Germany was eating into our travel budget so we took a Regio Jet bus back into the more affordable Czech Republic as we had a week to kill before meeting some friends in Dresden. Our first stop was…
We arrived in the historic spa town of Karlovy Vary (also known as Carlsbad), not knowing what to expect, which is the way we like to travel. After almost a year on the road, it’s fun to get to a destination and be surprised. And how wonderfully surprised we were! Karlovy Vary was founded in 1350 by the Czech King and Roman Emperor, Charles IV. Whilst out hunting deer, one of his faithful hounds fell into a bubbling thermal hot spring and came out unharmed, starting a health phenomenon that has continued for 700 years.
Originally used for bathing, the water is now used for drinking treatments, bathing and irrigation, promoting rejuvenation and longevity. Visitors from all over the world have flocked here throughout the centuries to take part in the spa treatments coupled with time in the fresh air and physical exercise through walks in the forests. There are over 130 km of trails and promenades that line the woodlands that were originally crown property of Czech Royalty.
Two Trekkers spent the next few days health detoxing. This involoved wandering the many hot springs, dipping our cup into the waters and sipping for our health. You can buy a fancy porcelain cup with a special straw, especially for drinking the spring water and as a lovely souvenir of your time here. We just used our camping mugs that had travelled round the world with us.
Here’s a quick summary of the main springs:
The Mill Colonnade
This is the most impressive and largest collection of springs, built between 1871-1881 it is 132 metres long and 13 metres wide. There are 5 springs here with varying restorative properties to sip from and it’s also a great spot for photos and people watching.
The Orchard colonnade
This is the most ornate and dates from 1881. It houses the Snake spring, which has the coldest spring water at slightly over 30 degrees. It is also surrounded by some beautiful gardens.
Thermal Spring Colonnade
This is the newest spring and has a more modern design as it was built in 1971-1975. Inside there are market stalls and a few different springs. We decided that this structure housed the most palatable water.
Hiking around Karlovy Vary
Once we had drunk our fill of magic water, it was into the forest for some fresh air and exercise. Autumn was a great time of year to be here and enjoy the earthy colour show and crunchy bed of leaves to walk on. Some highlights of the many spa walks in the woods are the numerous lookouts and historic structures hidden in the forests. We enjoyed the Diana tower which is the highest at 35 metres. It was built in 1914 and has a lift! There is also a restaurant and snack bar here if all the walking has made you peckish. There is also a funicular to take you up and down the mountain if exercise isn’t your thing!
The Deer’s Jump – Jelení skok, is a small statue of a Chamois looking out over the village. It was constructed in 1851, destroyed by vandals in 1984 and replaced two years later.
The Charles IV lookout, built in 1877, is the oldest. It is also quite impressive as you scale the narrow circular stairs to get to the top for great views.
Goethe’s lookout is located on the Hill of eternal youth, in the quieter section of forests on the east of Karlovy Vary. This building is styled in Neo gothic architecture and was completed in 1889. It had a gallery and coffe lounge inside, but is now in a derelict state, being out of action since WW2.
If you have had enough of being healthy, there are lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy some rich Czech food and drinks. We enjoyed some lovely picnics and afternoon beers in Smetana’s public gardens. If you sit on the stairs of the Alžbêta’s Spa, in the wonderful pseudo baroque style, you can use the free wifi!
We hid out in rainy Teplice for a few nights in a fantastic Airbnb apartment and got lots of blogging done! It’s a small town of around 50,000 people boasting some lovely parks and plazas, a botanical garden and a coniferous forest with the ruins of Doubravka Castle high on the hill overlooking the scenic town below.
This town was a lot more picturesque then Teplice and more touristy with its scenic riverside parklands surrounding the Dêčín Castle, a sight to behold situated on a rocky outcrop beside the Labe River. The castle has a strong history dating back to the 12th century and has undergone many renovations in such styles as Renaissance and Baroque by the Bohemian royalty of the time. Chopin apparently wrote some music here. And it’s not hard to see his inspiration in the gorgeous forests as well as colorful homes lining the riverfront.