Podolí: Girl in Czechland’s Guide to Prague’s Outdoor Swimming Complex

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I’m back from my Greek Odyssey. I have a suntan of sorts: we English folk don’t really go brown, just a slightly darker shade of pale. Czechman and I like to joke about it: before I was Mozzarella white, now I’m more of a smažený sýr.

Anyway, although I did have a lovely holiday since I’ve returned to Czechland I’ve been in a grumpy mood. Yes, yes, I’m well aware that life can’t be one long vacation but that doesn’t stop me wishing I was back on an Ionian island.

What to do to recapture a little holiday magic? Head to Prague’s biggest outdoor swimming pool, Podolí.

I first discovered its existence thanks to a Prague guidebook I picked up in London years before moving here. I remember it was published by coolhunter’s bible Wallpaper* magazine.

The fact that it’s taken me three years to make it there is perhaps an indication of just how hip I am.

There are three pools: two outdoor, one indoor. Once you’ve overcome the trauma of nude showering (there are menacing signs in capital letters ordering you to rinse yourself without your swimming costume on before taking a swim) there are other obstacles to overcome. Like avoiding the packs of teenagers who’ve clearly just come here to pose – sorry, hang out – rather than do any exercise. After all, who can manage to breaststroke while wearing a straw triby at a jaunty angle?

Having said that, the grandmas don’t bother to take off their glasses. I suppose that’s forgiveable as it’s more about practicality than style. Beware though: despite being able to see where they’re going, the grannies still move slower than a giant sea turtle who happens to be going very slowly because he left his specs at home.

It’s not just the teenagers perched on the edge of the pool who couldn’t give a monkey’s about swimming. Almost every bit of the scorched grass is covered with sunbathers, some of them topless. I knew there was a reason Czechman liked coming here so much.

There are refreshments on sale. A thought occurs: perhaps if my local swimming baths had provided draught beer poolside my Dad could have been persuaded to take me there more often.

Or indeed ever.

If you feel that fizzy alcohol, physical exertion and sunshine don’t mix then you can always buy an ice-cream instead. And the pools are not only an Olympic sized 50 metres (well, two of them are anyway) they’re also pretty deep. As any lifeguard on duty is most likely mesmerised by all the boobs it’s probably best to minimise your chances of drowning by staying off the beers and only swimming near the edge so you can easily take a rest if you start to flag.

After I get tired of dodging bespectacled grannies and frolicking adolescents, I retreat to the spectator’s stand for a bird’s eye view of the madness. From this distance it looks as though the swimmers are trying to spell out a message in a kind of synchronized semaphore but can’t quite manage it. What a clever observation, I think to myself.

Perhaps I could use it along with a few more of my usual witty observations as the material for my next blog post?

P.S To get to Podoli you need to take a tram to Kublov, which is thankfully a mere five minute walk away from the swimming complex itself. The 3 and 17 both go there. The price you pay depends on the amount of time you plan to spend in the pool: if you exceed the time on your ticket you’ll have to cough up extra to get out. There’s some kind of all day ticket at this time of year if you go through the summer entrance but I didn’t manage to find it. Next time, eh?

20 Comments

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20 Responses to Podolí: Girl in Czechland’s Guide to Prague’s Outdoor Swimming Complex

  1. Hi GIC,
    I’ve been here nearly four years & still haven’t visited any of Prague’s outdoor pools though I’ve known of their existence & have previously passed by the Podoli complex. So thank you for this post about your recent visit, written in your usual inimitable style.

    What I have done in previous summers, is drive south out of Prague to the large lake behind Slapy dam. There you can swim from & sunbathe on one of the numerous grassy ‘beaches’ scattered along the lakeside without having to worry about slow moving grannies 🙂 Our favourite is in the village of Ždán where there is a bar- restaurant alongside the beach serving both beer & ice cream. And it being the Czech Republic, bikini tops are frequently absent!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ricky,

      I know that lakes and dams are also popular outdoor swimming venues here in Czechland. Swimming in the wild outdoors is something that I’ve tried (and enjoyed) during a weekend chez Le Village People but I wondered if you (or indeed anyone else) know of any which are easily accessible from Prague without a car?

      GIC

      • Hi again GIC – thank you for your prompt reply. You’re right – it is much easier to reach some of these remoter lakeside beaches when you have access to a car as I do. However, there is a regular bus service from Prague to Slapy village for example & it shouldn’t be too far a walk to get from the village to the lakeside.

      • Poděbrady: we used to go there when I was a child. Also heard of people swimming at lakes in Sadská and Čelákovice. It should all be accessible by train or bus, not sure how long from Prague. As I’m not much of a swimmer myself, I’m not sure of the current situation there either, and the lake in Poděbrady in particular takes a long walk from the train station and you still have to pay for entrance, but I thought of starting you up with a few tips until next summer…

  2. I love Podoli! Swimming outside is so much more fun than in a sweaty claustrosphic indoor pool. My first trip to Podoli was mid-winter, when the outdoor pools are heated and you can (relatively happily) swim lengths whilst looking out at the snow. Amazing!
    I also went there recently with my 3 year old nephew who loved the kids’ pool area.
    The changing facilities are less than lovely, but in the summer it’s not really an issue.
    Happy summer!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ms Czeching In,

      I knew the outdoor pools were heated all year round but I didn’t realise swimming in them during the snowy season was actually possible without being insulated by lots of goose fat like a cross-channel swimmer! Watching the snow though while doing a couple of lengths does sound like an amazing experience: perhaps I’ll give it a try if I fortify myself with some mulled wine first…

      GIC

      • Richardinprague

        Hi, Helen and GIC,

        Not only are tops missing, but everything else is also missing from sunworshipers on the roof of the summer changing zone! It came as a shock to me on my first visit to Podoli when I first came here!

        In the winter they put down a strip of carpet for you to walk on between the foot-baths and the pool – otherwise you can freeze to the pavement en route to the pool!

        A nice experience to swim in the snow, though 🙂

  3. Radek

    Hey GIC, i would guess bespectacled grannies would happily lose their glasses, but they simply need them. I know exactly how they feel being 4 dioptres shortsighted myself. And although I don’t mind my glasses most of the time (I even look better with them), I absolutely hate them when swimming. Always being worried that they fall from my head to the bottom of that deep pool. Forget wearing any stylish sunglasses, for dark lenses+ no dioptres = total blindness. Those are the joys of being bespectacled.
    But without them I wouldn’t be able to avoid other swimmers, wet slippery spots on the tiles and other dangerous situation or even my spot on the grass. So the choice among risking the injury, red irritated eyes from contact lenses and chlorine water combination or wearing glasses is easy. Yet it wouldn’t come to my mind that there might be someone who laughs at it.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Radek,
      Oh no! I don’t want to gain a reputation as someone who laughs at the unfortunate! I’m rather shortsighted myself (an impressive 8 dioptres) but am vain and therefore opt for the red-eyed contact lenses wearing look when swimming. I never recall seeing anyone wearing glasses in the pool before which is why I mentioned it in the post. Does anyone else think this is unusual or is it just me?

      GIC

  4. Sarka

    A giant sea turtle is “he”? I thought animals in English (without referring to their sex) are all “it”.

    During reading your post I had to check the dictionary more often than ever before 🙂 (some of the the new words and phrases: “a straw triby at a jaunty angle”, “specs”, “dodging bespectacled”). I’m not quite sure if I will manage to use them in a normal conversation.

    Have a nice hot summer in Prague. I’m dying of hot in Moravia :-/

  5. Pavel

    Welcome back to Praha and blogging! Although during your absence I was unloyal with http://alicia-prague-blog.com/, six year old Prague blog! Very literary, some kind of Bukowski, but where Bukowski is macho, she is feminist.
    Podolí is for me kind of nightmare, from uderground shower, dressing room and sauna filled with greasy older stinking gays (not guys), crowded pools, retarded teens all over etc. But winter swiming in snow, warm water and clouds of steam in outside pool is excitement.

    • Marcus

      When I went there in early Sept. 2013, the men and women showers were separate so I don’t know why the author talks about nightmare of showering nude.
      Also, the sauna’s were not available and the life guard says maybe they will be available next year.

      • girlinczechland

        Just to clarify Marcus, I don’t like showering in the nude, even in front of members of the same sex. It’s my prudish English upbringing – what can I say?

        GIC

  6. 3boys

    Try the ice cold pool in Divoka Sarka. Private changing rooms, table tennis, pivo, obcerstveni. Take the tram to the Mcd’s by the park and walk to the pool. Also there’s a 50m pool behind Prague Castle that also has a long water slide and a rooftop sundeck. It’s right outside the North entrance to the Strahov Tunnel.

  7. “smažený sýr” tan 😀 😀 😀
    That’s golden. Literally!

  8. Gryllus

    As for wild swimming within the range of the Prague public transport, I can recommend at least two places. 1. Dolnopocernicky rybnik (you should be able to google it up – it is that big lake with an island). Take the S1 train from Masarykovo Nadrazi (or S7 from Hlavni nadrazi) to Praha-Dolni Pocernice (still in the core zone), use the subway to cross the rails and continue in the direction of the crossing till Novozamecka street. Turn right and follow Novzamecka (paralell to the train tracks, continuing in the direction away from city center) till its end, turn towards the train tracks and then follow a narrow lane between the rail and some allottment gardens (still in your original direction, not back). This will take you to the dam of the lake; the best swimming area is on the side close to the rail tracks, accessible via a footpath (the big meadow on the google maps photo). Expect great water and no facilities/services (except of regular mowing of the meadow) and approx. 1.2 km walk. 2. A nice pond accessible by bus 261 from Cerny Most – station Svepravice (the bus goes two to four times per hour). Get out of the bus in Svepravice, continue in the direction of the bus to the next crossing and turn right along a long wall of a private park. The street will take you across a bridge over the highway, turn right after the bridge and left at the next crossing (there you will already see lots of parked cars by the lake). It is approx. 0,5 km walk, there are even some facilities but the water tends to be rather green with algae (not of the dangerous kind, though) and it is usually crowded since it has a direct car access.

  9. Hi,
    I have started swimming recently in Podoli quite often (well, foursquare tells me 33 visits in 20 weeks) and can offer you some tips on how to make your visit little bit better 🙂
    – if you go there to exercise during summer time, the best time is during “bad” weather which is the worst enemy of those teenage visitors and most of the grannies as well (this applies for outside pool, some of those people retract inside)
    – as already mentioned, the outside pool is very usable even during winter. Actually, it was the best times in my experience. I had only one problem – it took me 5 visits to find the outside pool entrance as I have 5 dioptre 😀
    – other option is go there after 20:00, because that’s the time, when summer entrace get closed and majority of those non-exercising summer visitors are leaving. The whole pool is open till 21:45. Of course, you need to enter via the “winter” entrance, but you were already there
    – if you would be using the winter entrance more often, getting the chip card is recommended option as it makes the visits cheaper and you are flexible with timing (40,50,60,90 minutes with different prices automatically applied on exit). It pays back fast especially, when your visits are shorter than 60 minutes + when charged, you get some bonus points.
    That’s about it 🙂 I will probably never see you there my sight without glasses is mole like. And btw – wearing glasses in pools is strange by any standard, but I can understand older people, who can be very lost without them.

  10. Pavel

    I forget my hot summer bath tip : believe me, use it, you will be satisfied.
    “Na knížecí”(Anděl metro stop second exit) platform 3 , bus directon
    to Cholín, Borotice. For example
    Praha,,Na Knížecí 8:10
    Borotice,Cholín 9:09
    From Monday to Friday is going every hour , on weekends fewer.
    In Cholín get off the bus. And now:you are right on this place: http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chol%C3%ADn
    150 m far from water, 15 m from terrace of big restaurant with cheap beer and noon menus, evening grill, 40 m to big bridge and nice view.
    On other side of road is big camp with good pricess, rooms and chatas.
    I don´t like camps, but bathing there is awesome. Far fewer people, big lake, trees and sailboats. When you will cross the bridge, turn to right and go around bank, look for place you like.
    Another option is beach in camp.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Pavel,

      I’ve still only tried outdoor swimming in the village and Podoli but who knows, perhaps I’ll give your suggestion a try. Czechman is always encouraging me to get my nose out of a book and be a bit more sporty so who knows – if the sunshine works his emotional blackmail may finally have the desired effect!

      GIC

  11. Bella

    Hello, Girl. Thank you for your observations. I am married to an Englishman living in Prague and I must say that majority (of your observations) ring a bell. And, also, a lot of foreigners living here slip into the routine of living their expat lives, not bothering with making a distinction of what is around them.
    A small remark perhaps on the point you made about feeling uncomfortable about the naked showering: I feel the same level of discomfort when I see people shower in their swimming costumes or not at all when in England (or many other countries, for that matter). The reason is simple: hygiene (do I need to go further?) I spent my childhood swimming and going around the country on swimming competitions so I can testify that it is a cultural thing (which, nevertheless and unfortunately, seems to be vanishing now). But then again, a swimming pool with 50 unwashed people in it is still cleaner than a natural pond or a lake, I suppose.

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