This book was not originally written for you. Nevertheless, it may well transform your perspective on hiking and the Carpathians. At least this is what it has done for many. 

The Carpathian Games was intended for a circle of nature-loving fellows in the early 1980s in Czechoslovakia. It was published unofficially since its “truths were not for everyone’s ears.” However, words of the text were so touching that people would copy them on typewriters and circulate it amongst friends.

Some read the Carpathian Games as an account of the desire for freedom during communist times. The author of this book, Miloslav Nevrlý, led a scout group disguised as a tourist sports club, because scouting was banned after communist armies invaded the country. In the mid-1970s, Míla (short for Miloslav in Czech) started taking the group to the Romanian Carpathians, mountains where tourists, rules, maps and surveillance were scarce. They hyperbolically named their fellowship the ‘Society for Exploration of the Romanian Mountains’. Those few summer weeks provided the much-needed remedy of freedom. The far-away mountains became an exercise field for woodcraft and scouting virtues.

Others read the Carpathian Games as a transformative text. Míla uplifts hiking from a pastime activity into a source of wisdom. Referring back to generations of pilgrims, he finds a connection with the universe while on voyage – at the mercy of the elements and good will of strangers. He describes the deep joy of a mystic born from what the rest of the world would consider misery. To invite everyone into this fellowship, Míla intimately addresses the reader as a “little brother,” which has nothing to do with gender.

For some, this is the ideal hiking guide to the Romanian mountain ranges. It does not list transport options, trails and shelters – quite the opposite. The text brews intimate personal experience with a brief sketch of each range. Thus, the half a century old descriptions remain atemporal, despite the fact that the Romanian mountains are changing with the fast development of the country. The author, a professional naturalist, roughs out the places and leaves it upon the hikers to find their way.

After reading several games and mountain depictions, you shall understand why the translation into English was a must. Many of us had difficulties describing to fellow hikers the essence of the book that brought thousands of Czech and Slovak pilgrims to the Romanian mountains. Meeting there, they quote from the Carpathian Games by heart and read the book while sitting around campfires. Accept the invitation, the fire is about to start burning.