When I first started dating my future wife around 12 years ago, one of the first challenges I faced as a ‘suitable’ potential partner was the roller blade test. A skate not on Prague's fairly flat Letná Plain (well okay, we did that too) but a suicidal slalom down a road in Stromovka Park.
It is a story she still remembers with humour and I as well, although at the time it was terrifying and I had dreams about afterwards which left me waking up in a cold sweat! I survived, of course, I didn't scrape off half of the skin on my legs with road rash or anything like that, but we have stuck mostly to flatter routes since then. Last weekend, we experienced one of the best, a scenic stretch of asphalt from Nymburk to Poděbrady along the Elbe River. If the weather is nice, I can highly recommend it.
Plenty of people were about, dressed in sports gear, cycling, jogging, running, blading, you name it. Rarely have I seen so many people out doing sports, yet it never felt crowded, just that people were enjoying their surroundings to the max. Nymburk is a small town which boasts a sports centre with roots in the Communist era, but until now I always associated the town more with Bohumil Hrabal, smokey pubs, and Postrižinecké beer than active lifestyles. But it has changed. Besides older couples walking their dachshunds along the river, there were people running around with hiking poles, mountain bikers zooming by in full downhill regalia, and even a kid who was on a waveboard. The breeze along the river was fantastic, and my wife and I felt freer than in a long time.
Rollerblading on the surface was easy. Rather than a test for me, this time the test was on our six-year-old son, who cycled 15 kilometres in one go, and for our ten-month-old daughter, who was scooted along in her stroller. She had it the easiest but the question was would she tolerate sitting for so long. Well, she did. She marvelled at the view of the river, overhanging trees, historic hydro-electric plants, locks, and a holiday boat or two passing by.
Nymburk has changed in many respects: along the route to Poděbrady there were three or four restaurants, not the railway station-style pubs of 20 years ago, but quality venues with individual touches, from interesting names to imaginative design to quality food. A pretty stand offering bio ice cream made from fresh fruit was arguably the best. I may have missed it way back when, but I distinctly remember a time in small towns like this, where the most likely meal one would get in small pubs was 10 degree beer and head cheese (and there is nothing wrong with that but the choices now are just vast by comparison).
Even the place we stayed was an example: pictures on the wall displayed what was once an ordinary family home in the middle of the town, now carefully redone to look like a rustic restaurant and bed & breakfast. And the appearance was convincing: not at all what I expected in the centre of a town that isn't Český Krumlov or Telč. A quaint, cozy, and tasteful space that felt like a country cottage, but at the same time in the evening was packed with young people talking over drinks and music.
After a busy day, many who had been out packed up their sports gear to have a good time. Of all places, in Nymburk, east of Prague.
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