summer cloudy mountain landscape with tourist camp on slope (Ukraine, Carpathian Mountains)

Czech Classic Hiking Memoir ‘‘Carpathian Games’’ Released In English

An English version of ‘‘Carpathian Games’’ by Czech scout and naturalist Miloslav Nevrlý has been released online. The book, cherished by Czech and Slovak nature-lovers, is a nostalgic account of “hiking with a light heart” in the Carpathian mountain range in Romania. Photo Credit: Freepik / Illustrative Photo.

One of the written works of Miloslav Nevrlý, Karpatské hry, has been translated into English. The book was written and published unofficially in the 1980s, and copied and circulated by readers. Nowadays, the Carpathian Games are often read around a campfire and even quoted by heart. With the release of the work in English, international readers can finally enjoy the stories that have been popular among Czech hikers for decades. 

Scouting was been banned three times in the former Czechoslovakia – first under Nazi occupation during the Second World War, again in 1948 when the Communists came to power, and for a third time during the repression that followed the Prague Spring in 1968. Author Miloslav Nevrlý, nicknamed ‘‘The Chief’’ ‘(‘‘Náčelník’’), was born in Prague in 1933 and joined the scouting and Sokol movements soon after the end of WWII. In the seventies, Nevrlý and his friend Miloš Zapletal led a group of scouts disguised as a tourist sports club. As there were not many travel options during the communist times, the scouts would organize hiking trips to the Romanian mountains.

Nevrlý also became an acclaimed writer, telling stories of the natural environment. His most well-known works are the Book about the Jizera Mountains, The Taste of Cloudberries and the Most Beautiful Collection, cherishing the mountains of Czechoslovakia. At one point, he was asked to write a comprehensive text on a Romanian mountain range down to the last bunk bed and signpost, but this went against his nature. Instead, he was inspired to write the Carpathian Games, an account rather different to traditional travel guidebooks. 

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Photo: Karpatské hry by Miloslav Nevrlý. Credit: KB / BD.

The ‘games’ are not games in a literal sense, but a philosophical testament to the beauty of the Romanian Carpathians, and Nevrlý depicts hiking not just as a pastime but an opportunity to cultivate inner wisdom. Written subjectively in a poetic style, Nevrlý chronicles 35 mountains in short stories, adding 13 games which reflect on the joys and freedom of being a ‘wanderer’ and a ‘pilgrim’. Using visual imagery, the author actively engages the reader with the purpose of communicating a deeper, more subtle meaning. He addresses the reader directly as “little brother”, meant as a term of endearment to create a familiar tone. One must keep in mind that the stories were intended to be read by young illegal scouts in the eighties, to evoke a sense of longing to be in nature and discover greater insights.

The publication in English is perhaps well-timed, as many around the world turn to nature for leisure and fulfilment. It also allows Czechs to share a part of their culture with foreigners, as the common love of nature brings people closer together. Last year, the Carpathian Games was translated by Benjamin Lovett and published by Junák – Czech Scouting from Kaprálův mlýn, a few kilometres outside of Brno.

Are you curious about what it means to hike with a light heart? Download the Carpathian Games for free here to find out.  

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