There is a part of Brno that, unless you ride a bike, rollerblade, jog, push a baby carriage or walk for exercise, you may not know about. Yet, many people will tell you that it is one of the best places to get a workout and a big reason that the City of Brno is so livable.
What is it, you ask? Here are some more hints.
It is roughly 18 kilometers long;
It follows the Svratka River from the northern border of the city to the southern border of the city;
It is lit 24 hours a day during the summer and deep into the evening during the rest of the year;
It is where, even on the hottest summer days, you will see a steady stream of people sweating through workouts;
It is where, even in the snowy dead of winter, you will find joggers;
It does not require a membership fee or a contract because it is completely free of charge;
and it is, for many people, the city’s fitness backbone.
If you still don’t know what it is, then it may be time for you to become more active: it is the Svratka River Bike Path that connects Olympia Shopping Center in the south to the Brno Lake (Brněnská přehrada) in the north.
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The Svratka River Bike Path is part of a large network of dedicated, smooth-surface paths that cut through Brno. It has been put together in pieces over the past decade. It crosses only six major roads. It has several bridges. And it has many branches to different parts of the city. It has one tunnel that goes under a busy street. It has one big hill and several side-routes that use both sides of the river.
Most people use the bike path for exercise or commuting/exercise. Biking is, of course, the key activity and it as a good connection to longer routes to the south and to the north.
Running continues to gain in popularity throughout the region and you can find joggers at any time of the day. In fact, parts of the bike path are used for night runs, winter runs and TriExpert events throughout the year.
Rollerbladers are commonplace, as are people who prepare for cross-country skiing with dry-land equipment. Skateboarders and push scooters require some physical exertion. And, a few years ago, large-front-wheel scooters caught on to exercise the entire torsos with one long stride on one side and another long stride on the other side.
There are many fitness facilities along the bike path, including urban jungle gyms, basketball courts, tennis courts, beach volleyball courts, BMX tracks, mountain bike trails, a skate park, rock-climbing locations and boating areas. Basically, pretty much any kind of athletic endeavor you wish to pursue is within meters of the Svratka River Bike Path.
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The bike path, however, is not entirely reserved for exercise. Many use it to get to work or to the train station or Vankovka and the city center, so speeds are variable and people can become obstacles.
Nowadays, there are also many motorized conveyances that zip along the bike path. Most are under control. Some are not.
There are motorized skateboards with remote controls and many kinds of motorized scooters, which are apparently not strong enough for the roads and not too strong to be bike-path legal. There are also single-wheel contraptions with little platforms on either side that are ridden like snowboards an even helmeted guys on a single motorized wheels that look like upright skydivers as they fly down the path.
These all provide very little in terms of fitness, unless standing awkwardly against the oncoming wind is good for calf and leg muscles.
The real anti-exercise aspect of the bike path is the constant siren song of beer. There are at least dozen places to take a break. One is a high-end restaurant. Others are little more than shacks. (Just be careful with beer; at least three times last year, I witnessed police setting up a sting operation to catch inebriated bike-path users.)
Unlike many other bike paths in this country the Svratka River Bike Path does not have a central line to separate the flow of traffic. Most of the time people stay to the right, but occasionally, usually older people, consider the bike path to be a road and walk on the side of oncoming traffic. This often adds to the potential danger of using the bike path, not to mention the high-speed bikers and rollerbladers who are overly aggressive.
A great idea for a workout is to start at the Olympia Shopping Mall and go north. Olympia is easily accessible and it has plenty of parking. Of course, the bike path can be joined anywhere along the entire route. The highlights are:
The Olympia backyard area is packed with activities;
Komec, the area of south Brno between Sokolova and Kširova Streets, has several places for refreshments, like U Lampy on the east side of the river and U Řeky on the west side. There is also a former factory that has been changed into a rock-climbing place, a skate park, two BMX tracks, the Draci baseball stadium, an urban jungle gym and many outdoor toys for kids. The east side has Jižanský dvorek with many animals; try to spot the kangaroos.
By The Way Restaurant (btwrestaurace.cz) is a pricy restaurant that serves American-style food. It has many beach volleyball courts.
Anthropos is the archeological branch of the Moravian Museum system; and
Sportovní areál Hroch (sporthroch.cz) is where the Cardion Hroši play baseball and there is a large play area for kids and courts for adult games.
This bike path, of course, continues in both directions. The south end has an another branch that goes through fields and into Tuřany. If you take a left-hand turn when you reach the street you can return to Olympia and to a dedicated bike path or, at the main traffic light, cross to lightly travelled roads that will take you all the way to Vienna.
At the north end, the route peters out with normal residential streets that wind through Bystrc. There are signs and markings that guide bicyclists all the way to the Brnensky prehrada, which opens up a whole new area to explore.
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