The town is worth seeing, particularly if you're a fan of twentieth-century functionalist and utilitarian architecture. It turned out that my visit was on the weekend of the 13th annual Festival of Wind Orchestras and Folklore Ensembles (13. mezinárodní festival dechových orchestrů a folklorních souborů). There was so much to see, so many wonderful cafes to stop for coffee at, and everything seemed so fresh! Either I've been in Brno too long, or else it really is a great town. (Possibly a combination.)
I took a lot of photos and was satisfied with them, so this post should be more of a photo essay. I also got a few videos of the festival that I took with my camera. The town is famous for the factory buildings and workers' houses that the Baťa shoe company built, mostly in the 1920s. They stand out a lot from other Czech architecture because so much of the brick is left exposed (usually Czech houses are covered with stucco, regardless of the underlying material).
There were a lot of mirrors at intersections that provided interesting perspectives on the buildings.
The Hotel Moskva is Zlín's premier international hotel, with all the glam and glitz of 1920s modernism, though it's usually hidden under a thick layer of 1980s chic.
We found a covered breakfast buffet at Hotel Moskva, but the toppings were not very appetizing.
The Baťa skyscraper is a showpiece of the town. It was built in only eight or so months in the late 1920s. "In speed there is strength" was one of Baťa's mottos. At the time it was the second highest skyscraper in Europe. Ah, the optimism of interwar Czechoslovakia.
Of course, no trip to Zlín would be complete without seeing one of the Baťa houses. There are a variety of designs, but most of them have a general cube shape. Even though they are basically mass produced, there is an incredible beauty and optimism to the neighborhoods of these houses. Radio Prague recently featured the Baťa houses in East Tilbury, England that were built around the same time.
On Saturday evening we saw the parade of bands that were participating in the festival. I was fascinated by the "majorette phenomena"—most bands in the parade were preceded by their corps of marching, dancing, baton twirling majorettes. The majorettes are always female, in their teens, and wear matching outfits. I suppose that they are the Czech equivalent of American cheerleaders. I have to say that I find the whole phenomena of young women dressing up and ascribing to this very particular and formulaic sense of beauty (and I include cheerleaders here) more than a little disturbing. Not all the musicians in the band were male, which means that at least some girls (many of the female instrumentalists were about the same age as the majorettes) do not go in for the majorette scene. (This begs the question, "Why ever not?" but I didn't ask any of them; of course, I would actually rather ask the majorettes themselves "Why?" but I didn't do that either.) Beauty contests, one parallel that comes to mind, have long been an institution for young Czech women of a certain age; for example, there is a Miss Brno (and, of course, Mistr Brno), and anyone who has seen Miloš Forman's film Hoří, má panenko (Fireman's Ball) knows what I'm talking about. But you can see for yourselves. (I haven't used the video function of my camera much, and considering that I think the videos turned out pretty well, though the resolution is low.)
There was also a dance workshop on Sunday morning taught by the group from Greece. We didn't really learn anything, but it was fun to watch the class through the trees.
The title of this post was respectfully inspired by Baťa-Ville, a documentary about visiting Zlín. More information about the film is at bata-ville.com.
Another recent Radio Prague story featured Zlín itself.
Tags: photos, Czech, Moravia, travel, fedo2006, Zlín, architecture, baťa