Czech Republic - Karlovy Vary
Trip Start May 30, 2013
139Trip End Dec 10, 2014
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First of all, we passed by the Hotel Termal, a perfect example of the typical constructions from the communist era, and then had a short break next to the Elizabeth Spa (Alzbetiny lazne) which is a spa house with a beautiful garden. We learnt that the establishment of this important spa house dates back to the year 1906. Its name came from the name of the Empress Elizabeth (Sissi), the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I
After that we took the main street for pedestrians called T.G. Masaryka and walked till its end where the Muzeum Jan Becher is located. Since our "Becherovka" is one of the most typical and popular drinks in the Czech Republic (of course, besides beer and slivovice :)) we had to make a tour. As we didnīt want to wait for the tour in English we took the German one and got the corresponding texts in our languages.
The guide talked about the history of Becherovka and its production, the recipe thatīs supposed to be a trade secret (itīs said there are only 2 people that know the entire recipe), different kinds of Becherovka (Becherovka Original, Lemond, KV14 and Cordial) etc. Before we finished the tour we could watch a short movie dedicated to the history of this drink that is meant to be very effective in case of digestive problems (itīs even recommended to drink two shots per day – one in the morning and one in the evening – to stay in a good shape…well, I guess that if you are wasted all day long you canīt feel bad…hahaha). During the movie we were offered three shots of Becherovka and in the end Gonzalo paid for one more to be able to try all the kinds. Even if we had a sandwich before the tour we felt a little bit drunk (Becherovka Original - 38%, Lemond – 20%, KV 14 – 40%, Cordial – 35%)
The most important facts are that Becherovka is not a Czech company anymore but itīs actually French (it was sold 12 years ago to the company Pernod Ricard, owner of very famous brands like Jameson or Absolut). In these days they produce 7,000,000 liters of Becherovka per year (4,000,000 are consumed in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and 3,000,000 are exported to more than 40 countries). Only two kinds are exported - Becherovka Original and Lemond (introduced in 2008). In any case Becherovka will be always the typical Czech drink with a tradition of more than 200 years (since 1807).
After leaving the museum we walked around the city center a little bit. Karlovy Vary prides itself in its colonnades. They were built in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century and there are five of them - the Mill Colonnade (Mlynska kolonada), Park Colonnade (Sadova kolonada), Market Colonnade (Trzni kolonada), Chateau Colonnade (Zamecka kolonada) and Hot Spring Colonnade (Vridelni kolonada).
Probably the most beautiful is the Mill Colonnade in the Neo-Renaissance style. It is 132 meters long, 13 meters wide and has 124 columns. It stretches over five hot springs.
The Hot Spring Colonnade is where you can not only drink the curative waters of the Vridlo (literally "Hot Spring", temperature 73°C/163°F), the best-known of the springs and symbol of Karlovy Vary, but also admire the 14-meter high fountain that constantly springs up from the Vridlo in the covered hallway of the colonnade
Itīs typical for Karlovy Vary that everybody want to try the curative springs. Hence, people usually buy small cups and walk along the particular colonnades while drinking the curative water. We tried one spring, itīs called the Snakeīs Spring (Hadi pramen) and has 30 °C. Well, it tasted like a salty mineral water…we didnīt like it at all so it was even more surprising that there were so many people enjoying this disgusting beverage while walking along the colonnade.
Then we decided to climb up the highest point of Karlovy Vary where the observation tower “Diana” is situated. Since we needed to save energy (or we were just a little bit lazy) we took a funicular that took us on the top of the hill and then we just did the downhill on our own without any problems.
The tower was built in 1914. Observation deck on the top of the Diana tower is at the height of 25 meters and can be also reached by an elevator; however, we preferred to stretch our legs on its 150 steps. We could even enter the tower without any additional fee and the view was really fantastic since the surrounding of Karlovy Vary is full of green woods
On the way back we passed by two churches - Church of St. Mary Magdalene (catholic) and Church of St. Peter and Paul (orthodox).
The strangest thing about Karlovy Vary is its strong Russian influence. It is a favorite tourist destination for people from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet Union republics. Plus, many Russian businessmen opened their stores and other establishments here. The town even has a Russian village where street signs are bilingual. In fact the Russian presence can be seen on almost every main street in downtown Karlovy Vary, where even hair salons, post offices, hardware stores etc. have signs in four languages.