It was a coincidence that I booked our tour to Karlovy Vary the day before the International Film Festival. It was a pretty busy town that day which is quite nice. Everyone was gearing up to THE BIG DAY.
IFF aside, Karlovy Vary is a known spa town in Czech. They have one of hottest concentration of healing springs in Europe.
Citizens can get a prescription from their doctors for a 2 week spa time and they will automatically head down here. I think Germany has the same practice and Germany has a town for spa as well, a "medical" "relaxation" spa. Just don't know if it's as good as this one.
In Dubai, we don't need hot springs... we have have a natural "sauna". Tee hee hee!
On our way to Karlovy Vary, she took out her Becherovka and asked hubby and I to drink it. It is apparently a herbal bitter. The taste was so strong, I don't even know whether it is an alcoholic drink, if it's not, it gave my head a spin for sure!
With the drink, she offered us the traditional wafer of Karlovy Vary, Oplatky. It comes in different flavours but we opted for the chocolate ones when we bought boxes to bring home. I loved the wafer, the Becherovka, not so much.
You still don't know what it is? Watch these clips and get entertained!
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His is the only one that floated upright so he got a special award for that. It was fun. People were wondering "what are these cuckoos cheering about?"
The original temperature of Vridlo spring is 73 degrees C, too hot for us! So we opted for the cooled down temp of 30 degrees C. The taste was .... honestly, if it's cooler, it tastes.... well to put it mildly, I didn't really like it. It's like drinking water from a corroded water pipe. Harsh but true....
I know I came from Dubai where summer is hell but the good thing about the UAE is that A/C everywhere is on full blast, summer or not!
In Czech, A/C is not on full blast. It's just barely there to make sure you have the artificial breeze but not too much to overpower the natural one. Actually Europe in general, I heard is like that.
There are 15 main springs to be exact, I'll just trust that and wouldn't want to actually challenge it. Few of them are far from the rest so we skipped them. We have visited the springs that are located in the colonnades nearby. Those are free, not commercialized, it actually look quaint, if only there's not a herd of tourist in ALL of the colonnades.
The sun, the walk, the heat, frankly I couldn't wait to eat lunch! Let's finish the colonnades and hunt for a shaded place (preferably with A/C) where we can seat and eat fooood!
I'm a foodie after all.
We filled them mugs up, placed the tip to our mouth and sip we did... bleh! It's mineral spring water alright. It tasted like all sorts of metals. You'd think you'll drop down dead from lead poisoning or something. As I said above, the cooler it is, the stronger the after taste is.
Surprisingly, we're all okay. We survived tasting a few of them, I think I tried 5, I got a little dizzy afterwards, not sure if from the heat or the big surge of minerals into my system. Either way, I didn't feel good for awhile.
1. Vridlo spring is the first one we visited. At 73 degrees C, it is the hottest and obviously the most pressurised of them all. It is the geyser in the photos above that shoots up to 12 meters. (Hot Spring Colonnade)
2. Charles IV spring, 64 degrees C, Market Colonnade
3. Market Spring, 65.2 degrees C,
4. Lower Castle Spring, 55 degrees C,
5. Libuse Spring, 63 degrees C, Mill Colonnade
6. Mill Spring, 56 degrees C, Mill Collonnade. This is the first spring to be recommended for drinking in 1705. This spring is bottled and distributed all over the world. I am yet to find out if this bottling practice still exists until today.
7 and 8. Prince Wenceslas Spring 1 and 2, Mill Colonnade.
9. Rock Spring, 46.9 degress C, Mill Colonnade
10. Rusalka Spring, 60 degrees C, Mill Colonnade
11. Freedom Spring, 52.4 degrees C, Freedom Spring Arbour Colonnade
12. Upper Castle Spring, 55.9 degrees C, Castle Colonnade
13. Park Spring, 41.6 degrees C . Popular with guests due to its high carbon dioxide.
14. Snake Spring, 28.7 degrees C. Less minerals but higher in carbon dioxide. Snake because the spout's shape is a snake.
15. Stepanska Spring, 13 degrees C. Coldest mineral spring among the lot with a high carbon dioxide concentration.
Mill Colonnade's original plan was supposed to be a ginormous two story structure but the locals didn't want anything too big for their small town, even so, Mill's arch is still impressive and very much pronounced. If the original plan was bigger than what they have now, THAT IS REALLY BIG!
We saw a Greek Orthodox church, sadly I'm not sure whether a photo was taken. There are a lot of gold designs in it. Apparently, whenever a prayer is answered, parishioners show their gratefulness by donating an item that is either gold plated or gold leaves wrapped or stuck on them. It's very different from Catholic Churches.
We also saw an Anglican Protestant church. We didn't go inside though Jason surely tried.
We head back to the main boulevard and in the street we saw a couple of musical steps. We couldn't figure out which note is which so we mostly just jumped on it and made some awful clanging sound. Some Germans made use of them better by dancing some folk steps, all with interlocking hands and what not.
But it's been a long couple of days, tired and by now, I was really hungry, frankly getting cranky. I was already seeing stars!
I ordered the duck with Czech version of dumpling and cabbage stuff but I tell you, I am not a fan of how they combine salty duck with sweet and sour cabbage side dishes. It's an acquired taste and my taste on this particular meat is the Oriental one.
For sure it's a big hit with the local since our guide seems to be in love with it. I mean, separate each part, I can appreciate it. Together, it sort of put me off and it's nothing to do with the dish, my palate needs more training. So yes, we have to come back to Czech after a year.
A miniature version of town is in display with indications of where the pipes were inserted.
According to legend, it was by accident that the spring was discovered. Prince Wenceslas was walking through the vicinity when a donkey fell into a water. When they tried to save the donkey, they discovered the hot temperature of the water the donkey is in. That's the legend.
Going back to reality, for a period of time the water was only used for bathing and external healing until it was proven safe to be consumed and proven to be healing.
Initially they let the hot springs where it want to "spring out" but a number of accidents occurred when the pressure is too much and explosions became inevitable.
They then helped eased the hot pressure by inserting pipes that distribute water to different Colonnades and hotels around town.
She showed us a sample of pipes that is replaced where a thick build up of minerals will be impossible to take off. A scheduled maintenance and replacements of pipes is a must to ensure health, safety and hygiene.
In the tunnel are some photos of colonnades and the building stages it went through.
Souvenirs covered in hot spring mineral varies from vases to mugs to other decorative items that can withstand the process.
Algae were also very visible and so we asked how it affects the water supply. Since algae requires sunlight, water in pipes does not have them.
We celebrated the first of the many things we discovered and tried by having a sit down at Grandhotel Pupp's coffee shop. I had coffee ice cream, hubby and Eva had tea, boys had some ice creams and juices. It was a glorious day.
We couldn't be more happy and grateful for the sunny day (though it was hot), our every patient and accommodating guide, Eva and our lovely and wonderful driver Adrien.
Our guide is Eva of Sightseeing Prague. She and Adrienne (our designated driver) fetch us from Prague and brought us to the destination and back today.
Our tours were a mix of education, fun and relaxing moments. It's never too much of everything.
Mobile phone: +420 728 880 367.