Things to know before you visit Icelandic Thermal Baths and Hot Springs

Last June, I had a chance to visit Iceland. And just like everyone else, I wanted to visit their famous thermal baths.

Bathing in thermal baths or hot springs has long been a part of the Iceland’s tradition and culture.

And many say that these hot springs are infact Iceland’s secret to happiness.

If you are planning to travel to Iceland sometime soon and wish to visit any of their amazing thermal baths then here are a few things you must know before you go.

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Enjoying the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall 

Now, when I speak to those planning a trip to Iceland, so many of them tell me how they must visit the Blue Lagoon. It is a pretty awesome place, yes! But there are a numerous hot springs all across Iceland and each of them has something unique to offer.

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Milky water of Blue Lagoon

Some are very fact, some very busy, some are more relaxed, some come with a package, some with a very high entrance fee, while many are free.

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Went to Nautholsvik geothermal beach which was free to use on my Day 1 in Iceland

Many of these hot springs require a booking before you go and many of the baths don’t;

A few of them are man-made, while some others are completely natural.

From this you would have realised that there is a lot of choice when it comes to thermal baths in Iceland.

But all of them have a common etiquette. Hence it is important to know a few things before you visit any of them.

1. Before you enter, you have to shower nude

Icelanders are very strict about hygiene. Hence, when it comes to bathing in thermal baths, you must shower naked without your bathing suit before entering them.

Mostly these are common showers without a privacy of curtains or cubicles. And of course they are same sex only.

Many a times you will see a few signages around the showers, which advise you to scrub properly  and scrubbing around intimate areas  is needed. Please stick to these rules otherwise you may get a local yelling at you.

And when it comes to showering, let me be clear it requires using shampoo, body wash, conditioner, etc. Many baths provide it close to the shower, but for a free public bath, it is advisable to carry your own.

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Showering is crucial before you enter any thermal bath 

2. Take your shoes off

Yes, you must leave your shoes outside the showering areas. Generally, outside the changing rooms there are dedicated shoe shelves where you can leave your shoes. Or you can even pick up these shoes and bring it to your locker in the changing room.

3. Get a locker

The most important thing that you do after entering the changing room is to get a locker. Don’t worry, at any paid bath or hotspring, a locker is included in the admission fee.  You can store your clothes and belongings there. The key for it is attached to an elastic band which you can put around your wrist or ankle which you can bring to the bath. Many a times the number of the locker is not on the key especially when it is a swipable bracelet. In such a situation it is crucial to remember in which locker you have kept your belongings and you will have to remember the section number too. Many huge baths have a plethora of lockers and you don’t want to be lost inside.

4. Bring your own towel otherwise you will have to rent one

At larger hot springs you can rent towels and slippers but it is the best if your bring your own. You can definitely save some money.

5. Get your slippers

I visited Iceland in June and it was cold!!! The biggest challenge entering a hotspring comes when you have to walk from your changing room to the bath and that too bare feet!! And the same applies when you are going back to the changing room. Hence, it is great to keep your slippers handy.

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Getting into the water from the changing room is a challenge

6. Do not wet your hair

Many say that hot springs have high amount of Silica, hence it’s often advised to avoid wetting your hair as it can become dry and tangled. I have faced this problem when I did dip my hair!

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Yes I did wet my hair and I had to deal with tangled, dry hair for the next couple of days 

6. Choose a quieter time to make the most out of your hotspring experience

Typically, coach tours visit hotsprings daily. But as you’re coming to a thermal bath to relax and rejuvenate, you may want to visit during quieter times  when there is less crowd.

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There was not much crowd when I was at the Secret Lagoon, but almost after one hour, it got really crowded

 

7. Book the transfer in advance

If you are not driving down, then it is best to book your transfer to and from the hotspring in advance along with your ticket to the hotspring to avoid any kind of chaos.

8. Drink lots of water before during and after stepping out

Staying in a hot thermal bath for a very long time can be dehydrating. Hence, keep sipping water before you enter the hotspring. Inside  a large bath such as the Blue Lagoon, you can swipe your bracelet and buy anything to eat and drink. And you can pay for it outside when you are leaving. And after you step out, don’t forget to have fluids on your way back to the hotel.

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Yes, I could buy some red wine too, using my bracelet

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Nothing compares to sipping some wine staring at the 11:30 pm sun!!! Yes, 11:30 pm is when this photo was taken

Final tip

When you enter a hotspring, you will realise that it is a bit hotter at the edge or the periphery of the bath as compared to the area in between. Choose what you like. I loved to stay in hot hot water at the edge in the cold cold Iceland.

Hope you enjoyed reading these tips and with that have a wonderful time in the Icelandic hot springs.

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Indeed, it was warmer at the edges and I spent almost two hours moving from one edge to the other 

 

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Running in the rain

Starting June, the most common run related question I get is ‘how to run in the rain?’

Well, all I can say is that you shouldn’t be scared about running in the rain—you just need to be prepared to embrace it. And if you are prepared then running in the rain can be a delightful experience.

I hope some of these tips will help you run in the rain.

Wear Layers

To begin with, a light jacket is helpful if you intend to run in the rain. It gets windy and sometimes a bit cold even when you are running at a place like humid place like Mumbai. This jacket will also act as a great shield against the rain. Pick one with a hood to cover your head.
If you’re going for shorts, it’s a good idea to wear some compression shorts on underneath to prevent chafing.

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It is great to run in layers and a light jacket will help

Wear Bright colours

Pick up all those bright neons when you step out for a run. It gets a bit dark when it rains and wearing bright colours is the best way to stay visible especially if you are running on the road.

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Bring those Neons out

Carry your money in small waterproof purse

In order to avoid your money from getting wet, carry it in a small waterproof case that fits in your shorts’ or tights’ pocket.

Shoes for your run

When it comes to shoes for your run, take a look at the bottom of your go-to running shoes. If they’re smooth on the bottom it is going to be very hard for you to run without slipping. To be able to run in the rain, your shoes should have a good grip and also some grooves on the soles. A great way to measure is that they should be deeper than one millimetre. This really allow water to run through them and also helps the shoe get a better grip on the road.

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Wearing right running shoes is crucial

Wearing thin socks

Now most running shoes feature upper mesh to let your feet breathe. Because of the mesh, your feet are going to get wet for sure when it rains. Though there’s not much you can do about the mesh on your shoes, wearing thin socks, which don’t absorb as much water, will keep soggy feet from weighing you down. Socks will also help avoid blisters and shoe bites on your wet, numb feet.

Keep yourself hydrated

Now, when it is warm you tend to keep on sipping water at regular intervals. But, when it rains do not forget to hydrate yourself. You might not feel thirsty while you are running in the rain, but post the run you will end up feeling tired and dehydrated. To avoid this, keep on sipping water.

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It is extremely important to hydrate yourself well

Watch the road

The last thing that you want on your run is an ankle sprain. Keep a watch on the road for those puddles and open gutters.

Apply Vaseline

Applying Vaseline on your feet and at the periphery of your clothing is the best way to avoid wet clothing related rashes and blisters.

Avoid running on a tiled surface

Running on tiled surface makes you more prone to slipping. Hence it is best to avoid running on tiled surface.

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Tiles can be tricky during rains, be careful otherwise you will slip

There is nothing more beautiful and liberating than running in the rain. You feel child-like joy splashing water as you run while the rain water rushes down your cheeks. I hope with these tips will you will be able to experience this joy.

Running at KLCC Park in Kuala Lumpur

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and tired of working out indoor in your hotel gym or running on treadmill and are also concerned about hitting the busy KL streets for your run, then head to KLCC Park.

In the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers this green space offers plenty of shade, water bodies and about 1-1.3 km loop. And the best part is that it has a synthetic track for runners.

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The KLCC Park is in the shadow of the twin towers

The KLCC park is right at the city centre and easily accessible!

On my recent work trip to Kuala Lumpur, I was staying at the busy Bukit Bintang and this place was both a run and a cab ride away.

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The park was at a short distance from the very busy Bukit Bintang 

I preferred taking a cab in order to avoid all the traffic and the shopping crowd. And it took me less than 10 minutes to reach from Bukit Bintang to KLCC Park.

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It was a nice shaded route to run, even when I started the run a bit late

At any given point in time, whether it is night or day, this park attracts tourists. And to my luck I found a couple of them who could take good pictures!!!!! Yaayyy!!

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It felt amazing to watch and pass the twin towers, on every single loop taken 

Just because it has a synthetic track doesn’t mean it is a flat course. Nope! It gets a bit rolling in between, but not really in a tough way, rather, in a fun manner!

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There is a bit of elevation that you will notice when you run, but in a fun way! 

You can run here in the morning, during the day time and even till late evening. The park opens at around 7 am and is open till 10 pm.

If you come here in the evening, you will be a witness to the synchronised water fountain and light display. And post run you can have some time to chill at the orchestra theatre.

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The synchronised water fountain and light display if you visit KLCC park in the night

 

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Beautiful view of the twin towers from the park in the night 

Just to give you a background, this beautiful park was conceptualised by renowned Brazilian landscape artist, the late Roberto Burle Marx. It is a approximately a 50-acre urban sanctuary in the heart of the city.

About 6 loops and 8km run later, I headed back to the hotel for a quick meal, before getting on with work. A run at this park definitely made me wonder whether we can have a park such as this in my city Mumbai with a longish synthetic track and under the shade of trees!!!

 

 

Koh Talu-an unexpected and a very private affair

On my recent trip to Thailand, I had the opportunity of visiting a very unique island.

It was about 6 hour drive and a boat ride away from Bangkok. This is the private Koh Talu Island that I am speaking about.

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Koh Talu Island

The journey:

We took Bangkok Airways Flight from Mumbai and Landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. From there we took a van to travel further.

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At Suvarnabhumi Airport

After a few stops we went to the famous Hua Hin railway station which is in fact one of the oldest railway stations in Thailand.

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Royal Waiting room at Hua Hin Station

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Waiting for the train at Hua Hin station

After stopping for lunch, we moved to take a short ferry ride

Koh Talu Island Resort is a 20-minute speed boat ride from the coast of Bang Saphan.

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20 min boat ride to Koh Talu Island resort

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Boat ride to the Koh Talu Island 

A very friendly staff greeted us on board. As the ferry moved forward, the island started disclosing itself. And what we saw was delightful indeed.

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Finally, after a long journey we landed on the Koh Talu Island

Located on a private beach, Koh Talu Island Resort offers rooms with private balconies. It features a massage centre, a private beach and beautiful sea facing restaurant where we enjoyed our evening meal.

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Excitement to capture the sunset after landing on this private beach

The rooms were air-conditioned and spacious.

Next day, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise followed by a run that I enjoyed on the beach. Post breakfast, we headed for water activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling.

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Day started with delicious breakfast 

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Morning run on the island

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Off to dive

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Enjoyed a great dive 

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Post the dive, enjoyed some snorkelling 

After hours of diving and snorkelling we were welcomed by a warm buffet lunch.

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This dive was really amazing, saw many many beautiful creatures 

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On the journey back to the hotel for lunch

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Who likes some fresh crabs? 

Post lunch we went for another dive where we understood how the resort is taking efforts to save and restore corals.

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The Island’s Coral Restoration project

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These corals will be carried to the sea bed and restored again

The island also has a turtle nursery to conserve and breed sea-turtles.

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Met some beautiful baby turtles

The highlight of the day was a boat ride by the beautiful sunset. It was almost one hour long and we enjoyed every minute of it.

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Boat ride at sunset 

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A beautiful end to a beautiful day

This was followed by a sumptuous dinner with seafood and some delightful drinks.

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This was some meal and that too by the sea!!!

Koh Talu truly is a hidden gem. And if you want your time away from the hustle and bustle of this tourist magnet Thailand then this is an island to visit.

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Cannes on the morning run-A runner’s perspective!

Cannes is a city that not just basks in glamour from its rich and famous visitors every year, but it also basks in a lot of sun. Incidentally, I have had the fortune of visiting this city on many occasions. And being a running enthusiast, I have loved running in Cannes. There are many beautiful routes that this city has to offer for us runners. And the best part about this place is that you will see someone running here at any given point in time. So it doesn’t matter if it is early morning, afternoon or late evening, even at night, there is someone always running at Cannes.

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Beautiful and glamorous Cannes! 

Running on Promenade de La Croissette

Promenade de la Croisette stretches along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and is a little over 2.5 km long.  It is known for the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, where the famous Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Lions Festival is held. Many expensive shops, restaurants, and hotels line this promenade and it goes along the coastline of Cannes. If you go a little ahead and run towards Antibes, you can encounter beautiful beaches with clear blue water. I typically run till the end of the sea-front and as soon as this tunnel arrives on the left hand side to take a road towards Antibes, I take a U-turn. This distance till the tunnel from the Cannes Centre is about 4.5 to 5 km.

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Promenade de La Croissette: it begins from the famous Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

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Running on Boulevard du Midi

This boulevard runs nearly 7 km, terminating at the Pullman Royal Casino and it is a very scenic route. You pass La Bocca on the way too.  The promenade is a little narrow in parts, but still very runnable and extremely pretty. All you have to do is keep the sea on your left! That’s your guideline.

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Running on the very narrow Boulevard du Midi. This image was taken was while returning to my hotel at Cannes City Centre.  

 

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The street of Boulevard du Midi Louise Moreau that runs along the seafront of Cannes la Bocca is closed to traffic on the last Sunday of each month so that it can be enjoyed by pedestrians, cyclists, roller bladers and joggers.

If you are running from the Palais then there is only some part near the port where you are not next to the sea. At the beginning near the port you will get to see some spectacular views of the gorgeous looking yachts lined along the old port.

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Yachts lined up along the port 

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Always keep the sea on your left if your are running towards Mandelieu la Napoule from Cannes

If you intend to go a bit further from Pullman you can take a right straight to Mandelieu la Napoule. There is a beautiful running/walking route next to the golf course which is well-shaded too. This is at a distance of about 10 km from Cannes city centre.

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Mandelieu la Napoule is at about 10 km from Cannes city centre

And then you can also combine Promenade de La Croissette and Boulevard du Midi for a long run too.

Running on the beach

It is great to run on sand. Especially, running bare feet on sand can be extremely soothing. However, the beaches around Cannes do not have one extended long sandy coastline. Hence, occasionally you will have to step up on either of the Boulevards and then get on the beach again to be able to go the distance.

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Bear in mind that beaches around Cannes do not have one extended long coastline

Running up to Musée de la Castre

It was in the 12th century, that monks built a castle on top of the hill, now known as Musée de la Castre. In the 14th and 15th centuries, a church was built just under the old fortress – the Eglise Notre Dame d’Esperance – it offers great views over the harbour and city.

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Way to run up to Musée de la Castre

As it was only about 400 years ago, that the roads were laid out. With such close proximity to the harbor and the sea, the fishermen began to make their homes here. The entire approach to Musée de la Castre is extremely steep and lined by beautiful houses. It is a great route for hill repeats.

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View from Musée de la Castre

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Bird’s eye view of Cannes from Musée de la Castre

One can run from Gare des Autobus or take an inner route from Le Suquet which is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cannes. If you start from the Croisette, walk past the old port on your left and head up the windy, cobbled street of restaurants to an old beautiful church and castle.

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If you are starting your ascend from Gare des Autobus…

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Running up the narrow windy stairs from Le Suquet

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Along the charming homes…

 

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A beautiful staircase that takes you to the hill top from Le Suquet

If you want to run in the evening, then route that takes you from Le Suquet is avoidable as it will be too crowded with shoppers and diners alike. It is also good to know that at the foot of the hill leading up to Le Suquet, there is this wonderful Marché Forville (the market) that can be found, along with the many restaurants in the rue Saint-Antoine. It is wonderful to run here early in the morning and it offers a great breather from the hustle and bustle in the city centre.

So be it night or early morning definitely go for a run at Cannes!

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Running in Cannes is a great idea indeed! 

 

 

Prague as it looked on the morning run!

I had a chance to visit Prague in November 2017. And those who have visited this city in the past will agree that it is a tourist magnet. Those taking pictures on the Charles Bridge, those rubbing the bronze statues for luck, posing against the John Lenon Wall and walking into the narrow alleys close to the Castle. You barely get to sigh and admire Prague’s beauty with so many tourists around.  But, if you are a runner and want to experience Prague’s raw beauty sans the tourists, it is the best to run it up.

For us runners, Prague offers great opportunities to see the best sites while fitting in our exercise. It is truly lovely running around Prague’s historic sites (run early to avoid the crowd), along the river, and in the city’s wonderful parks. The hill up to Prague Castle is also a great option too.

In November when I visited, it was cold, windy, sometimes rainy but totally worth the run!

Running on the streets of Prague

The Streets in the morning look absolutely stunning. But, one should beware of the speeding cars and the quick trams. Staying close to the Charles Bridge led me to the fairy tale like paths that eventually lead to the Charles Bridge. Also, crossed a couple of packed trams even at wee hours in the morning.

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Check out the colours!!! 

 

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A packed tram! 

Crossing and running Charles Bridge several times! 

The medieval bridge in the heart of the Czech capital, the Charles Bridge is an unmissable part of any visit to Prague. The best time to see it is when everyone is asleep-in the morning. Although I must admit that 7 AM on Charles Bridge was actually not as deserted of an experience as I imagined it would be. You still have a handful of photographers, morning-walk couples and  a few tipsy revellers stepping out from night clubs. But, in spite of this, it is relatively empty as compared to the day time and even the night time.

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 A rather foggy Charles Bridge! 

 

Running inside Letna Park

I absolutely adored the Letna park. This park offers some stunning views of the entire centre. If you run from the historical centre, you have to cross the Cechuv bridge and go up 200 stairs first but from then on it is fairly flat. You may meet lots of other runners here too.

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Running up, towards the Letna Park

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Spectacular View of the city from the Letna park. Letná’s elevation and location offer commanding views of the Prague Old Town indeed! 

River Side Run

This route basically runs along the Vltava river. It is a beautiful cobbled stone path with amazing views of the river. You may also see a lot of swans swimming along in the river.

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Run along the river Vltava! I got to know that the name of the river comes from the Celtic language and it means wild river. Enough motivation to run wild? 

Running up Petřín Hill

Petřín is a hill in the center of Prague, Czech Republic. It rises above the Vltava River. The hill, almost entirely covered with parks. Also, it is featured prominently in Franz Kafka’s early short story “Description of a Struggle”.

The Petřín Lookout Tower, which strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower, was built atop a hill in 1891. Other sights include the Rose Garden, Mirror Maze, Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, and St Michael Church. There is also a Petřín funicular that links the Malá Strana district with the top of Petřín hill. The passengers were giving stares when they saw us run up rather than taking the funicular.

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This is the Memorial to the victims of Communism at the beginning of Petřín  hill. It is a series of statues in Prague commemorating the victims of the communist era between 1948 and 1989.
It shows seven bronze figures descending stairs. The statues appear more “decayed” the further away they are from you – losing limbs and their bodies breaking open. It represents how political prisoners were affected by Communism.

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 Built as a mini version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Observation Tower was built in 1891! 

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It is a route that can be taken from below the Charles Bridge that leads up to the hill.

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Taken from the Charles bridge! 

 

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A bit of Detour from Charles Bridge towards John Lenon Wall! 

As you make your way back to the Charles Bridge, you can take a bit of a detour. This detour will take you past the John Lennon Wall, covered with grafitti, poems, lyrics, flowers. There are many opportunities to extend the run by exploring additional trails in Petrin Park.

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Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.

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A Charming Restaurant that was opening for Brekkie!!! Well, runners can be monsters on breakfast table. 

Travelling? Don’t worry. You can Still Run!

Whether you are travelling for work or escaping to an exotic location for some rest or a holiday-travelling can interrupt even the most devoted runner’s schedule. With a bit of planning and the right attitude, runners can maintain their training during vacation or an important work trip. In fact, running can be an enjoyable addition to anyone’s travel schedule. Today, we can discuss how can you run when you travel. As they say, ‘the best way to explore a new place is on foot’-running truly helps here!

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With your travel research do some running related research too! 

When you are doing your general travel related research about the places to visit, etc, don’t forget to get a little information about  running at your destination too. Search online for the websites of running clubs or running stores where you will be visiting. They may have routes mapped out and even weekly social runs that you can join.

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A run in Vodelpark, Amsterdam where I saw several brands such as Adidas and Nike Running their own clubs and practice runs on weekends! I joined one such club for stretching! They were nice enough to accommodate me on that day. Otherwise one needs to register on their websites before hand! On the other hand, I knew that Vondelpark was a great place to run, hence I had booked my hostel very close to the park so that I could venture out for a run each morning. 

 

Pack your clothes accordingly

 It does like an obvious advice, but don’t forget to pack running clothes as per the weather conditions of the location. So, look at the weather forecasts for your destination and bring the appropriate clothes. You don’t want to land in shorts and racer back on a route with temperature in single digits.  And do not forget your running shoes. I always keep some space in my bag for the running shoes and running gear. Also, tights which can be worn during a run are also very comfortable to travel in.

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I flew to Reykjavik straight from South of France! And the only tights I had carried was drenched due to a waterfall visit the previous day! As you can see, I am freezing on this run! Thank god I had packed my running gloves. 

Safety First

 Runners often boast of running in the most unique surroundings and situations. But, there are a few precautions to take any time you are running in an unfamiliar city. It’s important to listen to the locals. If your hotel’s employees say it’s not safe to run, then don’t run in that area. There’s no workout that’s so important that you need to risk your personal safety.

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Jerusalem: There was some tension in Jerusalem at the time I had visited the city. And it was only after speaking to a few locals, I ventured out for a run the next day! 

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At Gulmarg, the locals asked us to stick close to the roads and not venture into the trails. Followed this advice too.

Carry GPS or Map to take you back home

I have a tendency to get lost in new places, hence my best friend is the data that I feed on my GPS watch to take me back to the hotel. But, if you don’t have one, downloading an app or two on your phone may come handy or even google maps for that matter.

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Right after taking this picture, I got lost in Berlin. Just couldn’t find my way back. Had to find a restaurant nearby with Wi Fi to find my way back to the hotel. This was a work trip and I had to head back soon to my hotel for a meeting.

Carry some cash

In case if at all you get lost or feel uneasy or simply get tired, it is in your best interest to carry some amount of local currency with you to either take a public transport back home or just take a cab.

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When I ran from Nice, France to Monaco, all by myself, I ran out of water as the distance was way more than what I had calculated! I had to purchase some juice+water to hydrate myself as it was extremely hot and humid at that time of the day. Also, post finishing this run at Monaco, I took a bus back to my stay at Nice Ville. 

Carry your own hydration

In case if you feel thirsty during your run and don’t know whether there are shops on the route where you can buy water- it is the best to carry a small bottle of water that you can sip while running.

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I always take along with me a bottle of water on my runs in a new city. 

And finally, the most important……

DEDICATION. It is most important thing to bring on any trip. It’s not easy to stay focused and dedicated and hence fit in your workouts when you are in that “vacation mode.” Or on a stressful business trip. Decide before you leave home that you will run, come what may!

I hope these tips will help you run when you travel.

 

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Find time, stay dedicated and take good pictures on your runs in a new city! #shotongopro