Quit Yer Stalin
This is the view of Prague from the site of the old Stalin memorial (pictured below right). The view is memorable, the disrepair of the site lamentable.
Saturday (April 28) was a glorious day in Prague. The weather was picture-perfect -- sunshine, around 75 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, lilacs and horse chestnut trees abloom.
I went out on a ride with Mark Baker and with Nino Tasca, a colleague from work who's also a serious athlete (like the Ironman kind). He recently arrived in Prague from New York and wanted to know some cycling routes.
He lives in Smichov, so we decided to do the Bakerloo Run, but in reverse.
Mark and I met at the metronome in Letna park, overlooking Prague. It's the site where a massive 50-meter-high marble statue of Stalin and a line of Soviet "workers" used to look out over the city. It was erected in 1955, and only stood for seven years.
Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev denounced Stalin's reign, and Moscow ordered that the statue be removed. It was, in 1962, with something like 800 kg of explosives.
It's said that many of those who were associated with the monument died mysterious and tragic deaths. The only thing tragic about the site now is its decrepitude.
A giant metronome was placed on the site in the early '90s. The metronome is actually kinda cool (when it's actually working, that is), and the location overlooking all of Prague draws hundreds of tourists and locals every day.
The problem is that the site is filled with trash and broken glass and covered in graffiti. The paving stones are missing in several large patches. It's an eyesore. Imagine if the terraces at Sacre Coeur in Paris were in the same condition. It's disgraceful.
I'll never understand why the city of Prague doesn't spend a few thousands dollars to clean up places like this. They seem to have plenty of money to cut down trees in the city!
Nino and Mark crossing the very busy highway bridge near Branik, and the view from the bridge (below right).
Anyway, Mark and I cycled through Mala Strana and met Nino at Frank Gehry's famous "Dancing Building" along the river. We then cycled up the Vltava along a very nice bike path, and then crossed the river on a busy highway bridge near Branik to connect with another riverside path opposite.
We then headed up a highway to Hlubocepy, and through a beautiful park that winds its way up a valley to Nova Ves.
Cyclists along the river are treated to some funky urban art.
There's a very, very steep path up the side of a hill that takes you up to Stodulky. I'd never gone up it, only down. Let me just say it gives the Hill of Doom a run for its money. But I made it.
We then cycled on a bike path that snakes its way through the panelaks of Stodulky before connecting with Repy. Another very steep hill connects you with Bila Hora. I had doubts three-quarters of the way up that hill about whether I could make it. I was hurting. But I stuck it out and reached the top.
The worst was over.
At Bila Hora, we came across a five-car accident that had just happened. Five cars that were all stuck together, front to end. Still more testament to the awful driving skills of Czech drivers. They were all obviously following one another too closely. Cyclists don't stand a chance in this kind of environment.
It doesn't appear as if Czech drivers ever learned that old adage about keeping one car length between you and the driver ahead.
We continued to cycle through Hvezda park, past the Star House, onto Veleslavin, through Brevnov and Stresovice, and back to Prague 6.
At 36.5 kilometers, it wasn't a particularly long ride, but it was very difficult, at least for me.
Nino and I take a breather in front of the Star House in Obora Hvezda.
Let me just say for the record that the so-called Bakerloo Run is a bitch going backward!
Length of ride: 36. 5 kilometers
Average speed: 15.8 kph
Maximum speed: 39.1 kph
Time on the bike: 2.17.27
Temperature: 75 degrees F.
Total distance for 2007: 528 kilometers
Nino was a great cycling companion. (He's also desperate to find out where he can buy real Gatorade in Prague. Anyone know?)
We conquered some tough hills, saw some lovely sights, and avoided any flats (despite a run-in along the Vltava with another thorny branch (pictured right).
We somehow also managed to avoid any beer stops along the way.
OK, so it wasn't a perfect ride ...
It's impossible not to stop and admire spectacular displays like this one, of tulips and pansies in Stresovice. (photo by Mark Baker © 2007)