Czech Republic 2018: 4 nights in Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is a spa town situated in the western Bohemia part of the Czech Republic about 50km from the German border. It is on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá rivers. It is historically famous for its hot springs (13 main springs, about 300 smaller springs, and the warm-water Teplá River). It is the most visited spa town in the Czech Republic. It is named after Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, who founded the city in 1370. In German it is called Karlsbad.
It should take a bit over 3 hours to drive the 300km from Munich up the A 9 and A93 autobahns to Karlovy Vary.
It took us a bit over 5 hours due to a truck fire on the A93 where we sat stationary for 1.5 hours, and because id inadvertently left my GPS on no toll roads. The Czech Republic doesn’t have toll roads as such, but you do need to by a Vignette sticker to travel on the motorways which for 10 days cost about Euro 20. My GPS assumed this was a “toll” and took me off the motorway and through some small villages until I realized what was going on and changed the settings. We arrived at about 5.00pm and checked into our hotel very easily. We had a huge room with sitting area, entrance foyer and separate bathroom and toilet all for about NZ$90 per night including breakfast.
The weather was cold the evening of Monday 12th March, about 3 degrees, so we ventured into the main shopping street and found a nearby restaurant for dinner. Decent Pizza, pasta, beer and dessert for about NZ$40 for the 2 of us.
The Hotel Ontario was a good choice; excellent breakfast with plenty of hot dishes as well as the traditional breads, cheese and cake.
After breakfast we walked to explore the town. It very easy to find your way around as the tourist shopping areas is streets on both sides of the Teplá River for a kilometer or so. It then changes to the business area of town where the banks and offices are. The tourist shopping area is full of designer boutiques with expensive shoes, clothes and gifts.
The nearer to the Hotel Grand Pupp the shops are, the more expensive they are.
The Hotel Grand Pupp has been there since 1701; 3 centuries of tradition. It is a beautiful building by the river, and surprisingly isn’t that expensive to stay; overnight is about NZ$200 including breakfast for a standard room. We should have spent a night there. It has been the setting for several movies including James Bind Casino Royale, and Jackie Chan Shanghai Nights.
The Café Grand Pupp is a great place for people watching and having coffee and cake. We tried it out on Tuesday afternoon, and it was so good that we went back for lunch on Thursday. Dining in imperial elegance pretending that you are rich and famous is pretty good.
On Wednesday we took a 20km drive to the village of Loket. Loket means "elbow" in English. The town got its name due to the town centre being surrounded on three sides by the Ohře River, and the shape the river takes is similar to that of an elbow. The town centre itself features Loket Castle, a 12th-century gothic castle. The town centre is a national monument and as such is preserved from modern developments.
It was very cold with a chilly breeze so we parked the car and did a quick walk through the town and up to the castle. We spent an hour exploring the castle and museum. There is an interesting medieval torture museum if you like that sort of thing; it’s probably only necessary to see this stuff once.
The town also hosts the unique “Museum of Secret Societies” with a pension/hotel, that unfortunately was closed on the day we were there.
It’s a pity that it was a dreary day as the town is no doubt beautiful on a fine day and more so in summer. Still, it was a pleasant village and beautifully clean and tidy like most of the Czech Republic, On our return drive we stopped at a local shopping mall for lunch; no tourists at all just locals.
Wednesday we drove about 10km to a suburb to visit the Moser Glass factory and Museum. The company was formed in 1857 and has continued as a family run business right through until today. They are known for manufacturing stemware, decorative glassware (such as vases, ashtray, and candlestick), glass gifts and various art engravings. Moser is one of the most collected of 20th century decorative glass  and has been used everywhere from palaces to local restaurants. From its beginnings in 1857, as a polishing and engraving workshop, it developed into a lead-free glass manufacturer lasting through the 20th century until today.
We took a guided tour of the factory; it was surprisingly big with more than 150 employees working and hand blowing the glass. The gas powered furnaces operate continuously. It takes around 12 years to be fully trained in the art. The tour was great as we were right in the factory beside the workers. Rather hot beside the furnaces.
The museum displayed the company history and many of the historical glass prices and how they are made. We then went to the obligatory shop; needless to say we purchased zero; prices ranged up to about NZ$45000!
Wednesday afternoon we stopped by the Russian Orthodox St Peter and Paul Cathedral The current church was designed back in 1893, by local architect Gustav Wiedermann, and the church was consecrated on June 9, 1897 in the name of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In 2016 it went through renovations and is now absolutely beautiful. The colours and the gold domes in the sunlight re amazing. One of the most beautiful buildings I have seen.
The spa area and springs in the town are easy to access and many of the visitors ‘take the waters’. So Thursday we bought the souvenir drinking cups (with spout) and with the intention of wandering about and trying the water from various springs. The springs we selected at water at 30, 45 and 60 degrees so we opted for the 30. It tasted horrid; like the worst water you have ever tasted blended with rotten eggs.
I guess similar to what drinking thermal water in Rotorua in NZ would be like. The cure-all is supposedly 50 cups in a day, but I wouldn’t dare try that. But it was interesting to see the many tourists filling their cups and drinking the waters. We then adjourned to the Grand Pupp café for proper coffee and cake...much nicer.
We ate at 2 traditional Czech restaurants; both excellent and very reasonable prices. The food is similar to German in this area (and was occupied by Germany (Sudetenland) between the 1st and 2nd world wars. Plenty of pork, sausages cabbage and dumplings. Desserts a variation of apple strudel with almonds, and ice-cream with fresh warm berries. All washed down with one of the world’s best beers, Pilsner Urquell.
Friday dawned wet for our drive back to Munich. We had been lucky with the weather; a bit of drizzle and no snow. We drive back a different route through Czech villages to the spa town of Mariana Laski, but it was still raining when we arrived so we carried on, crossed the border and drove back to Munich.
A great short break in one of my favourite countries.