Tag Archives: Girl In Czechland

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?


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Making your Czech home a castle – and stumbling on history

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If there’s one thing the Czech Republic has in abundance – apart from topless canoeists* and cakes intended to be eaten at breakfast – it is castles.

Explore the Bohemian countryside by car and you’ll find that even the most modest village (including the one where Czechman was born) has a zamek, even if it’s where the local kids had to do gym class back in the dark days of Communism.

A sceptical English lady knows better than to believe everything she reads in the press, but one particular recent front page article from Lidové noviny did catch my attention.  Apparently it is possible to buy a chateau for the same price it would cost to buy a modest flat in a Prague suburb. My Czech is only good enough to get the general gist so I can’t promise whether said castle would have all the mod cons that a spoilt and Western woman such as myself has come to expect – central heating, running water, that kind of thing.

Chateau Angličanka? Sadly not.

However, despite the potential drawbacks, there is something appealing about the idea of inviting people to come and stay in the West Wing of your palace rather than offering them an inflatable sofa bed in the living room.

One day perhaps.

In the meantime, Czechman and I have pooled our collective financial resources and purchased a modest flat in Prague 7. Chateau Angličanka did require some renovation. Notice I said “renovation”, not “reconstruction”!

There was an abundance of nasty wooden panelling halfway up all the walls in the living room.  The kitchen had been installed long before Ikea was even a twinkle in a Swedish man’s eye. There were several layers of linoneum covering with headache inducing geometric patterns to be dragged to the skip. And even though it isn’t a castle, we still had to have new central heating installed. Even the chunkiest leg-warmers couldn’t keep me feeling toasty otherwise.

Lifting up that lino did lead to an interesting discovery.  Sadly the floorboards weren’t lined with gold but we did find lots of old newspaper:

These are pages from Rudé Pravo, the daily national newspaper which acted as a Communist mouthpiece. They date from the 1950s, a decade during which the regime carried out show trials of key party members such as Rudolf Slansky.

I feel hugely unqualified to say anything much about the terrible crimes committed by the regime at that time. However, there is something eerie and oddly moving about stumbling across a tiny piece of history from that period.  If you are interested in learning more about what happened at that time, then I strongly recommend Reflections of Prague by Ivan Margolius. His father, a leading member of the Communist party and a co-defendent in the Slansky trial, was executed following a show trial when Ivan was just seven.

They say that in a city like Prague, history is all around you but somehow it all becomes more immediate when you stumble across a small piece of it in your new home.

If this is all rather too serious in tone for you, fear not loyal readers. Next time I’ll offer a personal perspective on the perils and pleasures of topless canoeing through South Bohemia  – complete with photographic evidence.

I’m joking, of course.

*If you are in doubt as to the veracity of this claim, please see the comments section of my last post.


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