Czech Republic's unrivalled system of marked walking trails


People in the Czech Republic love to walk. Anywhere and anytime. Hiking and walking has a very long tradition. The nationwide organization of walkers decided more than a hundred years ago to create a system of marked trails, which now cover the whole of the Czech Republic.

Almost 40,000 kilometers of walking trails run through the Czech Republic. The system is remarkably complex, so that no matter where you are - even in a city - you can find a little red, yellow or green marking to show you a pleasant walk. The trails are connected together to create a network, which enables you to chose how long you want to walk. For example you can decide to follow the red markings and walk all the way from the East to the West of the Czech Republic. Karel Markvart, who works at the nationwide Club of Czech Tourists, believes that the Czech Republic has probably the most complex system of walking trails in the world.

"Yes, the marked trails cover the whole of the Czech Republic. It is also true that in other countries they have some long-distance trails going across the country, but they have some regions without any marked trails, which you could not find here."

Previously tourists used to walk using military maps. Whenever they found a nice walk, they put a colored mark on a stone, tree or a fence. Then in 1889 the Club of Czech Tourists decided to created a complex system using the same type of marks on the whole territory of the Czech Republic. Nowadays, the Club is a volunteer organization supported by the state. Among other activities, it publishes maps and maintains the system of marked walking trails. Currently volunteers are developing a new system of marked trails for cyclists and skiers. Mr. Markvart has a very unique job: he is the only professional walking trail marker in the Czech Republic.

"This work is done only by volunteers. I am the only professional who does this and I get paid more for the management of this system. Other volunteers make the marks and do the maintenance in their free time. They don't get paid, they get only reimbursement for travel costs and material, such as paint or signposts."

Colored marks on a tree
Prior to the fall of communism, Czech walkers had a specific problem: the Communist Party did not want to publish accurate maps, because they believed they could be used by the capitalist enemy. Mr. Markvart explains more.

"Before the fall of communism in 1989 maps for general public were not accurate. The original map was cut into pieces, which were then bent and twisted in different ways and then put together again, so that the maps wouldn't help the enemy in a war. So there were really big distortions on the maps. And we were not allowed to publish maps of special regions - such as military areas - at all."

Today, the maps are all accurate. Of course, there can be minor mistakes, but the Club of Czech Tourist has many fans who phone and write in to correct them.