Local Run Spot

My local park. Life could be worse

Despite the fact that my recent move to a flat place with convenient shops and metro stop has led to a bit of sedentary laziness, I am spoiled as regards good local parks. This isn’t uncommon in Prague, as this city was ranked last year as the world’s greenest city. Much of my area is covered in trees and parks, so finding a place to jog isn’t hard. Where I choose to do my red-faced huffing and puffing is a few minutes’ walk away at a wonderful park called Hvězda (star).

Like most other things in Prague, it’s got a history. In the late 900s (i.e. Bob Hope’s 5th birthday), the forest was donated to the Břevnov Monastery’s grounds. About 500 years later it became a walled in game reserve for Ferdinand II. And part of the grounds were involved in the historic Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Now it’s a park noted for its birds and other animals. Visitors can enjoy sightings of the Middle spotted woodpecker, the narrow-mouthed whorl snail, and, today, the short-legged North American red-faced cry-jogger.     

Today I do my run routine along the long packed dirt boulevards and, when I’m feeling a bit more John Muir, down the paths which meander through the woods. The day before we had epic rainstorms in Prague, so there are a number of these whorl snails on the sides of the trail. They’re big. Naturally, many of my neighbors enjoy the park for walking and running and cycling. There’s shade and a playground. There’s a grassy square in the middle of the park, which sits in front of a castle. On the grass people have picnics and play soccer and sunbathe.

Today, I finish my run, breath one step away from hyperventilating, and head towards the gate. It’s there that I spot Burke, who has also taken up what she calls “podcast walking” at the park. She is sitting in the shade of a tree in the pub’s garden, and she is slightly red-faced behind a beer. Because, like just about everything else in Prague, there’s a pub just outside the gate of the park.

If you’ve spent an extended period of time in Prague (or the Czech Republic), you have no doubt noticed buildings of a local organization called Sokols. These were developed in the mid-1800s to promote health and exercise to young Czech men. If you have done any sports in the Czech Republic (martial arts, weightlifting, gym workouts, basketball, floorball) there’s a good chance you have spent time in a Sokol. And then, after you were done working out, you walked into the building’s pub and had a beer.     

It’s no secret that the Czechs love beer. But I have always admired the attitude that completing a good workout deserves a good beer. Why not? But as an American it’s hard for me to equivocate this in U.S. terms. I mean, imagine leaving the YMCA’s pool and having a beer in the café.

I sit in the garden with Burke and the waitress brings me a beer. It goes down like a wingless plane and she brings another. I push away my concern about wasting a workout to the wiles of beer and focus instead on the overwhelming joy of having just completed a hard workout and having my beer needs literally catered to.

Perhaps the best part of living in a new neighborhood is finding new places and things around you. We have thus far found three pubs, three parks, and a brothel. But I’m not sure if a pub across the street from my running spot is such a great thing for my waistline. I’ll probably nix out any physical gains. Hell, at least I’ll be faster than the whorl snail. Hell, maybe I’ll bring one for a beer next time.

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