Bohemia is a really beautiful region, with terrific landscapes well worth the seeing. But walking here is significantly different from walking the Chemin in France, I have learned. Let me list some ways:
– In France most non-French walkers speak English or a little French. In CZ, no one speaks Czech but the Czechs. In the small cities the hotel staff will speak limited English or limited German, but finding a second language in the small towns is very rare. Young people (especially women) are the best bet for a second language.
– The small towns on the route do not have groceries or banks. About once a week you are in a town large enough for these services. Meals, lodging and transport are on a cash basis.
– Perhaps because of this, there is reasonably regular bus service in the small towns, unlike France. This makes it possible to do bus hops to shorten stages, or to reach services, for example.
– There are no tourism offices to assist with reservations. The German language guidebook lists accommodations and their contact info if the town is small and there are only one or two choices available. No one lists multiple accommodation options for the larger towns.
– Starting mid-May is quite reasonable; accommodations are open but not crowded as it is very early in the season. Locals tell me that July and August are quite crowded.
– A hotel will provide sheets and towels, in addition to a duvet and pillow. Pensions, only the duvet and pillow. Camping places, just the bed.
– I was so glad to have a 450g down sleeping bag with me. With temps in the high 30s at night (4C) and no heat, some of these rooms have been quite chilly. Likewise glad to have a merino wool undershirt and silk long johns. I occasionally wished for a down vest.
– Small towns also do not have pharmacies. So First aid kits need to have more than blister-care materials. A more robust kit is really called for. Health insurance and travel insurance are also necessary (the authorities may check your paperwork on this when you enter).
– Most lodgings have wifi. Bring your own device if in a small town; hotels in small cities seem to have computers available.
– A cell phone (fully charged) along with GPS capability can save your life. Be careful about SIM cards, as you cannot recharge non-Czech Sim cards in CZ.
– At least in May, there are no other walkers to be encountered. Host here says I’m only the fourth one this season. So, if something happens to you, there is no one to notice or to go for help. I would not walk this route in CZ alone again. That being said, there are many marked hiking trails, so someone’s got to be walking.
– Water is only available at lodgings, pubs, or the like. Unlike France, there is no water available at town halls, churches, or cemeteries. Carry enough water with you for the entire day.
– Only 4% of the population is practicing Catholicism, and the old regime was definitely anti-religious. So the old churches, where they have survived, are either closed except during services, or have been converted to museums of various types. Outside of Prague, I have not found an open church in the week I walked.
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