When people decide to travel to the Czech Republic, their first thought is: “I’m going to Prague” but they forget that this country has many more destinations to offer. One of them must be Karlovy Vary…
There are several legends about how Karlovy Vary were discovered. In one, King Charles IV of Luxembourg shot a deer with an arrow. Fleeing from the dogs, the wounded deer got stuck in the mud. When they pulled him out, the wound was gone.
According to the second legend, it was a dog. According to the third, the king was suffering from bone pain, he smeared his hands with this mud and the pain disappeared. He immediately ordered that a sanatorium be built here. The foundation stone was laid in 1347. And from that time comes the name of the spa, which in translation from the Czech language would be called Charles’s baths.
Karlovy Vary are known for several reasons, the first of which is that it lies on springs of sulphurous water, which does not really smell nice. They are lined up all over the city. It is considered that they are good for the treatment of stomach problems, bone pain, respiratory organs, etc.
Since the water is naturally heated, somewhere at a temperature of 70 C degrees, you can’t drink it from plastic bottles, but from specially designed jugs, which are also the first souvenir you must buy.
There are souvenir shops at every turn, so choose carefully.
Not all springs are so warm, but drinking water from a jug is a special pleasure, so when you’re in Karlovy Vary, behave accordingly.
I’m not a spa person and I’ve already accepted that my main activity will be drinking water. But if such greats as: Gogol, Liszt, Freud, Dvorak, Maria Theresa, Joseph II, Peter the Great, Karl Marx, Franz Joseph, Leo Tolstoy sought health here, who am I to complain.
But I was told that Karlovy Vary has a beautiful promenade, so I decided to come. They didn’t lie to me. It really is.
The river Tepla flows through the city, which is surrounded by baroque buildings and beautiful nature.
You can cross the river in several places, because there are beautiful bridges at every step.
All spa centers, hotels, apartments, colonnades… are located along the promenade.
Armed with a jug, we started our walk towards the south of the city where the main activity is drinking water. At the very end, there is a large square with an obelisk, which is a symbol of the Freemasons. They often gathered in Karlovy Vary.
The walk further leads us to the Termal Hotel, which is known for hosting the prestigious film festival here every July. Thanks to him, Karlovy Vary becomes the center of the world for a few days, as numerous distinguished dignitaries and Hollywood big names come. The grand prize is a crystal globe. It is awarded to the best film among 200 film achievements. Although the building does not fit into the spa environment, over time it has become a symbol of this city.
The first spring is called Freedom, which is said to cure stomach problems, and was discovered by accident, when digging the foundation for a house at the end of the 19th century. None of these waters cure my problems but they are free.
From this spring, and onward, begins the reason why people come to this town, those are springs with thermal water (there are about 60 in the city itself, with a water temperature of 17 to 73 degrees C). You can pour and sip water for free while strolling around this beautiful spa. The most important sources are located in colonnades.
The colonnades were made to make drinking water even more enjoyable (who would have thought) even in rainy weather. There are also places for socializing and meeting, as well as exchanging gossip while performing spa rituals. In Karlovy Vary there are several colonnades that are also the trademark of this baroque place.
The Mill Colonnade was built in the Neo-Renaissance style with as many as 124 Corinthian columns. On the facade there are 12 statues that indicate the months of the year.
Inside, there are 5 healing springs of different temperature and composition. Concerts and other cultural events are also held here. Here, too, the water has a strange taste and is warm.
The Market Colonnade is richly decorated and carved from wood in the Swiss style, which was meant to be only a temporary facility. It was built in the 19th century and contains several springs.
The oldest is the spring of Charles IV, which is linked to the legend that it cured his wife. There is a picture here that shows the legendary discovery of Karlovy Vary.
I couldn’t get in here, but I tried the water anyway. The taste was no better.
The park colonnade built in the 19th century from wrought iron is another colonnade you must stop at.
Near it is a small park with a small lake, which was named after another distinguished guest, Antonin Dvořák. If by now you haven’t become bloated like a frog from drinking water, then it’s time to rest in Dvořák Park, look at the ponds and the beautifully landscaped garden.
They built a ramp here, so I could personally reach some more water. The taste is still the same. Bland and warm.
A little more water wouldn’t hurt. The biggest source is located in the heart of the city. The jet of water reaches a height of 12 meters, and here springs 2,000 liters of thermal mineral water per minute.
With a temperature of 72°C, it is the hottest spring in the spa, housed in a glass colonnade. Here, because of the steam created by the spring, you can also (oh joy) breathe in the water.
I inhaled a LOT.
And as if there wasn’t enough water, it also rained. If you are wondering when is the best time to come to Karlovy Vary, the answer is anytime. Checked.
Then the streets are empty and you can take nice pictures.
Interesting details are hidden around every corner.
Now we come across a dry part of the city where I no longer had to drink water. But the water is still there, in Tepla, in the bottle on my backpack as well as in my stomach. The rustling and gurgling makes the issue of the toilet become very important. Fortunately, there are some but they are for paying customers.
There is also a monument that has nothing to do with water. It is a monument to the Holy Trinity, which was built in the 18th century. It is a symbol of gratitude, that the city survived two fires and floods, and managed to avoid the plague epidemic.
After that, the beautiful promenade continues, where the most expensive stores and brands are (In Bogner’s store, women’s boots cost 760 EUR!!!).
There is also the city theater, where the first premiere was held in 1886. It was Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.
Karlovy Vary also has its own viewpoints that can be reached on foot but also by the Diana cable car. The entrance is located in a small, hidden alley, which you can easily miss.
The protocol is that you take the cable car up to the top, and then walk through the forest to slowly descend to the bottom. I had to miss this pleasure, because the cable car is not accessible for wheelchair users, so even these stairs at the entrance did not disappoint me much.
In Karlovy Vary, you must also eat something, not just drink water. In order to keep everything in the hospitals spirit, here they eat dry, crunchy wafers that taste like cardboard.
I guess their purpose is to collect all the water you have drunk so far. Waffles are available at every turn and with various flavors. They don’t change the initial impression much, but when you’re already here, you have to try them.
And another thing that an ordinary tourist must bring from Karlovy Vary is Becherovka liqueur. This liqueur cures all ailments, but primarily the stomach. It is produced from 32 herbs and spa water for the last two hundred years. Only two people know its recipe.
It is packaged in bottles with a recognizable design, and is sold everywhere. You can try it in every café served with tonic or in some other combination.
My visit to Karlovy Vary ends at the famous Hotel Pupp, named after Johann Georg Pupp the confectioner. He received this hotel as a dowry, upgraded it, and turned it into a place of opulence and luxury.
Actors rest here during the film festival, as well as clientele with deeper pockets. The hotel itself has starred in several films, the most famous being Casino Royale from the James Bond series.
Behind the hotel you can continue the walk that goes uphill. You will come across an impressive Orthodox church that testifies to the fact that Russians were once the main clientele here.
Also, you should climb to the viewpoints that offer a nice view of the city.
These vantage points remained inaccessible for me, but a walk through the city alone was enough to spend a nice day.
And now I’m rushing to the hotel, guess why.
Have you been to Karlovy Vary?
Did I miss something?
Traveled and enjoyed,