a statement, saying he “left for his final journey” on Wednesday. Details were not given. His family also confirmed his death, according to Czech public radio.
Born Feb. 14, 1919 in the city of Plzen, Zikmund teamed up with his university classmate and friend Jiri Hanzelka for two big and sometimes dangerous trips throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere that took years.
During their first trip, which began in 1947, they drove a Czech-made Tatra 87 limousine through Africa from north to south, then moved on to Latin America.
After visiting more than 40 countries, they returned home after 3 1/2 years. The Communists took power in Czechoslovakia during their absence, in 1948.
The pair’s second trip, made in two light Tatra 805 trucks, began in 1959. After visiting Turkey and the Middle East, they went east to Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, New Guinea, Japan and the Soviet Union on the way back.
Thousands gave them a heroes’ welcome at Prague’s Old Town Square when they returned home after more than five years.
Zikmund and Hanzelka wrote dozens of books about their travels that sold millions of copies worldwide and were translated into a dozen languages. Zikmund also participated in making more 100 travel movies.
After the 1968 Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed a period of liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring, the pair fell from grace for their critical report about the situation in the Soviet Union and opposition to the occupation.
They subsequently suffered political persecution from the hardline communist regime. They were not allowed to travel and their books were banned.
After the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution, Zikmund resumed traveling alone. Hanzelka died in 2003 at age 82.
Zikmund was awarded Czech state honors by presidents Vaclav Havel and Milos Zeman.