Pleased to meet you, Lucie, and thank you for letting us into your life! To begin, would you mind sharing how you discovered your passion for guiding, and, in particular, heritage-history tour guiding?
To tell you the truth, I’ve enjoyed history for as long as I can remember, so the occupation is perfectly fitting. My father’s past also drew me to study it, and eventually turn it into more than just an academic interest. You see, my father left the Czech Republic in 1968, only to return after the Russian invasion, and since that day, the entire family were under constant supervision by the secret police. You can only imagine how euphoric we were to welcome the Velvet Revolution! I was right there in the thick of it, sitting on my father’s shoulders, ringing the keys for a better future, and a better future is what we most definitely got.
How did you manage to turn your passion for heritage and history into a profession?
Because it’s such a fascinating area of interest for me, and my #1 hobby, it was easy to turn my history-based studies into something more lucrative. However, in actuality, guiding is just one of my professional occupations; I also work with exchange students from America, a job that only augments guiding because I can never tire of it!
You were born and raised in Prague, and you’ve chosen to spend your adult life there too. What draws you to the city?
The spirit! Also, it’s just breathtaking, visually. Not many cities have this same level of beauty and charm. I’d be happy to guide in similar cities, cities like Barcelona and Lisbon that are equally as fantastic and full of positive energy, but I could never be a guide in the likes of Berlin; it’s just too sad there.
In your profile, you mention you grew up without Mickey Mouse, Barbies, or Levis jeans. Would you mind explaining what childhood
in the Czech Republic was like?
My childhood in Prague was somewhat unique; due to my father’s connections to West Germany, we were under the constant supervision of the Czech version of the KGB, a strict military service, which meant we were limited in what we could own. Thanks to all my father’s friends, however, we always had branded clothes and cosmetics, which used to be a huge luxury. My mom even got to sport a pair of Dior sunglasses!
What has been the biggest highlight of being a tour guide?
The biggest pleasure is being able to share my stories, especially those entailing the experiences of my late father, one of the coolest, more fearless people to date. For one, they’re fascinating, but, most importantly, retelling them keeps him alive and present.
What does a day in the life of Lucie Smitkova look like?
On days when I guide, I walk (and walk and walk…), talk (and talk and talk), and enjoy a nice cold beer with my guests to keep the momentum up. Quite a good life, eh?!
Tell us about the best trip you’ve ever lead.
Every trip is unforgettable for its own reason! And since I’m so passionate about the whole thing, I remember every single guest; my clients are very special to me. That said, one trip does stand out, and that’s because one of the guests asked me to arrange a spot for him to propose to his girlfriend! I was so nervous, but everything worked out beautifully, and the lady said yes. Whew!
How about the opposite: have you ever had a bad guided trip?
Not really, fortunately. The only bad bit is when I get grumpy guests, but that happens so infrequently, and when it does, I reverse their ‘tude quickly with my humor and overall warmth. I’m definitely not one of those guides who only spits out dry facts; my tours are all about good energy.
Since we all know that no job is perfect, would you mind sharing some of the downfalls of being a guide in Prague?
Let’s just say that when the weather is dreary, the happiness factor goes down with every raindrop!
And finally, if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I’ve been fortunate to have travelled extensively, but I have yet to reach South America, so that’d be my destination of choice. Bonus: I now know where to go to locate a guide in South America, wink wink.