Saturday, August 15, 2015

Karlovy Vary :: The Original Spa Town

Karlovy Vary
Tepla River
I'm not sure where to start with blogging about our recent trip. I have piles of pictures and quite a few stories.

These posts are not likely to be in any sort of order, and I suspect they will not be your typical (obligatory) travel post. You all know me by now, and assume you'd be disappointed if I didn't give you a crazy side story or random musing careful observation about the places we visited. So I'll take my time and work my way through all the notes I took on the trip.

Mill Colonnade (Hubby just walking away)
Let's begin, shall we, at the end of our trip. We finished up our road trip extravaganza in a very old world, spa town called Karlovy Varya town known by the Germans as Karlsbad. 

The town is just over the Czech-German border in the Northwestern part of the Czech Republic in an area called Bohemia. The town was built up around a natural thermal hot springs where the Ohre and Tepla rivers come together. 

It is old, very old; founded in 1370 by the King of Bohemia and is everything Calastoga, CA hopes to be when it grows up. We used to go to Calastoga all the time when we lived in California. I loved it. We would rent a little cottage, get a massage, have a nice dinner and swim in the pool heated by the hot springs. 

But here is the thing, Calastoga will likely never hold the charm of this wonderful old world gem. Karlovy Vary is built as an original walking city like so much of the old towns we visited through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The streets are cobble stone, and cars have a very hard time navigating most places (if they are allowed). And that makes for a wonderful, leisurely place to stroll along the water, stop into shops, sample some street cafe food (or better a glass of something local). Most of California is designed to get into your car and drive off to the next destination, and you just don't get the same feel for a place unless you're elbow to elbow with the locals.

Griffin Statue
The hot springs are the main attraction and have several long colonnades built up around the springs. There is the old structure, the new one (or Mill Colonnade) and even a park colonnade that was built in the 1800s and has a Victorian feel. I spent hours walking around snapping pictures of all these Corinthian columns, to the point where you can see my husband just walking away. 

In the main building is the geyser and a row of 'taps' for people to sample the mineral water. Or as they say "drinking cures," which there are various ones depending on which source and temperature of the water you choose. Prolonged use of the cure is not recommended, and suggested that you speak with the spa doctor. Yeah, I wasn't so interested in water that needed a doctor's approval.

Karlovy Vary Cups
The ceiling over the geyser has a 'look out' to the sky above. I wonder if the geyser gushed if it would just come right out the top of the ceiling? They enclosed a room around the main geyser. It was a hot August day when we were there (at least 95 degrees) and it felt like about 115 inside. Holy cats! I just wanted someone to open a window ... please. Everyone else seemed preoccupied with taking a sip of the mineral water in these funny little tea-pot like cups. I wasn't buying. They look like some random tschotske from my grandmother's cupboard sitting next to the porcelain thimble collection. I just couldn't see bringing one of these babies home with me. But everyone else had one. We saw all kinds of people strolling around town slowing sipping on these cups as they sat on park benches or popped into one of the shops. 

We didn't see any American tourists (that we were aware of), not even British. This was an off the beaten track kind of place. Which I loved. Most of the tourists were German, Russian and local Czechs up for a few days from Prague. I felt like I really got away from all that I know back home. That is what travel means to me. Pure bliss.


  1. Awesome photos...and your description made me feel like I was there! Your discussion of "old" took me back to my travels in Italy. Our tour guide pointed out during our tour of the Vatican that Americans are unable to truly comprehend anything "antique" given the age of the City's throughout Europe. Really makes one think about the relative newness of this country we live in! However, there is a street in Old Town Alexandria, VA where two blocks have been preserved as historic "to us". Still the original cobblestone....still narrow...and a booger to drive on!

  2. What a stunning place Cynthia, and I love how immersed you can become in the locale and culture... truly away from all you're used to, and you communicate it all so well.

    This has been added to my list of 'I wish' places!

  3. What a beautiful place!!! And it's funny I was thinking how cool those drinking vessels looked and that I would love one and then I read why you didn't want. Made me chuckle. I'm a tacky American tourist. hahaha

    Did you hear the story of how Calistoga got it's name? Supposedly the person christening the town was drunk and said, 'Calistoga, Serafornia!'

  4. What a lovely place! I enjoyed your story too! I can't imagine being in a place so old with all that history to soak up. Incredible!

  5. Spectacular! What an incredible trip. This is truly getting away from it all and feeling like you're in another country, embracing its culture. So much fascinating history and beautiful sights in Europe.

  6. Wonderful post! Your photos are beautiful!

  7. Great post and photos, thank you for malking me travel.

  8. You pinpointed the difference exactly! The "walking" part is what I love about European cities :)
    Beautiful townhouses!

  9. I was wondering why the town looks empty in the photos. Off the beaten path is always the best! The architecture is gorgeous. I love how each structure has its own unique features. Those tourist trap cups look uncomfortable to drink out of. How awesome that the town was discovered in 1370!

  10. Beautiful place!!! nice photos!!!!
    Have a good week!!!:)))

    Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

  11. O WOW What beautiful places you saw.

  12. I love your photos specially that blue sky on the very first one! :)

  13. Awesome, I can just picture you walking along taking every tiny little detail in. Looking forward to the next post.

  14. Can't wait to continue my vicarious vacation through your posts - this was a lovely description of this beautiful location. I think I'm with you on the wisdom of sipping water that needs a doctor's note, though...

  15. Wow, truly incredible and beautiful!


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