PRAGUE – Miroslav Zikmund, a legendary Czech travel writer, has passed away. He was 102 years old.
The museum in the eastern town of Zlin, where Zikmund had lived, announced his death in a statement, saying he had “departed on his last journey” on Wednesday. Details were not given. His family also confirmed his death, according to Czech public radio.
Born on February 14, 1919 in the city of Plzen, Zikmund teamed up with fellow university classmate and friend Jiri Hanzelka on two major, sometimes dangerous journeys through Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere that lasted for years.
On their first trip, which began in 1947, they drove a Czech-made Tatra 87 limousine through Africa from north to south and then off to Latin America.
After visiting more than 40 countries, they returned home after 3 and a half years. The Communists took power in Czechoslovakia during their absence in 1948.
The couple’s second trip, in two Tatra 805 light trucks, began in 1959. After visiting Turkey and the Middle East, they traveled to Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, in New Guinea, Japan and the Soviet Union on the way back.
Thousands of people greeted them as heroes in Prague’s Old Town Square when they returned home after more than five years.
Zikmund and Hanzelka wrote dozens of books about their travels which have sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into a dozen languages. Zikmund has also been involved in the making of over 100 travel films.
After the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed a period of liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring, the pair fell out of favor for their critical reporting on the situation. in the Soviet Union and their opposition to the occupation.
They then suffered political persecution from the hardline communist regime. They were not allowed to travel and their books were banned.
After the anti-Communist Velvet Revolution of 1989, Zikmund started traveling alone again. Hanzelka died in 2003 at the age of 82.
Zikmund received Czech state honors from Presidents Vaclav Havel and Milos Zeman.
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