Winter walks: Walking wild, wishing warm
Rolling countryside northwest of the city provides a retreat
Posted: January 23, 2013
It's easy to feel cooped up at this time of year, when everyone is wont to scuttle between their flats and their offices and perhaps the pub, hunched over against the cold in an attempt to completely ignore the month of joyless January. And, unless you're a skier or other winter sports enthusiast, it can be tempting to write off the white stuff as an excuse to hole up in your apartment and catch up on the latest television shows. But the same detailed network of trails in close proximity to Prague that makes for such pleasant amblings in warmer months is just as accessible come wintertime - should you have a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots and a set of thermals, not to mention a Thermos of tea or a flask of something stronger for warming fortification along the way.
Though heading out of the city in almost any direction by bus or train is bound to get you to the countryside in under half an hour, the area northwest of Prague provides an especially good start, with walks undulating through villages (read: pub stops) every few kilometers and an ever-changing landscape of forests, fields, marshy ponds, old churches and cottage communities.
One such route that totals out at 10 kilometers, and which can be broken up at multiple points, starts in the village of Přední Kopanina, about 25 minutes from Dejvická by bus and still technically part of the Prague 6 district. Most of the trails are popular for cross-country skiing, as well, although there are some parts that go along the road and are usually quite clear of snow.
Přední Kopanina is a quiet village stretched along the main road where the bus stops, although its location, close to the airport, means planes landing and taking off provide a sharp contrast once you're out in the open. Right across from the bus stop is the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, a rotunda that dates to the first half of the 12th century, and a peaceful surrounding cemetery. Backtracking along the road, a marker shows where the yellow trail starts, veering off past a few houses, across a field and into the Statenice forest. The snow-packed path, winding among white-laden spruce trees, leads to a crossroads of trails, marked by the St. Juliana Cross, a signpost and a picnic table.
Following the marker to the left, the path narrows and the branches become lower overhead before opening out to views over a forested valley and sloping gently down toward the town of Statenice, meeting up with the Únětice stream. On the town's outskirts, the path weaves past a traditional cottage community of gardens and small wooden cabins with sharply sloped roofs.
Once out on the road, it's a brisk kilometer and a half before you reach Statenická krčma, a no-frills but welcomingly warm pub that pours the pride of the area, Únětické lager, to stalwart regulars watching television and smoking by the stove fire.
From there, the route, now on the blue trail, passes through the modern center of Statenice and a newly built neighborhood of houses to dip through a drain tunnel, coming out past the Trees garden center. The trail makes its way through the neighboring village of Černý Vůl and past a series of peaceful reed-filled fish ponds that give way to cottages and country houses on the edge of Únětice, home of Únětický pivovar, located just to the right of the trail at the bend in the main road. The award-winning brewery serves up above-standard Czech classics such as goulash and roast duck in addition to its acclaimed beers, which taste their best when consumed in the thoughtfully reconstructed restaurant premises.
Continuing on the blue to the other end of Únětice leads to U Lasiků, a converted wheelwright's shop that now houses a homey café and wine bar, where mismatched antique tables are set around a wood-burning stove and the friendly owners bake up a frenzy of sweet and savory tarts, cakes and quiches, along with a daily soup or two, all of which are bound to coax a hunger out of any visitor. Únětické and Maisel's Weisse wheat beer are on tap, and some nice Moravian wines are available by the carafe. Come summer, the courtyard garden quickly fills up with families and groups of people enjoying the sun (and shade), and in the winter the few tables inside are a hot commodity, so getting to U Lasiků as early as possible is advised.
Following the blue trail, you'll come to Únětice's sprawling ponds, which, ringed with forests and a steep cliff in the background, are equally as nice a sight in winter as in summer. When the weather is cold enough and the ponds freeze over, they are hugely popular among those with skates, as hockey goal posts are brought out and people take to the ice.
The trail then enters the aptly named Tiché údolí, or Pacific Valley, where it follows the Únětice stream through the forest (and past an excellent sledding hill) for 2.5 kilometers and onto a street, also known as Tiché údolí, of Roztoky, the next town over. Full of crumbling, faded-glory villas and modern-day mansions, the stretch is perfect for house-gazing. The eminently cozy pub Hospůdka Zvířátka, signaled by a Černá Hora beer sign above a hedge, is a fitting end to a day in the countryside, with a wood-burning stove, Černá Hora and Únětické beers, and, if you happen by on a day the happy-go-lucky owners have them, homemade lamb burgers with mint sauce for a steal at 99 Kč.
From here, it's an easy meander by lamplight to the Roztoky train station, with hourly service into Prague's Masarykovo nádraží or by bus back to Dejvická, both of which take less than 15 minutes.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at