He experienced the horrors of two wars and during this time he also covered an immense geographical area. The trip described in this blog is an attempt to retrace his steps from Prague across the Eurasian continent to beyond Lake Baikal in Siberia. The first part of the trip will follow the precisely described route of Josef Švejk, Hašek's inspired literary creation. I left home on April 30 2010 and was back on October 29.

Monday 31 May 2010

Bucolic backwaters

In the days before Internet became widespread I was dependant on guidebooks, and the Rough Guides were my favourites. The language was fresher and more direct than that of their competitor Lonely Planet's and they were less likely to fill up their eating and drinking section with "Irish" and expat pubs. The Czechoslovak Rough Guide written by Rob Humphreys was always with me in these parts from 1991 onwards. It was a feature in this book that made me aware of Jaroslav Hašek and led me to Bebington Library to borrow Švejk. A writer described as an anarchist, prankster, beer-drinker, dog-breeder and red commissar surely must have been out of the ordinary. So it proved and since then I've never looked back.
The Rough Guides tend to be written in a laconic style, my birthplace Vik i Sogn was described  as a "half-hearted village" by the Sognefjord, Kirkenes was so far away that it seemed to be falling off the edge of the earth. Žatec was a scruffy medieval affair (when I visited in 2006 it was not scruffy at all, it's an attractive town), and South Bohemia was a bucolic backwater. I admit I had to look up the word bucolic  when I read it first time, so please feel free to Google it!
In the mud of these bucolic backwaters I was still waddling about in late May 2010. After the previous days hard but rewarding walk I took the train back to Radomyšl and continued towards Švejk's haystack in Putim. I had an off-topic agenda in the morning, a visit to the Jewish cemetery in Osek where Franz Kafka's grandfather, Jakob Kavka, is buried. He was a butcher in the village, kosher even. It was Heřman Kavka (Hermann Kafka), the writers father, who moved to Prague and also germanised the name, which in Czech means Jackdaw.
I set out towards Osek along a track which Milan Kovařík had showed me the day before. As it happened the track was far from kosher and to avoid having to wade through the mud, I took another route. In the end I missed the cemetery altogether. I got pissed off, and decided to leave Kafka to kafkologs. As I was getting sore in unmentionable parts I soon made compromises on Švejk's route, leaving out Putim for now and heading straight for Štěken. It was a Saturday, and only the Vietnamese shop was open, and there I found no suitable remedy for my troubles. I decided to head for Ražice where there at  least were trains back to Písek.
The walk was pure purgatory, and I made a stop in a large pub in Sudoměř. There I bought a Jan Žižka T-shirt, and sat down  for a beer. Opposite me appeared a man which appeared to have escaped from ZZ Top, a biker with long hair and an appropriate beard. We struck up a great conversation, he was also a fan of Hašek. Jindřích Brichašek bought me a glass of vodka for the road, I returned the compliment with a pivo, and promised to send him a post-card from Bugulma. The final 6 kilometers to Ražice went better; beer and the vodka work against many ailments.
Back in Písek I looked for remedies for my troubled rear. I had insecticide, toothpaste  and sun lotion available. I decided to apply Nivea Sun Lotion. On the bottle was written Sun Factor 10. Never in the course of human suffering has the sun factor been of such meagre importance.


  1. Did you manage to send Mr. Brichašek the post-card from Bugulma? Also, have you considered doing a commercial for Nivea?

  2. Unfortunately I lost some of my addresses and there are a few people I owe postcards. It's a shame, Brichašek was a great guy. Another problem: I didn't find any postcards in the tourist metropolis of Bugulma.