Tramping and Tramp Villages

Category: Tradition

Definition of tramping could be “completely free several-day stay in nature connected with traveling on your own feet without using any of modern equipment”. Tramping could also express some relationship between human and nature (it can be called love), as well as recognize the value of friendship. Tramping as Czech people know it today has its roots in the 1920s after the First World War and it is completely typical for Czech and Slovak culture. People can hear about tramping in other countries as well, but it is not the tramping as Czechs know it. For example in America where it supposes Czechs took their inspiration, tramp is more a rover, someone who does not agree with the thoughts of the others and who is out of society. It sounds more like some romantic hero (for example like someone from a book by Victor Hugo, George Gordon Byron or Stendhal) than a typical tramp. Or in Australia, where “to tramp” means more just to go for a walk or to make some outdoor trip.

In the Czech Republic or to be correct in Czech lands, because there was not the Czech Republic in the 1920’s but Czechoslovakia, it started as a reaction to Wild West stories by Jack London or Karl May. As it has been already written, it was after WW I when people were tired of fighting and looked for something that could help them to run away from everyday troubles and worries. They left the city and started to create “osada” which can be translated as a small village or a settlement in the middle of the forest. The first settlement was built in 1918 and was called “Ztracenka”. Another reaction of youth at that time was some kind of game, they liked to pretend that they were cowboys, and they fought against each other.

In the basins of the Vltava and Sazava rivers were the areas of the first tramp villages. Each village had its own sheriff and flag. The villages had a band and their own songs. Some of those songs became very popular, for example Bedna od Whisky (barrel of whisky) and the oldest known tramp song is San Caroline by Frantisek Hvizdalek. The tramp villages were located close to the railway because it was the cheapest and most accessible means of transportation. Until WW II, the villages were in most all regions. Originally the village was only one cabin, but soon people started building family cottages around the original common hut. In 1927 there were about 150 villages and by 1939 there were more than 1500.

After WWII, many of the villages were destroyed and in February 1948 tramps were chased due to urbanization and adapting to western patterns. The cottages were tolerated. Tramping activities had to be hidden under the guise of a country – folk festival or as tourist troops.

As time goes the movement dropped a little and the attraction of it disappeared. But it didn’t take a long time until it became popular again. During the Communist regime, people started to recognize that the removal of freedom was growing, and they needed to get together. This seemed to be a threat for the regime because out of the city they could not take the people under their control, so they began to forbid it as well as many other things that seemed to be inconvenient for the regime.

Tramping is typical by sitting in front of the fire at night, roasting sausages, singing songs and playing guitars. There are also many stories and legends which were made up by tramps, for example about Hans Hagen a soldier of the Wehrmacht in The Quarry America in the central Bohemia. There are some organizations which seem to be similar to tramping, like Scouting or Sokol, but it is not completely true. The main difference between them is that tramping is unorganized, they usually do not have any plans.

Nowadays tramping is declining again because people don’t have enough time for it. However, there are still many of them, and they are trying to promote it again and there is a huge chance that the tramping would increase again because of this.