When it came to the idea of MINI trips outside of the city of Prague, we had long decided that our first destination would be the Liberec region of which we have many nice memories and we’re always glad to visit. This might be purely because Liberec and Prague are not too far away and it takes only two hours by car.

The first stop of our May trip was the Ještěd broadcasting tower. This was our accommodation (as it was many times before) and we officially called it our ‘cosmic home’. Then we visited the Regional Art Gallery in Liberec, which was established from the former city spa. We also couldn’t miss the Prezidentská chata (hotel, restaurant) in nearby Bedřichov, which is located on our favourite cross-country skiing route and is also one of our preferred summer destinations.

These three destinations create a perfect mix for a weekend stay – hotel accommodation in the skies with the atmosphere of the 1970s, fine arts in the nice architectonical building of the Regional Art Gallery in Liberec, and honest Czech food in the stylish mountain restaurant.

 



The Ještěd broadcasting tower is the dominant feature of the region. Is there anywhere else around the world where another broadcasting tower belongs amongst the most respected in its country and aspires to be on the UNESCO list? The tower was built in 1973 on a mountain 1000 metres above the sea – in the era of rigid communism when there was not enough room and understanding for an innovative architecture of high quality in Czechoslovakia. Ještěd was an exception. Architect Karel Hubáček, brilliantly following the mountain’s height, built the tower 100 metres high so that it doesn’t disrupt the landscape. He created the symbol of the Liberec region, the most interesting Czech construction of the 20th century and a very in-depth considered concept.

It is the details that make the tower so interesting. It wouldn’t have taken a lot for Ještěd to become just another mousy, unoriginal, and uninteresting building of the former regime. However, despite his struggle with politicians and the lack of material and experienced engineers, Hubáček managed to oppose the then political garniture and finish the tower without a single compromise. Hubáček cooperated with Otakar Binar, who designed the interiors, and they used very revolutionary techniques and approaches. World-class graphics, sculptors and glassmakers designed the interior and created dozens of literary artworks from furniture and porcelain to the tiniest details especially for Ještěd. The budget was enormous as Hubáček invested in every little detail.

Today, after 40 years, the interior unfortunately only remotely resembles the times when Ještěd was the pride of Czech design. There are only relics of the original furnishings to be found amongst distasteful and modern-like furniture. The examples of the original elements are perfect beds and cupboards in a couple of hotel rooms, which have surprisingly stayed there despite several reconstructions. They prove the ingenuity of the creators – the entire furniture was made by a single shape, a wooden ‘U’, that composed other shapes – two ‘U’s next to each other for a bed and ‘U’s above each other for a cupboard.

Don’t lose hope when you see the furnishing of today’s restaurant. There is a non-profit organisation called ‘Ještěd 73’ whose aim is to put the tower’s interiors into the original state. They work diligently towards it with 90 year old Otakar Binar. Thus, you can swing in the legendary fury chairs, have a drink at the original Avion bar, and have breakfast in the luxury hotel salon. The reconstruction is in process and we can hope that Ještěd will celebrate its 50 years anniversary in the same appearance as Karel Hubáček and Otakar Binar gave it many years ago.


Contact:
 
 
 
Opening hours:
 
Monday - Sunday: 10:00 - 24:00
 


The idea of building a city spa in Liberec came, surprisingly, from local bankers. The building society of Liberec had the spa built in 1902 and opened for the 50th anniversary of the Franz Josef I. governance. The spa was of the world-class quality and procedures such as massages, special air baths, small pools, and pedicures were a matter of course. The spa building was located in the best part of Liberec – nearby the dam and surrounded by prime residences.

The spa was opened for an almost incredible 100 years until 1990. However, the purpose of the building changed as it came under new management of the city centre. A magnificent pool room with a stand and former cloakrooms serve today as exhibition rooms of the Regional Art Gallery in Liberec. There are permanent exhibitions focused on the 19th and 20th century paintings, as well as temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and photography.

The spa mesmerises you with its architectural layout. The perfectly reconstructed Art Nouveau interior includes many modern elements such as a concrete staircase and glass crossbars designed by architects from the famous SIAL studio. If your fantasy is vivid enough, you can imagine the visitors who used to walk these halls in their swimsuits and dressing gowns. The original signs left on walls will help your imagination.


Contact:
 
 
Opening hours:
 
Tuesday - Wednesday: 10:00 - 17:00
Thursday: 10:00 - 19:00
Friday - Sunday: 10:00 - 17:00
 


On one of the tops of the Jizerské mountains, there is a timbered mountain cabin, located in a cross-country skiing hotspot. Whilst in winter there is one of the most important cross-country skiing routes ‘Jizerská magistrála’, in summer there are horses in the meadows and cyclists on the roads. It is simply perfectly located. No wonder it is a very sought-after destination after a hike or a trip. However, it hasn’t been always like this.

Prezidentská chata used to have different purposes. It was built in 1929 by the association Naturefriends Czechia and was used by the children of Nazi leaders during the war. Since the 1950s, however, it has been occupied by our presidents. Ludvík Svoboda was one of the most frequent visitors and he had a little heliport built next to it. Thanks to him, the cabin is called Presidential. After many years the cabin came under private ownership. It was, of course, in a very poor condition, adapted to the socialist spirit – wood was replaced by formica, floor boards replaced by linoleum. The restaurant was also ‘improved’ with modern materials. The presidential sanatorium was opened to the public after a couple of years.

Last year was the most important year in the history of the Presidential cabin. Businessman Dalibor Dědek from Jablonec nad Nisou, who has been working on improving the appearance of the whole region with a keen Baťa-like interest, decided to restore the cabin into its original appearance. Some original parts of the building were preserved and the rest is an authentic replica. Original materials were used as much as possible – new tables in the pub are, for example, made of solid wooden boards that used to be in the floor. The reconstruction turned out fantastically and it gave the cabin a unique atmosphere. With their delicious Czech cuisine there is nothing better to finish a cross-country skiing or cycling trip with. Presidential goulash and a dewy glass of Pilsner, please!


Contact:
 
 
Opening hours:
 
Monday - Sunday: 11:00 - 22:00
 


What changes in architecture and urbanism have happened recently in Liberec? What is your opinion on the position of a city’s main architect? Is there somebody like that in Liberec?
A lot has happened in Liberec in the last couple of years. Just a shadow has remained from the city known for its architecture and level of cultural advancement. It has happened in the last two decades. The city centre has been depopulated thanks to several non-strategic decisions in urban planning when highly valued developing areas near the city centre were bought by developers and university students were cut out of the city. From many lectures and talks that we organised a very jelly-like apparatus of a board of architects emerged and it didn’t fulfil our expectations.
 
You all graduated from the Technical University of Liberec. Why did you choose this university? When did you decide to stay in Liberec after your studies and open your own studio?
At the time that I was applying, the Technical University of Liberec appeared like an apparition but Prague was a bit too close to my parents and I decided to go to Liberec. In the second year Honza Mach and I were helping a friend with her project and we got two pairs of boxer shorts as a reward as her mum had a company and sewed underwear. That was our first fee and we set up our future office. We stayed in Liberec after studies because after the years at university we started feeling like we were at home.
 
What is your opinion on projects of architects and engineers from the SIAL company? Do you think that their post-revolutionary buildings follow the success of the 1960s and 1970s? What do you think about the paradox of Liberec’s shopping centre Ještěd was demolished but Prague’s shopping centre Máj was declared to be a historic building?
Old SIAL was legendary and during its peak there were an incredible number of first-class architects and engineers. Times have changed and today’s company is more focused on making money, which is very common today. SIAL is still packed with experienced professionals who might just be waiting for an opportunity. But I miss the magic of the past when all the professions cooperated and SIAL was famous all around the world. The demolition of the old shopping centre Ještěd reflected the era. Being under pressure of consumerism and through fault of our own lack of interest we lost the valuable piece of architecture in the city.
 
Do you usually have architectural contests in Liberec that you get involved in? Do you have projects yourself in the city?
The city of Liberec doesn’t do many contests. Most of the orders were always distributed directly and not transparently. Currently Liberec is in a saving mode and we don’t have a lot of interesting commissions. We have a couple of interesting projects in the city but we must have removed the most precious one– sauna on reservoir. Even though it was our gift to the city.
 
You opened a branch in Letná, Prague two years ago. Do you spend more time in Prague now than in Liberec? Do you plan to work on two different sites in the future?
We are currently five architects. Three in Liberec, two in Prague. The Prague’s branch works apart from the ordinary architectural agenda also as a place to meet with clients from the capital and surrounding areas which is more convenient for potential clients than to come to Liberec in the North. Although, generally speaking, it doesn’t really matter as the Czech Republic is small and people are used to travelling.
 
On our journey through the Liberec Region we have three key stops: Ještěd broadcasting tower, The Regional Art Gallery in Liberec and Prezidentská chata in Bedřichov (hotel, restaurant). Do you have another tip for us that we cannot miss?
If you like looking-out points, we certainly recommend our wooden lookout tower in Heřmanice. From Heřmanice it’s not far to Zámecký Pivovar in Frýdlant (brewery) that wins one prize after another. In the reconstructed foyer of legendary cinema Varšava in Liberec there you get a delicious cup of coffee. If you’ll get hungry there is repaired Sudeten-like restaurant Radniční sklípek offering pork in many different styles. Also, you should see dwarfs’ houses by architect Petr Stolín on the Trpasličí Street.
This might sound a bit negative in certain parts but I have to admit that things have been changing for better in Liberec. It looks like the city is getting on its feet again thanks to many great people.

(Jan Vondrák, architect of the mjölk studio)

Contact:
 
 
Opening hours:
 
Visits by appointment.
Office Liberec: Soukenné náměstí 10
Office Praha: Letohradská 5
 


At the time we were drawing up our MINI tips from Liberec, there was a new bistro opening in the town that we weren't yet familiar with.  This year Mikyna celebrated its second anniversary and during these two years we had been able to get to know it well and taste almost every delicacy from its renowned kitchen. It could no longer be left out from our compilation of tips. The owner Kristýna Soroková is so good at her job that, despite the long journey from Prague to Liberec, we are not discouraged to travel at the weekends only to have brunch at Mikyna.
 
Although her bistro is vegetarian the food is so tasty and nutritious that even the biggest meat-eaters will easily and gladly forgive this. The delicious open sandwiches, home-made cakes and exclusive coffee shouldn't be missed. We always go for a chocolate-caramel mince pie with sea salt or a lemon tartalette. The beautiful light interior and nice staff will certainly contribute to your positive experience in this bistro and you will happily come back regardless of where you are travelling from.

Contact:
 
+420 482 710 746
 
 
Opening hours:
 
Monday - Friday: 9:00 - 20:00
Saturday - Sunday: 9:00 - 19:00






















Spud. is collaborating with MINI Czech Republic. Thanks to this partnership we are able to give you tips for trips outside of the capital city of Prague. Each month we will borrow one of the MINI models and will set off for a ride throughout the Czech Republic. We will bring you a couple of tips from every journey, paying attention to remarkable architecture and, of course, nice dining places. There will also be interviews with interesting personalities from the regions we visit. You can find these articles and Polaroid photographs documenting our adventures outside of Prague in the ‘MINI tips’ section.