Prague is the Florence of Central Europe. Stand in its center gawking at Staromestské Námestí’s towering Tyn and St. Nicholas Churches, and you will understand the comparison. Like its Italian cousin, however, Prague can be a frustrating place to run. No matter which bank of the Vltava River you delve down you will encounter cobblestones, traffic, and hoards of tourists. The city has definitely been discovered – it ranks with London, Paris, and Rome in numbers of annual visitors – and at the height of the season running here is as easy as jogging through a crowd exiting a football game.
But it’s hard to blame the camera-wielding multitudes around you. After just a moment on Charles Bridge, taking in the winding streets of Staré and Nové Mesto on the east bank and the hills to Malá Strana and Hradcany Castle in the west, it’s clear that Prague is a must-visit for travelers of all active inclinations. Just use some forethought and planning, and you can get in some great runs during an unforgettable visit.
- Cobblestones: Seriously. They are everywhere, and especially in the center of town you can’t avoid them. If you have a problem with your joints, or worry that if you continuously run over them you may, it is best to walk across town to the running route.
- Tourists: After 10 a.m. the streets are full to overflowing with folks doing the tourist shuffle, and you can only move as fast as the person in front of you. Also, as the throngs are caught up with photo-shooting and marionette-shopping, they are not watching out for you. It’s best to keep your eyes open and music at a low volume when in town.
- Marionettes: Hand-carved marionettes are a traditional craft in this region. You will see many complex, fine pieces in Prague, as well as smaller, more affordable works. This is a neat aspect of Czech culture to explore, unless you’ve got something against Pinoc chio or have seen Chucky one too many times.
Did you know? Kafka wasn’t a runner. But the Modern master of surrealist narrative was born to German-Jewish parents in Prague in 1883. You can still find the house where he was born near St. Nicholas Church in Staromestské Námestí (Old Town Square), and a musuem bearing numerous artifacts from his life is just across the Charles Bridge.