Parks and people.

July 12th, 2014, 12pm

I enjoy the outdoors, but mostly as a supplement to the indoors. I’ll amble about endlessly, for hours at a time, exploring new cities; seeing what I can see.

But if there’s no home to return to — no studio or office or flat or bed in a hostel or somewhere — I tend not to enjoy it so much. I need a base of operations, where I can crunch the data I’ve just acquired. A place to process and glean what insight I might from the environment I’ve been a part of for a time.

Prague is one of the better cities I’ve lived in, by pedestrian standards. You can easily walk just about anywhere, and the places that are less-accessible, or perhaps way on the other end of the city, you can bring within reach by hopping onto one of the many trams, trains, or buses that weave throughout everything, unobtrusive in their very obtrusiveness. Unnoticeable because they’re as much part of the city as grain in the wood of a tree.

Something I wasn’t expecting a traditional European hub, with its million-and-a-quarter residents, were are the parks scattered throughout Prague. Someone told me — and I don’t know if this is true or not, but it certainly seems to be — that there’s a law on the books that says there must be a park every 800 meters within the city. This assertion certainly passes the sniff test in the city center, where every few blocks you find some kind of green space, full of trees and well-maintained grass. Usually there are people lounging on said grass, climbing said trees, enjoying said greenery. Inhaling it.

In a city this size, which is host to so many tourists and cars and buses and whatnot, I would have expected more pollution. There’s plenty of graffiti, certainly, and in Old Town, which is populated primarily by tourists and those who cater to tourists, there’s pollution of the broken-bottle, noisy-drunk variety, as well.

But if you ride the speedy elevator up to the top of Žižkov Tower — the tallest and (I think) most interesting and beautiful piece of architecture in the city — you can see the expanse of Prague spread out before you, one end to the other. Even on days defined by weather that would lead to inversion-amplified smog elsewhere, Prague’s air is clear and breathable. Not quite tasty, as the air in New Zealand and Iceland can seem after a lifetime living in less isolated communities, but unnoticeable. Like the mass-transit system of the city, the air in Prague is something oft taken for granted, because it is the nature of such a thing to be invisible, at its best.

I’m not an outdoor person, but I can appreciate the social byproducts of parks in urban centers. I walk most places, but I can appreciate the ease-of-use and human-scale utility of interwoven mass transit infrastructure.

A city built for pedestrians tends to be a city that’s just as pleasant for everyone else, as well. Even those of us who tend to hide out after exploring; the view is as pleasant as the experience itself.

Sara, David Wade, Christine and Sanna said thanks.

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Colin Wright

Author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler / I move to a new country every four months based on the votes of my readers / My work ( / My blog ( / My publishing company (

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