by Mia Taylor
Last updated: 8:30 AM ET, Wed March 7, 2018
Husband and wife team Rene and Marie Janouch have been guiding tours together for nearly two decades.
The Czech based duo lead the "Vienna to Prague" tour for Country Walkers, bringing the eight-day walking journey to life in vivid color with their infinite knowledge, extensive network of contacts and flair for helping guests connect with the human side of the Czech Republic.
Out on the trail, that effort has even grown to include an unforgettable feast at the home of an old friend-a rustic meal that reflects rural life and the history of Czech cuisine.
The Janouch's are a walking repository of knowledge about the Czech Republic, a country known for its ornate castles, charming medieval villages, and folk traditions.
TravelPulse recently spoke with the couple about how they manage to bring journeys to life for travelers and what it takes to be an outstanding guide at a time people are demanding immersive and unforgettable experiences that showcase destinations in ever more creative ways.
How do you both work to make destinations unique and truly memorable for travelers?
Marie-We are constantly thinking about the potential of the destinations or the potential stories. We are intoxicated by our job.
Rene-Workaholism. Guests can see we give the maximum. We try to have very close contacts in the places we visit. For example, we are very close friends with the chefs at restaurants and hotels and this provides special additional value. If you are very close to them, they give 110 percent when providing service. This is a real bonus. We know the people on our routes very well.
Marie-We also don't wait for someone else to come to us and say 'Let's do this.' We actively search for the adventure, not just the physical adventure, but adventure of any kind. We don't rely much on coincidence. Nothing is incidental. We don't wait for things to happen. We actively make them happen.
What do you most enjoy showing visitors when leading the Vienna to Prague tour?
Marie -During an eight-day tour, people don't necessarily remember where they were or what they see, but they do remember how they felt. They remember specific emotions, whether it is walking on soft moss in a Bohemian forest or something else. People remember the emotion and the feeling.
Rene-A very important part of the tour is what we call UPS - the unexpected pleasant surprises, and we have many of them on the Czech tour, every day. One of the UPSs we introduce is our 15-year-old son. He comes to visit us for dinners and guests can get involved into our family.
How and why did you begin offering guests on your walking tours the opportunity to participate in a feast at the home of an old friend?
Marie -For years, on weekend hikes, we would pass by this beautiful house, a blacksmith's house. And then we started to chat with the owner. We found out that his family produced marionettes, which are a typical Czech souvenir. This is slowly how it started. The gentleman, when he retired, moved to this house and opened a little marionette museum. Slowly, step by step, here we are in their kitchen and they are preparing lunch for us.
Rene-The lunch corresponds to the features of a peasant lunch and our guests can see how people cooked long ago, before the days when chimneys were introduced.
Marie-Everything is organic and is grown and made there. The dishes that are served are very old dishes because that's what people traditionally ate.
What keeps you doing this for nearly two decades?
Marie-We actually changed jobs a few times, but we always come back.
Rene-By means of guiding, it's amazing what we learn. Everybody we guide asks something else and it motivates me to keep learning, to learn about history, government, taxation. This is one of the most amazing things about this job. It helps you improve your personal knowledge. And I like to meet people from other cultures.
Marie -It keeps us cultivated. Twenty years ago things were totally different here. The Internet, the information exchange was not there, it was not available, especially in our country. So we had to read a lot and meet people to gain some knowledge. Maybe it sounds like a cliché, but everything comes to us from the west. So what's new in the west, we still don't know about it and we are getting major trends two years later. As guides, we do not just we guide, we are also led by our guests.
Rene-When you are traveling you can learn so much. A guiding job is really fascinating. You are always learning.
How do you think travel and traveler's wishes and interests have changed over the past two decades?
Rene -It has changed very much. A few years ago, I was in Prague with guests and I took people to the Museum of Communism. And that was one of the most important topics and people wanted to learn all about that. Now we are not taking people there. It's stopped being one of the most highlighted topics. People are less concentrated on information now. It's more about general feelings and how they perceive the comfort and the accommodations. We now have to adjust, and give people less information. And that's really amazing.
Marie-Our destination and what people want to see has really changed over 20 years. This country was closed for so long. And then all of a sudden people wanted to see behind the Iron Curtain. So we were there to present. Now we present the moments but not the things. Because if you have the Internet and access to Wikipedia or TripAdvisor, people can get the information on their own. So now they just want us to show them things and they will make their own opinion. Twenty years ago we were opinion makers for the guests.
And with the UPSs, yes it is about people. We are walking into a restaurant and all of sudden we are surrounded by kids in folk costumes and they start to sing. Also, everything now needs to be very instant, quicker, faster.
What do you think it takes to be a good tour guide these days? What qualities must a guide have?
Rene-First passion. To act as a servant. I really enjoy satisfying guests. The best moment for me guiding is being able to help. Even for instance, if a guest is going to have dinner on their own, I go and offer to assist. From the first minute I wake up to the last moment before I go to bed, I am thinking of ways to help the guests.
Marie-People are searching for real human contact. If you act like an automat with automatically provided information, that would be a failure. You have to show the emotion. Automatically provided information can be found anywhere, now you have to blend everything.
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