If All Roads Lead to Rome…by Justin Wuycheck - 2020-05-19
… Do all trails lead to Prčice? Each May it seems the case as tens of thousands of hikers descend on this South Bohemian town, ostensibly to support the Czech Tourist Club on an ambulatory celebration called the “Pochod Praha-Prčice.” The Czech Tourist Club, KČT for short in Czech, maintains and marks the thousands of miles of hiking trails throughout the Czech Republic, and this jaunt to Prčice is one their largest fund-raisers. Because of the Coronavirus, the KČT cancelled the 2020 edition – the first time since its inception in 1966 - but some hardy souls with hardy legs still made the trek along the many routes that ranged from 13km to 70km.
This writer cheated and brought his mountain bike. I learned later that biking on the hiking trails is a touchy subject; fortunately, much of Praha-Prčice route I used follows multi-use trails, and I rolled over no one’s toes! Entering the forest not far from the end of Prague’s metro, I could almost hear the forest singing. Not just the birds; we had received some much-needed rain two days previously, and it seemed every plant had something to say, stretching, blooming, unfurling at a nearly audible rate. The experience was exhilarating.
Fresh views and the quiet harmony between baroque towns and wooded countrysides kept the experience beautiful, even if the legs started to cramp after 60km. Most of the sporadic hikers I passed offered pleasantries and smiles, and an old farmhouse/ guest house offered much more, homemade pastries! In Prague, quality like this would cost 50 crowns or more, but here, at the Chalupa Černíkovice, a mere 15 crowns for homemade pastries… yum!
The kindness continued after my tire flatted the hole’s position in the innertube making a repair impossible. My thinking was to walk 10 kms to the nearest train station when a man pulled up in a car and said, “You need help? I have tubes. I live right around the corner.”
Thanks to this man, Milan, I was back on the road, struck by this simple kindness. (That’s not to turn the Czech Republic into Disneyland, it can be sour too: When I asked two fellow travellers for a picture, their faces immediately blackened; one man lectured me that I shouldn’t take pictures at all).
Reaching Prčice, the lack of people struck me. I had seen this same square years before, packed with hikers, and this in heavy rain. Now under brilliant sunshine and pleasant breezes, a crowd gathered on the outdoor patio of a lone pub, revelling in their accomplishments and the loosened quarantine restrictions; a few hikers rested their weary limbs on public benches.
There were no bands that played this year, just a fairly quiet square. And then…everybody without a car had to go 5kms uphill to the train station in Heřmaničky. We had reached our destination, and then one of the hardest efforts on our routes came after we had finished. Somehow, this seems very Czech too, and the best thing to do is laugh with them. The Pochod Praha-Prčice rewards the silent trudge, tired muscles, and aching knees with beautiful views and clean air and lots of good humanity. It makes for the quintessential perfect day out in a country that knows that few things do a person better than a good walk in the nature.
Tired but, honestly, happy.