The temperatures outside are reaching 10C/50F and we've just read in the newspapers that the birds are returning to the Czech Republic after the winter, which means two things: (1) the spring is nearly here, and (2) it's time to kick it up a notch and catch up on some of these New Year's resolutions we have been neglecting so far. It's time to get a run. (A disclaimer here: we do run in two stages: stage 1: accessorize [buy shoes and apparel] - stage 2: run. We have mastered stage one nearly every year but we have found, through empirical research, that stage 2 is actually much harder to initiate. We don't know if your experience has been the same.)
But the joking aside, let's be honest here: you cannot spend all your days just eating and drinking the mostly delicious food that can be found in the streets of Prague (assuming that you follow our advice). Sometimes, you have to make sure you also run off some of those calories you took in eating Czech food. And let's face it: Czech food packs lots of calories. And the calorie intake does not stop at food. The category that the Czechs love to call "calorie bombs" (which includes virtually anything that's good) definitely includes something that accounts to a religion here: beer. Yes, in addition to panthenol and lots of B-vitamins, beer packs in an unholy amount of calories. Finally, we also must admit that Czech love big portions. When we visit the pastry shop as part of our tasting walks, our guests cannot believe they are eating the "mini" versions.
Our guests have often noted that given the type of cuisine we have here, they don't see many people who would be overweight in Prague. Two factors play role in this: first, Czechs do not eat Czech cuisine on a daily basis. There's only that many schnitzels and head cheeses you can eat in a week. We do eat lighter foods, although they may not be necessarily Czech. Second, Czech love sports (of course, there are exceptions): from the Small Football Prague Association (a 5-a-side amateur Prague soccer league that is incredibly popular among Prague men, including Jan) to skiing or trekking and inline skating, almost every Czech likes to move. As one of our friends recently said:
Everyone owns a pair of trekking boots, right?
(To which we politely nodded, too scared to confess that we actually don't.) But anyway, you get the point. Czech love sports. The two most popular sports (at least for viewing) are soccer in the summer and ice-hockey in the winter.
With the winter nearly behind us, we have decided to start jogging again, especially since Jan has, admittedly, let himself go a bit over the holidays and the winter months, indulging in way too much food recently (he blames Zuzi, of course). We think Prague is a great jogging town: parks actually make up for one fifth of its area, so you don't have to run through traffic unless you have to or want to. The cobblestones may pose a problem for those who are not used to it, but they are present only in the centre and are easy to avoid. The terrain in Prague is also very varied: flat areas or hills, asphalt or dirt, we have it all here. The convenient, safe and reliable public transport system helps, too: if you ran too far and don't want to walk back, there's always a tram stop nearby to take you there. Many of our guests say they need a run after the tour. Well, we listen. As a complimentary service to our guests, and a public service announcement to everybody else, we bring you a few jogging routes in Prague we really like. Of course, if you're an experienced runner, you may try some routes that are more local, but we are focusing on those near the centre:
The "Riverside Run"
This route basically runs along the river. The shortest run (green) just copies the river embankment from the Zofin island to the Vysehrad castle. Please beware that the embankment below the Vysehrad castle hosts farmers' markets on Saturdays, so be careful - you may end up slowing down there, or, even worse, stop for a juicy sausage or a sweet merengue roll ("kremrole"). The middle route extends over to the other side of the river. You have to take the railway bridge under the Vysehrad castle to the other side and then negotiate some rubble on the Castle side behind the bridge, but after that it's all smooth sailing. The longest route is really recommended only in the early morning, because it takes you over the Charles Bridge. But it's a treat if you can summon the will to wake up and go for a run at about 7am at the latest.
View Riverside jogging in a larger map
The Letna park run
We absolutely adore the Letna park: beginning just a few steps from our rental apartment, the park is an oasis of green that offers some stunning views of the entire centre. If you run from the historical centre, you have to cross the Cechuv bridge and negotiate some 200 stairs first (possibly ending with a recreation of the famous Rocky scene) but from then on, all the routes offer a fairly flat profile, save for the longest one, which takes you down to the Expo 58 building past the National Technical Museum. You may meet lots of other joggers and inline skaters on the way, especially in the spring.
View Jogging Letná in a larger map
The Stromovka park run
Our home turf (we live just about five minutes from one of its gates). The Stromovka park is the largest and the most popular park in Prague for jogging. We love jogging there in the morning of a sunny day: it just lights you up. The shortest route is the "classic round" - about a mile long, it circles around the inner parts of the park and attracts many joggers. The 5k run is something Jan likes to take at times: the parts around the Tesla Arena have some traffic and include cobblestoned parts, but it really is exactly 5 km - Jan vouches for it. Finally, the longest route actually crosses the river to the Troja district and heads over to the Troja chateau and the Prague ZOO under the Santa Clara vineyards. The scenery is beautiful there, and the Vltava river adds calm to the run.
View Stromovka run in a larger map
We hope you enjoy the routes that we have prepared, but if you don't like to run alone and look for a guided run, definitely contact our good friend Filippo of the awesome BIKO Adventure tours. In addition to really great bike tours, he also offers interesting jogging tours through Prague. Have fun!