Tramping - a Czech Phenomenon
Tramping included hiking, camping and music. At the end of the 19th century- during the times of Votjech Naprstek who founded the American Ladies Club- it became fashionable for both young ladies and gentlemen to go walking in the environs of Prague in order to get some fresh air, to be fit and healthy. But more serious walking became popular in the 1920’s when young people of all social classes would take longer hikes into the great outdoors- into the woods, to the rivers. Sometimes the young people carried a blanket, a tent, or just a backpack with some food and water. They called themselves „tramps“. Some of them began to build simple huts or cottages, usually near some stream. Their outfits gradually became more practical- pants and shorts for both boys and girls and good walking shoes. The tramps liked to sing and soon they added musical instruments, mostly guitars.
In the 30’s tramping became a popular pastime every Saturday. Young people wore colorful scarves, often they donned cowboy hats or similar headgear and sang songs from American films. Especially Western movies became very popular. Gradually they created their own „tramping songs“. The lyrics were very sentimental and romantic and described the West with its heroes, guns and horses.
During the war and the Nazi occupation the „tramps“ as well as the Scouts were persecuted. Under the communists the persecution continued for some time.
In the 1950’s, when I was about 15 years old, I was on my way by train to a tramping place near Prague with a group of friends. Suddenly we were stopped by police and criticized because of our outfits-colorful scarves, plaid shirts, guitars, etc. We were chased out of the railway station and forbidden to go anywhere ! But that did not stop us! We waited a while until the cops disappeared and then we took a later train.
In the 1960‘s tramping got even more popular and accepted due to an American „leftist“ singer Pete Seeger who the communist government allowed to enter their „paradise“. He brought with him lots of western and country music to the Czech lands. Many groups were formed here- e.g. the Spiritual Quintet (see p. 16).
In the 70’s and 80’s more and more such groups sprung forth. I was also a member of one of those singing groups.Eva Střížovská
Translated by Marie Dolanska
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