Tramps and Hobos: A Path to a New Freedom

Most people hear the term “tramp” or “hobo” and immediately think back to the olden days. The names, for most, are not positive; however, “tramps” and “hobos” have a different meaning for Czechs. 

For Czechs and Slovaks, there has been a long history of “tramping,” as a phenomenon, inspired by the American “Wild West.” Tramping began in the early twentieth century, around 1918 when individuals would leave their homes and the city to venture into the forests and mountains in hopes of finding freedom and happiness. 

A Century of Tramping at Prague’s Ethnographic Museum of the National Museum takes a more in-depth look into the lifestyle of Czech tramps and hobos. 

Tramping is a combination of scouting, hiking, backpacking, and touring through nature, and the movement has attracted many thousands over the years. It became a subculture for Czechs, from the 1930s through the 1980s when the pastime grew to an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 tramps. The movement was so significant, that settlements were established for tramps to camp out in sites with American names, such as the Hudson, Little Bighorn, and Swanee camps. Over the years, they created a new form of folk art with woodwork including totem poles, and flag posts.  

The exhibition is relatively small, beginning with a 15-minute documentary from the 1960s showing teen-age tramps in nature, and it has English subtitles. The film has interviews, clips of bonfires, and friends singing which provides a better understanding of what the tramping lifestyle looked like decades ago.  

Throughout the rest of the exhibit there are displays of tramping memorabilia including photographs, hand-made wooden signs and clothing, and patches and flags representing the tramping groups. There is a life-size model of a camp site set up with wooden benches, a small wooden lodge with shelving and a bed, a handmade canoe and a totem pole. There are also original USA army circa WWI backpacks, tramping posters, personal journals, song lyrics, personal stories, and instruments (especially acoustic guitars). 

Music is key to the tramps as songs are sung beside the campfire nightly or while setting up camp or hiking and these songs steadily expanded into its own category of music. Tramping songs transformed in the 1960s when Czech folk singers combined traditional tramping songs with a twist of American country music, such as in the tramping anthem by Wabi Ryvola, “Zvlastni Znameni Touha” (“Desire as a Special Sign”).

When tramping was at its peak, under Communism, many tramps and hobos were persecuted by the government. Under the Nazi occupation and Communist rule tramping was considered wrong and reckless. Unsurprisingly, tramping did not cease, instead many rebelled and continued to pursue their beloved pastime in the wilderness. Contrary to public belief, tramps were organized and respectful to nature. Each group had leaders (called “sheriffs”) who would guide the group and keep them from making too much noise or being disrespectful to nature. 

Although the popularity for tramping has faded out, the pastime remains popular for some young Czechs today. As long as tramps conduct themselves in a respectful manner camping in the Czech Republic’s forests is legal. Tramping is a way for many to feel free, close to nature, find peace, make friends, and enjoy a simpler life. 

A Century of Tramping captures the bliss of the Czech outdoors and the pure fun and unity one can discover while singing campfire songs with friends under the stars; it’s no wonder the pastime has been a favorite for a hundred years.

A Century of Tramping at Prague’s Ethnographic Museum of the National Museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Monday until March 31, 2020.

For more information see the website: https://www.nm.cz/historicke-muzeum/stoleti-trampingu



Related articles

  • Circus and Theatre Festival Letní Letná Kicks off Next Week by Paul Lysek

    The "Leave the Crowd Speachless" Summer Circus Festival is back for its 16th Season at Letna.

  • Events for the week of August 19 - 23 by Narmin Ismiyeva

    We've highlighted five events for this week including The Great Beauty, Latino Anděl and Festival of Illustration.

  • Events for the weekend 17 - 18 August by Narmin Ismiyeva

    Are you making plans for the weekend? We've highlighted six events including the 1981 Secondhand Festival, beer tasting in the Botanical Garden, Etnopicnic and a lesson of Argentine tango atop Lucerna. 

  • Events for the weekend 3 - 4 August by Narmin Ismiyeva

    Are you making plans for the weekend? We've selected six events including the Czech version of the famous South Asian festival of love and colors that will take place on Střelecký Island on Saturday.

  • Events for the week 29 July - 2 August by Narmin Ismiyeva

    Are you in Prague this week looking for things to do? We have one event for each day, including yoga in Stromovka and screening of Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel in Karlín.

  • New exhibition opens at National Library of Technology by Narmin Ismiyeva

    The National Library of Technology in Dejvice (NTK) is especially popular among students, however, anyone can have access to its study areas. Go explore the unique space and the art exhibition it is currently presenting.

  • Events for the weekend 27 - 28 July by Narmin Ismiyeva

    This weekend, you can Swing & Swim at Biotop Radotín, watch short movies on a boat, visit Italy on Prague's Kampa island or help the environment by collecting garbage in Modřany.

  • Macbeth, King Lear & The Tempest by www.pragueshakespeare.com

    Prague Shakespeare Company announce performances of three Shakespeare plays performed in English, at the historic Estates Theatre 4-6 July 2019




  • FEST-END:Theatre Festival by Martina Měšťanová (Photo: Švandovo divadlo)

    English Speaking Theatre Festival at the end of theatre season in Prague. The festival is part of the American Spring Festival

  • Prague landmark or a symbol of oppression? by Nela Parakenings Photo: Eugen Kukla

    The Marian column on the Old Town Square was the first Baroque monument in Bohemia. Destroyed in 1918, it remains controversial.

Facebook comments

T.G.I. Friday's (Anděl)

A true legend in the restaurant industry - TGI Friday's

Burrito Loco Spálená

Tasty Fresh Mexican fast food in Prague

KUKBURG - Farm to table

Our meat and products straight to your table

Norbert’s donuts

Superb Donuts in the heart of Prague

Charles Bridge Museum

Discover the history of Prague’s famous Charles Bridge

Trabant Museum Prague

Trabant Museum @ STK Motol

Army Museum Žižkov

Armádní muzeum Žižkov

National Memorial to the...

Národní památník hrdinů heydrichiády


PragueMonitor.com

Prague’s # 1 source for Czech news in English…


PragueConnect.cz

Expat and Czech Business Professional Network


Tschech.News

German Language Info Service