Cigs, Fur and a Run. Czechia.


I’m on a mission to run in every European country to raise awareness for Parkinson’s Disease which has sidelined my super athletic father. In the process, I’ve found my mission isn’t just to support PD sideliners but to encourage everyone to Run to Win – to lace up your sneakers and go for it – whatever that is, whatever the obstacles. And this blog is where I share my adventures along the way.

Czechia – the Czech Republic, formerly Czechoslovakia. Ancestral home of Ivana Trump and Madeleine Albright. (Take a moment to process that…)

There are three distinct take-aways from my time in the Czech Republic.

  1. Everyone smokes. The lady bagging her fresh vegetables at the market, the man opening his store front on the street corner, the woman walking her dog. It’s like a giant Marlboro commercial.
  2. Everyone wears fur. The lady bagging her fresh vegetables at the market, the man opening his store front on the street corner, the woman walking her dog. It’s like a giant PETA protest.
  3. It’s cold. It’s the kind of cold that makes you want to light up a Virginia Slim, pour yourself a glass of Bozkov Vodka and surround yourself in the warm embrace of the neighbors golden retriever.

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Prague is a magnificent city. If you haven’t been there yet, put it on your “to do” list.

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The architecture is inspiring, the history harrowing, the beer overflowing. Friends traveling with me went to a “beer spa” where they literally soaked, nude, in a barrel full of beer.

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I left my friends to marinate in their Michelob and I went for a run.

Large cities like Prague, Vegas, NYC, have an active, vibrant nightlife. I enjoy running early in the morning when you see men doing the walk-of-shame from red light districts across town and woman closing up shop for a well deserved rest. The streets are dirty and smelly – a filth you don’t see late at night with the bright overhead lights holding your gaze. The city looked different in the morning, littered with remnants of fireworks, butts of cigarettes and broken bottles from a previous night’s celebration. The tourists hauling cameras with tri pods and massive North Face coats outnumbered those of us running that morning. I was passed by a few men, lean and fast, running over the Charles River Bridge on the way up the massive hill to the iconic castle overlooking all of Prague. The view at the top worth the agony of the climb, as it always is, in life and in sport.

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The Czech people are very unique. I read someone’s list of three ways to be Czech:

  1. To be a Czech you must smoke cigarettes, especially as you walk down the street so all other pedestrians have to keep you in their sights at all times so as to not burn their coats.
  2. To be a true Czech, have “I am Sceptical” as your default facial expression.
  3. To be a true Czech, don’t be too optimistic. It means you haven’t done all of your research.

I found the people of Prague to be kind, though not terribly warm. They did however take pride in themselves. The ladies were always well dressed – though the skirt hems were significantly shorter than a Vegas strip club. The men were stern and confident. I blinked first every time.

In the morning I went for a run. Then I went to the spa.

Baden Baden in Germany hosts my favorite spa – a series of Roman Baths and saunas. Karlovy Vary is a med-spa town in the Czech Republic with a series of these ancient mineral therms as well as clinics and recovery hotels where the world’s rich and famous go for a nip, tuck and recovery. There is something intimidating and liberating about being completely naked with a group of very large, very confident Eastern European men soaking in an ancient mineral bath. First, you’re so glad to be thawing out from the freezing cold, you don’t care that you haven’t shaved in a day, or two, or that last nights make up is sweating down to your knees. Second, as you find yourself mere inches from a gaggle of Russian senior citizens, you start to have a real appreciation for American’s obsession with circumcision.

The bath houses are filled with old Roman statues, tiles and art. Nearby was the location of the oldest ceramic piece in the world, the Venus of Dolni Vestonice.

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Now we know why the Czech’s created a med spa town known for breast implants and tummy tucks. No need to belt your boobs, ladies. There’s a spa for that.

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The first bath house I went to had a series of steps that you had to follow in order. First, the shower. Second, a warm room. Third, a very hot room. Then you had the choice to sit in a steam spa or get a scrub down from a young pool boy named Petr. I chose the scrub down. It’s a mix of insane insecurity, a tad bit of arousal mixed with more insecurity. Nudity + warm steam + warm gentle pools + hot tiled aroma therapy + LARGE, HAIRY RUSSIAN MEN.

I’ve since returned to the mineral baths in various parts of central europe and I am a believer. Europeans know how to relax. My skin is cleaner, my mind is clearer and I care just a little bit less about what people think of me.

Body image is tough. I’ve modeled on and off for years and one thing remains true – everyone is insecure about something. Dimples on the thighs, the roll over your skinny jeans, a receding hair-line, wrinkles that seem to multiply overnight…. everyone has something. It’s a great equalizer, actually.

Like the confident Czechs and the men strutting their stuff in the Roman Bath houses, we all need to stand up straight and own it. Own where we are right now. Embrace the dimples and folds. That doesn’t mean we get complacent. We can’t get lazy. There’s too much at stake. We have to keep pushing – keep working towards something – faster, stronger, fitter, healthier, smarter, better at our craft, better as a partner, parent, friend. But love where you are in this moment.

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Run to win. Fur optional.

 

 

 

 

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