Czech hiking trails mark 130 years

Photo: Kristýna Maková

The Czech Republic boasts one of the densest and best maintained systems of hiking routes in Europe. The very first tourist path opened 130 years ago this Saturday, on May 11, 1889. It led from the village of Štěchovice on the banks of the Vltava River to Svatojanské proudy and was marked by members of the Czech Tourist Club.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
The first tourist path in the Czech Republic, leading along one of the most beautiful stretches of the Vltava River, is no longer in existence, as it was partially flooded by the Štechovice reservoir in the 1940s. Since then, however, a whole network of tourist paths, covering thousands of kilometres, has been developed across the Czech Republic.

Pavel Přílepek of the Czech Tourist Club is in charge of the tourist trails’ marking:

“There are currently over 43,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails in the Czech Republic. We also look after cycling paths, which cover over 38,000 kilometres and we take care of hundreds of kilometres of cross-country ski trails, trails for wheelchair users and horseback riding trails. I would say around a hundred kilometres of new tourist routes are created each year, although some of the unused trails also cease to exist.”

While the very first tourist path is no longer in existence, people can still hike along the second-oldest path. It was created in 1889 and leads from the Central Bohemian town of Beroun through the picturesque village of Svatý Ján pod Skalou to the castle of Karlštejn. The 20-kilometre path, marked 001, is named after Vojta Náprstek, founder and first chairman of the Czech Tourist Club.

The Czech Republic’s tourist sign – a bright white square with a horizontal colour band in the middle – is familiar to anybody who has spent some time in the Czech countryside.

The signs are usually placed on trees or rocks or on special posts of their own and there is a very strict set of regulations concerning their placement, distance from one another and so on. They are painted and maintained by members of the Czech Tourist Club, who do it on a voluntary basis in their own free time and free of charge.

Photo: Dominika Bernáthová
Pavel Přílepek explains what makes the Czech system so unique:

“There are all sorts of systems of marking hiking routes in the neighbouring countries, but it is only in the Czech Republic that we have a unified methodology. The regulations have been developed since 1889.

“At first only red colour was used. As the network got denser, blue colour was introduced. And since 1916, we have been using four basic colours - red, blue, yellow and green.”

At the moment, there are some 1,400 people looking after the country’s network of hiking trails. Every spring, new volunteers are drafted and trained to do the job.

To mark the 130th anniversary of the country’s hiking routes, a special march organised by the Czech Tourist Club is scheduled to take place in June along the country’s second oldest tourist trail from Beroun to Svatý Ján pod Skalou.