“Home, home on the range,” they sing. “Where never is heard, a discouraging word.” Tramps sing this standard and “Goodnight Irene” and “The Streets of Laredo.” (“Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story.”)
The self-styled hobos in “Tramping in Bohemia” sing in the language of Czechoslovakia. In the film title, Bohemia refers not only to a region in the western part of the Czech Republic. It refers to places and social circles characterized by an unconventional way of life.
These weekend tramps typically head for the hills, the forests, the rivers and are due back at work Monday. The core of this corps has been acting thus for decades. They remember when their homeland was occupied by Communist rule. The regime forbade so many things. Czech people found ways to evade what they must do and could not do.
In self-styled camps, they raise the enchantment of the American West of long ago. They commune around a campfire or a soccer ball. Music is never far away. In the meadows and the woods, they remember a time when it was forbidden for more than five Czech citizens to congregate. They remember to enjoy a shared sense of freedom and communal spirit. They wonder if a seasoned devotion that stretches back so many decades will die out when the diehards of a generation stop tramping.
“Tramping in Bohemia” does more than introduce a bunch of unconventionally ordinary people. It does more than portray a curious and sentimental side of central Europe. (And who knows anything much about Czechoslovakia?) This film clues us in on an alternative that is not about big-time consumption and modern imperatives and dire dilemmas. For a peculiarly refreshing 30 minutes, this film visits people living and sharing a modest, resilient life.