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Published: December 12th 2007
Gorgeous village we passed on the way to Karlovy Vary.
Quality of photo here not so good as it was taken through a dirty train window!
Saturday 8th December
This morning we were at breakfast just after 7am so we could be at the train station before 9 for our 9.19 departure. It was a beautiful morning with cloudless blue skies.
The train trip to Karlovy Vary took us through some stunning countryside and enchanting little towns, much of the track following a fast flowing river. It was hard to keep our eyes from the scenery even though both of us were glad of the time to enjoy our engrossing novels.
Karlovy Vary is also known by its German name of Karlsbad and was founded in 1350 by the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The town is recapturing some of its former glory with its Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings being restored. It was seriously run down during the communist period according to some of the information we've read.
Arriving in Karlovy we began the 20 minute walk into the old town where we had booked accommodation through Expedia only last night. We walked past several small hotels and guest houses that caused us to wonder why we had booked but when we finally had checked into our large, modern
and spotless apartment in the centre of town we were pleased with our decision to book ahead. It is just one small street back from the main pedestrianised part of town and attached to a larger hotel where we have to go for buffet breakfast in the morning.
At one stage on our walk into town Rags questioned why we had chosen this town as a destination but when he saw the absolutely breathtaking facades of the buildings and the little town with the river running through it I think he understood.
We went for a walk and found somewhere to have lunch. We enjoyed a glass of Czech wine with this so that when we returned to our room to get something warmer on later Judy suggested relaxing here until evening. This relax turned into a bit longer than we'd envisaged as neither of us were hungry and we were both enthralled with our novels.
It was after 7pm before we eventually showered, changed and headed out into the evening. It was quieter than we expected but the night was still and clear. We walked to the other side of the river enjoying the brightly lit
Rags tests the temperature of the water. Some of them were quite hot!
windows and Xmas decorations before arriving at the impressive Grand Pupp Hotel that Judy remembers seeing in a movie. Here they were hosting a wine tasting and not being especially hungry after a 3 course meal at a late lunch we decided that wine and cheese would more than do us.
Rags enquired whether it was just for guests and as it wasn't we paid and entered. There weren't many people and the waiters were very attentive to us offering us wines from the very large selection of French, Italian, Chilean and South African selection. Rags obviously lasted longer than Judy who was happy to sit down after about the third taste with a plate of breads and cheeses. She started chatting with the Russian ladies at the table next to us, a mother and daughter, Helen, and Ilena who was here for the “treatment”. We had an enjoyable evening before walking back to our apartment.
Sunday 9th December
We awoke to a wet, grey day which didn't get any better until much later in the morning. Not that it mattered much as we had a late breakfast and then finished the last few pages of the
This building houses five of the special springs that draw so many to Karlovy Vary seeking the "curing waters." The springs are actually small fountains located within the colonnade, and contrary to the way the building looks it is really just a shell and has no interior.
books we were reading. Breakfasts here are a little different to any we have had, they varying in each country. We could have a choice of buckwheat or porridge, followed by 3 types of sausage, boiled eggs, grated carrot or beetroot, cheese and sliced meats finishing with pastries or poppy seed slice. Rags was in his element!
Our walk took us down the valley towards the train station, passing buildings with advertisements for all sorts of 'cleansing' treatments, massages and hydrotherapy. Lonely Planet describes it as:
“ Well-heeled hypochondriacs from Germany, Austria and Russia make the pilgrimage and try to enjoy courses of lymphatic drainage and hydrocolonotherapy and other such cleansing wonders”.
Lunch was at a cafe, Judy having a delicious goulash & dumplings, Rags a pork knuckle with cabbage. At home Rags enjoys a lamb shank, but he will be looking for pork knuckles from now on! Delicious!
There are 12 springs scattered around the area, each a “cure” of some sort and people go around carrying little cups with a spout to sample them. Most are just dribbles except for the Geyser Colonnade which, housed in a glass building spurts 2000l/min of steaming water in
This pavilion houses another spring.
a 14m high jet.
After watching the geyser for a while we climbed along the slope to the top of the cliff above the Thermal Hotel where there is an open-air thermal swimming pool. As Judy does not have her bathers with her (Rags' fault as she listened to him!) we couldn't use this facility even though it looked so inviting.
We continued around the edge of the cliff overlooking the old town, walking through areas where the locals live until we came to the imposing Imperial Hotel, once the haunt of Europe's wealthiest financiers. Only recently has it opened as a private hotel, previously it was a sanatorium.
From here we continued down until we reached the river opposite where our room is, making our way back past the Grand Hotel Pupp through the hordes of German & Asian day-trippers who come in.
Monday 10th December
After another interesting breakfast that included buckwheat and grated cabbage and carrot we donned our hiking clothes and set off up some steps behind our apartment. After a considerable climb we reached a high spot marked by a large rock with a deer on it, a symbol of
Karlovy Vary. We continued along a path which eventually ran parallel to the Diana Funicular Railway which climbs to 166m. Here there was the Diana Lookout Tower which had a lift to take us to some splendid views over the town. As the conveniences were needed we went into the Diana Restaurant for a cup of coffee and a break. The break and conveniences were appreciated, the coffees had to be the worst we have had in Europe!
We walked down the mountain, ending back in the centre of the area where we are staying. We continued to the railway station, Horni Nadrazi, where we bought our tickets to Ceske Budejovice, from where we can catch a bus to our next destination, Cesky Krumlov. We may stay a night at Ceske Budejovice, or Budweis as it is called in German. There continues to be a legal battle between the USA and here regarding the naming of the beer Budweiser, both using the same brandname. Rags has tasted the USA version, he now wants to see if the local version is as good as they say it is!
Judy noticed a local restaurant advertising meals just down from the
station and we ventured in. One of the young waiters had a smattering of English and we managed to order a delicious chicken soup before mains of deep fried Edam cheese, and an egg croquette dish. A Coke and a beer accompanied the meal which was completed with a glass of the local herbal liqueur, Becherovka. The whole meal here, cost less than just a main course in the centre! Becherovka we found to be enjoyable but very potent. We couldn't work out what the taste reminded us of but we did buy a bottle later to take to Amsterdam so that Rags and his cousin can analyse it!
The rest of the afternoon was spent window shopping, Judy for a piece of jewellery as a Christmas present for herself from Rags, he looking for a good pair of hiking boots.
As we weren't very hungry after our large, late lunch we ate in, reminiscing on the high points of where we have been in our travels.
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