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.

Sunday 9 May 2010

Amongst the right people

For someone undertaking a mission to follow the steps of Jaroslav Hašek there could could be no better place to stay than at Havlovská 45, in Dejvice, Prague. Not that the location in itself is ideal; that despite being in a leafy and quiet suburb. It is far from the centre and cumbersome to get to. The reason for staying at Hanspaulka had more to do with who than where. This is where Richard Hašek lives. He is co-chairman of the International Society for the immortality of Jaroslav Hašek, an expert on the author, and for good measure also his grandson. He also owns an impressive private library which contains most of what exists on literature about Hašek and nearly all translations of Švejk. Moreover he is a profesionální vnuk, i.e. professional grand-son, and spends of lot of his time promoting his grand-father's work, taking part in arrangements all over the Czech Republic and also as far as Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. He regularly appears in newspapers and has even been spotted on television.

Richard Hašek played an important role in me getting to the idea of doing this journey at all. On 1 April 2008 I received a surprised phone call. It was Richard on the other end and he invited me to a Hašek-conference at Lipnice nad Sázavou later that month. My only claim to being a "Švejkolog" at the time was a quick and poorly planned trip in the footsteps of Švejk in 2004, so I felt like Barack Obama must have felt when he learned that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Price. In the company of seasoned Hašek-experts it was like just having graduated from kindergarten. However, the conference was a huge inspiration. Soon after I started to develop my own web-pages about Švejk and a month or so later I started  to conceive a  journey in the foot-steps of Hašek.
That afternoon in early May 2010 Richard welcomed me with a Vodka Švejk from Bugulma, the town in Tatarstan beyond the Volga where Jaroslav Hašek served as a Red Army deputy commander in late 1918. I was also given a small glass bust of the author to hand over to the museum in Bugulma on behalf of the society. This was a piece of the luggage I didn't want to loose between now and late August at all cost! The official and solemn ceremony took place in the holiest of holy shrines, in the library upstairs in Havlovská 45, where Jaroslav Hašek's spirit radiates from every square-centimetre of book-shelf.
The next days were spent planning, scanning documents, and celebrating the 1945 liberation of the Czech and Slovak lands. The joint celebration took place in Dejvická ulice on 8 May. I also had time to be a tourist on my own in the stunning Czech capital, a city I never get tired of, where there are new things to marvel at around every  corner, the city where the supply of quality beer never dries up. It should also be said there was time for visits to various hospody with Richard and his mates. Moreover Richard is a good friend and a good host and there was as usual no halt in the conversation at the breakfast table or in the pubs. Common topics of interest were plentiful, his grandfather aside.

Last but not the least should be mentioned Jaroslav Šerák. Nearly two years ago we stumbled across each other on Google Maps, discovering that we were essentially doing the same thing; creating a map illustrating the route of Švejk. Since then we've been in contact at least a few times a week, and Jarda has been the person who has assisted me more than anyone else in my work on the web pages. On Sunday 9 May I was invited home to Liboc, where we did some important work getting Pavel Gan's documents scanned, and then having an enjoyable meal with wife Jana and daughter Michaela.

One Velkopovický Kozel after the other was went down, we toasted to the famous words "Gott strafe England", not with Austrian war liqueur as would have been right and proper, but Fernet Branca! We had planned to meet again several times, but unfortunately Jarda got an ear infection which put a stop to all  planned activities. We kept in contact on the phone and e-mail and should hopefully meet again in October.


  1. Did you manage to hang on to and deliver the glass bust to the museum in Bugulma?

  2. The glass bust was safely delivered in Bugul'ma at the end of August!