July 19th 2011

By Charlene Toews When I signed up to take the Czech Walk I really wasn’t sure what to expect. While I had taken 4 or 5 walks in different parts of Europe, they were all self-guided, with simply a support vehicle to move my luggage from day to day. I wasn’t sure what a guided walk would give me that would be worth the price. As the price difference was substantial, it wasn’t totally clear to me when I booked that I would really receive value for my money. So I started the Czech Walk with more than a little trepidation. Let me say right now that I received FAR more than my money’s worth! I had expected that the guide would simply lead the walk and make sure that we didn’t get lost. Jana Kotalovka did much more than that (all the Wayfarers Guides do as I have since discovered) Jana is incredibly knowledgeable about history and art, and architecture—and shared all her expertise with us, informally, if we wished, as we walked. She didn’t push her knowledge on anyone. By doing this she enriched the walking experience immeasurably for me. In addition, when we asked her questions about what her life was like growing up under Communism, she was more than willing to tell us about it. I think it was the sharing of her personal experiences that made the trip a very special one for me. Of course the countryside on this and every walk has been carefully chosen, and every day we had beautiful walks. But I was also amazed by the villages and towns and their fantastic architecture. So much Renaissance history was present that has long since been lost in the West.(one town had a stunning Renaissance painted metal well cover). I realized that on my previous European hikes I had simply walked through a place - with Jana as our guide, I could experience it. She gave layers of depth, meaning, and context to what we were seeing. In fact I was actually so entranced with the town of Cesky Krumlov that I took a day off hiking and spent the day wandering through the town. Lenka (Walk Manager) kindly came back with the van and took me to the farmhouse lunch that was scheduled that day (and the food was always outstanding on this trip!) It was nice that within the context of a group hike everyone had as much individual freedom as much as could be arranged within logistical imperatives. Another little unexpected bonus was that we took some short little train rides. It was fun to walk to a little country station out in the middle of nowhere and hop on a—to me, antique train for a short ride to someplace else. I think we did this only twice, but it was very, very enjoyable. But Jana was definitely the highlight of the trip for me and enhanced the trip beyond all my expectations. It was truly a revelation to me how much a good guide can enhance a walking trip.

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