In Karlovy Vary, I drank a lot of natural hot spring water straight from the ground. It wasn’t as delicious as it may sound. With distinctive mineral flavors and strange salty after tastes, the water was not one I would chug in the middle of a hot thirsty day. The town is famous for their many hot springs that are publicly scattered throughout and encouraged to the people. The water is said to have positive effects on the health of ones body. Ranging from temperatures of luke warm to extremely hot, it was fascinating walking around the town, placing my porcelain cup underneath the spouts of the springs, and trying all of the different kinds. I’m secretly hoping the water had some kind of fountain of youth effect on me (something similar to Tuck Everlasting)…. but I think the only thing it did was leave a metal taste lingering in my mouth.
As I mentioned, Karlovy Vary is known for their health and spa treatments and gets its fame from the natural hot springs – it is literally considered a spa town. In the mid 1300’s, the small town was rumored to be accidentally discovered by Emperor Charles IV when one of his hunting dogs fell into the waters. Do I believe this? Maybe. My dog falls into water all the time. We’ve never discovered anything cool from little Calvin, but there is still hope! Today, the well off from Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Russia and other European countries resort to this spa town for treatments such as hydrocolontherapy and lymphatic drainage. I just got a massage, nothing fancy to brag about. The tradition is to sip the mineral-laden waters from a sweet little porcelain cup, which they sell everywhere in town, and rid your body of any toxins. I had a great time pretending to be a celebrity spa patient sampling the various hot springs the town had to offer!
Fun fact: Two of the greatest movies ever were filmed in Karlovy Vary! One of my husband’s favorites, James Bond 007 Casino Royale (yes – I was walking the same streets as once Daniel Craig). And one of my all time favorites, The Last Holiday (yes – I love Queen Latifah and I am not ashamed).
Early Sunday, Mother’s Day morning, we boarded three slow trains and one bus from Munich to the tiny spa town in the Czech Republic. My mother-in-law was still traveling with us and was such a sport. Used to the luxuries in life, she was rather excited to experience her first European railway. Because Karlovy Vary is so small and has a reputation of being hard to get to, my husband and I were fully aware of the travel situations we were going to be faced with that day. Taking one “nice” train from Munich to our first stop in the Czech Republic, my poor mother-in-law got a true glimpse of what we would be dealing with the rest of the day. The town in the Czech where we had our first transfer went a little like this – remember the movie, The Night Before Christmas? All the characters were really scary and the whole setting was just dark and rather depressing it almost felt frightening in a way? Well that’s what this town was like. And we had an hour and a half layover before boarding our bus. We tried to walk around the town for a bit, but got scared, so we sat on benches cringing until our departure. The bus brought us to another train station where we boarded a slow train in the middle of nowhere. That train then dropped us off in the middle of a field…. where we had to run in the long grass carrying our bags to the next train, which was thankfully our final train. Finally reaching Karlovy Vary was a huge sigh of relief. I have never been that happy to arrive anywhere in my entire life!!
Because of the rough travel day for my mother-in-law on Mothers Day, my husband was so sweet and arranged for her the night before to get a massage at the spa upon our arrival. She was thrilled! The spa had open availability right after her massage, so I decided to get one too. It was so relaxing after such a stressful day. We were staying at a beautiful hotel right along the river and in the heart of town called Quisisana Palace. It was so luxurious and our whole experience there was really beautiful.
That night we took Mama K to one of the most fun dinners we have had this far! We went to a traditional Czech restaurant that was recommended by our hotel for fine Czech cuisine. It was a really special night. We started celebrating by drinking a bottle of German white wine we had bought at the market in Munich. We then proceeded to walk two minutes down he road to the restaurant – Hotel Embassy – where we were seated at a lovely table with a chair at the end that just so happened to look like a Queens throne! So of course, Queen Mama K, on Mother’s Day, got to sit on the fabulous throne and feel like royalty all night.
We were also treated like royalty that night! The Czech waiters who were taking care of us were so inviting and eager to please. It was wonderful! We ordered a bottle of red wine from the Chianti region where Mike and I had wine tasted in Tuscany, to show my mother-in-law just how tasty it was! We all ordered fantastic traditional Czech meals – for example, Mama K got the goose, Mike got a full duck, and I ate piglet… all because of peer pressure (I would like to formally apologize to one of my best friends Danielle, who I share a teacup piglet calendar with, I promise the pig that I ate was not as cute as our calendar piggy’s!!). For desert we got hot strawberries with green peppers – strange combination but was really delicious and looked extremely easy to make!! A good, fresh summer desert I’ll be able to whip up at home! We also sipped on a traditional Karlovy Vary herbal liquor that is very special to their region. Two Czech men sit and make two batches a week in the town of Karlovy Vary. The recipe is so secretive, they are the only two humans in the world who are said to know it. It tasted almost like a strong cinnamon liquor with a dash of nutmeg and had the consistency of a syrupy port wine. It was called Becherovka and if it is sold in the States, you must go out and buy a bottle now. Because it is the best after dinner drink ever!
The next day we set voyage for hot spring tasting! But before we did that, we took a challenging hike, or mud slide, up a steep hill that had no path. The hike was leading us to a point at the top where a tall tower sat with gorgeous views of the town – it was called Diane’s Tower and it has been a famous tourist attraction for 100 years. There was a tram that ran every ten minutes from town to the top of the hill, which is how normal people get there, but given our food and alcohol intake the night before, we decided to hike. On this hike I got very muddy, climbed a tree, shimmied in between and over fallen branches, made friends with a cute baby mouse who happened to look as helpless as I did, and climbed rocks just to reach the tower. Talk about a good exercise. My mother-in-law is in such good shape, but her and I were partners in crime in the struggle to reach the top. And if for some reason you are blind and haven’t noticed, my husband has turned into a wilderness man, also known as a wildabeast, where one might confuse him with a wolf. So he was fine.
We took some amazing photos from Diane’s Tower, bought some huge water bottles, and for the sake of our safety, took the tram back down into town. On just about every corner of the town were porcelain cup stands where you could pick out your own unique cup to drink hot spring water out of. I picked out the cutest gold owl and my husband picked out what looked to have been a miniature porcelain beer mug. We went from spout to spout all over town sipping the different waters and trying to identify what the special tastes and qualities of each were. I personally liked the extremely hot water spouts the best. The warmer the temperature, the more shielded the strange tastes would be.. in my humble opinion.
We ate a late lunch at a confusingly expensive restaurant called Pizzeria Capri. It was a restaurant right in the middle of town that took pride in their celebrity status with names like Daniel Craig, Morgan Freeman and George Clooney dining there in the past. Which is the only reason we could think of as to why it was so expensive. The food was ok, but I wouldn’t suggest going if ever randomly visiting the small spa town. We walked around and explored the shops a bit – heading into a lot of Bohemian Crystal shops to learn more about its significance in the culture. For those of you who don’t know, Czech Republic used to be a part of Bohemia when it was once a country. Causing the town’s beautiful architecture and whole vibe to be very Bohemian. When I think of boho-chic fashion, it is nothing like Bohemia or Bohemian culture. So I am quite confused as to where it got its name and inspiration from for “boho-chic”. I was thinking maybe from the gypsy”s? But I am not quite sure, I just found it all to be very interesting.
That night we had another amazing dinner at a place called Hotel Promenada. The restaurant is said to be the towns best and nicest restaurant. It felt so cozy inside and had the feel of a home living room with nice decorations, white table cloths and long-stemmed candles lighting the ambiance of the room. The food was spectacular – my mother-in-law and I both ordering the rabbit and my husband ordering a steak. The desert was so special too! The chef came out and made it right in front of us at our table. He started by melting sugar in a pan on high flames and adding orange juice and fresh squeezed oranges. From there he cooked thin crepes with nuts inside. All displayed on personal plates with a whop of whipped cream and ice cream. It was my favorite part of the meal!! And at the end of dinner, the week waiters graced Mama K and I with pink roses. It was so nice!
After desert, we sipped on some Becherovka, obviously, and headed straight to the casino at The Grand Hotel Pupp – also known as the casino James Bond hung out at in Casino Royale. We each lost a good chunk of money, but the overall experience of getting to play black jack at the same tables as James Bond made it every bit worth it. We chatted with a man who was doing some serious gambling from Kuwait and sipped cocktails feeling pretty fabulous. Unfortunately, there is a strict rule that you cannot take photos inside casinos, so I don’t have any action shots of us high rolling. But I did snap a secret shot of my husband’s and mine his/hers cocktails!
The next morning we boarded the fast train to Prague. Where we had to do an unexpected transfer in yet again, the middle of a field. How Czech people find this normal is beyond me – but running through an untamed field only to get on the next train with grass and burs stuck on my leggings and a few mosquito bites on my ankles is not my idea of normal traveling.
Until tales from Prague, and maybe some more field running, Bon Voyage!