In the Czech Republic, being a tramp means folk singing, rum drinking, wild camping in the forest and bonhomie
Being labelled a “tramp” is not something the average person would be overly thrilled about. Unless, that is, they happened to be Czech. In the beer-drenched hub of central Europe, the word equates neither to homelessness nor harlotry, but to a nature-loving soul who “tramps” jovially through the countryside with his mates. I know this because I recently became one. I am now officially a tramp.
The notion of tramping – or “wandering” as some prefer to call it – may just sound like a regular hiking or camping trip. But I can assure you, it’s not. A romanticised hybrid of both pursuits, it is a far quirkier beast, with folk singing, and a generous helping of rum thrown in. The tradition dates back to the early 20th century, and is influenced by the Scout movement and the free-roaming cowboy novels of Bret Harte and Jack London. Stifled by the pomposity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many young Czechs idolised liberal America – and saw the wild west as its free-range embodiment. As such, working-class youths – keen to slip away from their conventional parents – would head into the wild to explore, sing songs, then collapse wearily under the stars. More than a century later, the tradition lives on, and not just amongst men, but with women and kids too.