Hitting the pavement around Prague
I don’t know about you, but I hate exercising for the sake of exercising. Shelling out 90-200 CZK to be cooped up in a fitness center, drinking in the aroma of other people’s sweat, counting down the seconds until you can finally step off the elliptical machine, it just doesn’t appeal to me. But with swimsuit season less than two months away, I gotta get rid of my winter padding somehow. Luckily, Prague offers a variety of outdoor spaces to “sport.” All Czechs seem to have a specialized hobby, whether it’s cycling, badminton or walking the tightrope, and lately I’ve noticed that rollerblading is really taking off. I thought it was as good an endeavor as any, and after a thorough consultation with my rollerblader friends and my own research, I felt like I was ready to don my ‘blades and hit the pavement around Prague.
A wise man once told me: you can touch bottom anywhere in the ocean…just that your head might not be above water (and might explode from the pressure). The same goes for rollerblading in Prague—you could probably grab onto the back car of the tram and have a fun ride through the city, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I’ve compiled a list of popular and relatively safe places for skating in and around the city.
Probably the premiere place in the city to strap your skates on, Ladronka boasts a 4.2 km figure eight track with lighting for evening skating. It’s slightly graded so you get the feel of going up and downhill but not so much that you fly out of control. The downside: the surface is so smooth that it’s often crowded after work and on the weekends. The 17th century Ladronka manor houses a restaurant, a bowling alley and sports equipment rental, including inline skates.
RENTAL: 1h-90 CZK 2h-170 CZK 4h-330 CZK
DEPOSIT: 1000 CZK
OPENING HOURS: Mon-Fri 2pm-9pm Sat-Sun 12-9pm
Stromovka to the Zoo
Beautiful, leafy Stromovka offers some options for rollerblading. What it lacks in surface quality, it makes up for in the way of scenery, though there’s new asphalt in the vicinity of the zoo. If you need to rent rollerblades, enter the park by Výstaviště and keep veering right. About five to ten minutes in, you’ll see a café with a banner saying inline-brusle půjčovna. Then, keep on going through the park to the river, following the path to Troja. You might work up a thirst, but don’t worry, in Stromovka there are various cafes and seasonal refreshment stands by the river.
RENTAL: 70 CZK per hour
DEPOSIT: 1500 CZK
OPENING HOURS: Mon-Fri 12pm-9pm Sat-Sun 11-midnight
Again, not the best surface for in-line skating, with some cracks and usually an array of sticks cluttering the path, but it’s flat and skate rental is handy (AC Sparta stadium complex, tram stop Sparta). But, who am I kidding, the main reason for rollerblading in Letná is the beer garden, which has a gorgeous river view with the spires of the Old Town providing an atmospheric backdrop.
RENTAL: 1h-50 CZK 2h-80 CZK 3h-120 CZK…1 day (24 h) 300 CZK
DEPOSIT: 2 forms of identification or cash deposit of value of rollerblades
OPENING HOURS: everyday 12-8pm
This path stretches along the river from the city center all the way to Zbraslav, though I recommend starting somewhere after Vyšehrad (perhaps from tram stop Podolská vodárna) for cobblestone reasons. There’s approximately 13km of good skating, including a newly opened part from the golf course to the Freestyle Skate Park. The path narrows in places, making for a bit of traffic, especially on the weekends, but the surface is excellent. Refreshments are available every few kilometers and you can rent rollerblades in the recreational center Žluté lázně by tram stop Dvorce.
RENTAL: 1h-80 CZK 2h-140 CZK 3h-200 CZK
DEPOSIT: 2000 CZK
OPENING HOURS: everyday 9-8pm
For the die-hard ‘bladers, a day trip might be a better choice. Two popular routes include the path along the Elbe (Labe) from Nymburk to Poděbrady or any stretch of the 60km path from Ústí nad Labem to Dresden.
Now that I had some idea of where to go, I wondered what to wear for such an outing. One time I went jogging with a group of Czechs and got laughed out of town for wearing wind pants—they asked me if I was going skiing. The dress code for rollerblading seems to be more relaxed than that, but I did note that the skimpier the outfit the better—on the bottom something short and tight, and a bikini or tank top on the upper half. I even saw one girl in full swimsuit (I’m trying not to sound judgmental here). I settled for a t-shirt and shorts. Skimpy is not my thing.
I decided to do the Modřanská trail backwards and hopped on a bus from Smíchovské nádraží to Zbraslav, bus stop Most Závodu míru . The only kink in the plan was not being able to rent rollerblades in Žluté lázně, but I’m quite squeamish about rented footwear anyways—rent a foot fungus I always say—so I just borrowed a pair from a friend. Buying your own isn’t so expensive if you plan on doing it regularly. Of course the usual suspects—Hervis, Sportisimo, Intersport—sell rollerblades, but it’s worth at least visiting a specialty shop to get some expert advice, even if you don’t end up buying them there. Check out JB Sport at various Prague locations or In-Line-Brusle in Vršovice.
After arriving in Zbraslav, I crossed the bridge to the other side of the river, put my rollerblades on and cautiously started rolling. I had gone less than a kilometer when I spotted the first watering-hole. Even though I live in the Czech Republic, I’ve never jumped on the whole exercise-beer bandwagon—I prefer water—but I can be tempted by a radler (shandy) every now and again. I decided to save a refreshment stop as motivation for reaching the end of the trail.
As I was gliding along, and enjoying the river vista, only one thing kept me from completely relaxing: dodging the pedestrians and stroller-bladers, and keeping out of the way of the cyclers. I guess popularity is the price you pay for such a nice path, although nothing a good rearview mirror couldn’t fix. Despite the traffic, I arrived in Palackého náměstí in one piece, sweaty but content. While sipping my hard-earned radler, I reflected on my rollerblading adventure. I had enjoyed it so much that I forgot I was exercising—mission accomplished.
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