Meet Markéta Hradecká, guide Prague, Czech Republic. We’re celebrating International Women’s Day all week by taking a look at some of our favorite female guides around the world.
A lover of history, culture, and her city of Prague, Markéta Hradecká was inspired to begin her touring company Caput Regini Private Tours to share that love with visitors from all over the world. She began freelance guiding in 2007, but with encouragement from her husband, set up her own agency. Her one-woman guiding agency quickly began a team of professional guides who have the same passion to show visitors the city of Prague as Markéta.
In the summer of 2015, Ker & Downey President David Marek and his wife Gana traveled to Prague to dig deeper into his family origins. During their trip, they had the pleasure of touring Prague with Markéta.
“Markéta has a unique perspective on the history and culture of the Czech Republic. In fact she still has her ID card from the Russian occupation of the Czech Republic. On her tours, she goes into the details of her life as a young girl during the occupation which is both insightful and touching. Her tours are also architecturally enlightening and fun. She even incorporated beer tasting at different establishments into our tour of Prague.” David Marek, President of Ker & Downey
How many years have you been leading tours?
It’s not a straight-forward answer!
First of all, I took an intensive, exam-assessed course in order to receive a professional tour guide license. That was 9 years ago, and at the time I was just about to have my second child, so it took me another year or so until I started to lead tours occasionally as a freelancer. Then about 7 years ago I decided to start my own business, which at the time was a one-woman tour agency, Caput Regni. I lead specialized and tailor-made tours for individual travelers, small groups and/or families with kids.
What or who inspired you to get into the guiding industry?
I graduated with a degree in History and Philosophy from the prestigious Charles University in Prague. Ever since primary school I was interested in history and wanted to become a teacher; my history teachers were very influential and inspiring people, and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to engage students in understanding that history is not simply about memorizing boring dates and names of kings, but it’s a large field full of adventure, and stories we could learn from to better understand today’s world. In many ways, being a guide is similar to the teaching profession: you share your knowledge and you hope that it will inspire students/foreign visitors to get involved and interested.
Nevertheless, it was my husband who supported me to make my vision become reality. He created my website, gave me marketing advice, and put a lot of confidence into my project. I can’t thank him enough for that.
Are there barriers for women in the guiding industry you’ve had to overcome?
I can only speak from my own experience. I have 3 kids (aged 11, 8 and 4 years old) and I have to admit that my last pregnancy did limit my work as an active tour guide. I had to slow down and limit the number and length of tours that I was leading. Somewhat unexpectedly, I also became unable to lead in-depth tours on the topics of WWII suffering and/or the Communist oppression, as I found it far too emotionally upsetting for me.
During the last few months of my third pregnancy I only worked in the office, arranging tours for a small team of experienced guides who tour guided on my behalf. Furthermore, when my third baby was born, I had to make important decisions about my priorities. I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to miss the precious first months and years, when a child needs a model person in his or her parents, so for the following year I chose to work only in the office, and only late in the evening and at night. It was quite an exhausting time! I believe those limitations are only temporary though; for me, motherhood is a necessary part of a life and I will always be striving to balance my family’s needs with my profession as a tour guide. I don’t want to be unfair to male guides, but I believe they have a slightly easier ride in this respect.
What is your favorite part of your city? (Or what is your favorite place to introduce people to your city?)
As I mentioned, I only lead private, tailor-made tours. I like to combine a visit of famous sights in Prague with a discovery of off-the-beaten-path local places. In any case the itinerary of tours always depends on the visitors’ personal interests. If they ask me to share my favorite places with them, then I suggest the following destinations: a late afternoon walk around the Vysehrad fortress and the river embankment known among locals as “Naplavka” (a trendy and fun place with youthful vibes and music); a boat cruise to Baroque chateau Troja and walk back to the city center through Stromovka park; and a tour of Zizkov and Karlin historic residential quarters full of great local restaurants, farmers’ markets, open-air beer gardens and off-the-beaten-path sights (this destination is fantastic for authentic Food and Culture tours). I like to introduce visitors to Letna Park too, from where you can take scenic and timelessly beautiful pictures of the Old Town and the River Vltava.
How would you encourage young girls/women to get into the guiding industry?
If you are optimistic, cheerful, open-minded, communicative, well organized and enthusiastic, and you like to meet people from all over the world, the you are a good candidate indeed. I always encourage guides from my Caput Regni team to publish some kind of blog and/or to be active on social media sites. It will motivate them to discover and share “hidden gems,” culture tips, restaurant suggestions and so on with others, and thus contribute to the travelers’ community. This is a key first step towards getting involved.