Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
After travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk and Wroclaw, Danny and I set up camp in Karlovy Vary in Czechia. Danny’s boyfriend Sam joined us there. Sam doesn’t like train travel so he came by car. That altered our possibilities. We stayed six nights at Hotel Imperial and we did excursions by car from there.
But first we explored Karlovy Vary.
Karlovy Vary, Karlsbad (German, Dutch) or Carlsbad (on Swarm) is a spa city in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 48,000 inhabitants. It lies on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá, approximately 130 km (81 mi) west of Prague. It is named after Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, who founded the city.
Karlovy Vary is the site of numerous hot springs. There are 13 main springs, about 300 smaller springs, and the warm-water Teplá River.
It is the most visited spa town in the Czech Republic. The historic city centre with the spa cultural landscape is well preserved and is protected by law as an urban monument reservation.
It is the largest spa complex in Europe. In 2021, the city became part of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name ‘Great Spa Towns of Europe‘ because of its famous spas and architecture from the 18th through 20th centuries. Spa in Belgium is member of that group. Banners of that club are visible near the river.
A Slavic settlement on the site of Karlovy Vary is documented by findings in Tašovice and Sedlec. People lived in close proximity to the site as far back as the 13th century and they must have been aware of the curative effects of thermal springs.
From the end of the 12th century to the early 13th century, German settlers from nearby German-speaking regions came as settlers, craftsmen and miners to develop the region’s economy. Eventually, Karlovy Vary became a town with a German-speaking population.
Karlovy Vary as a small spa settlement was founded most likely around 1349. According to a legend, Charles IV organized an expedition into the forests surrounding modern-day Karlovy Vary during a stay in Loket. It is said that his party once discovered a hot spring by accident, and thanks to the water from the spring, Charles IV healed his injured leg.
The location was subsequently named Karlovy Vary after the emperor. Charles IV granted the town privileges on 14 August 1370. Earlier settlements can also be found on the outskirts of today’s city.
An important political event took place in the city in 1819, with the issuing of the Carlsbad Decrees following a conference there. Initiated by the Austrian Minister of State Klemens, Prince of Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, the decrees were intended to implement anti-liberal censorship within the German Confederation.
It brought the city to the attention of the great and wealthy. Due to publications produced by physicians such as David Becher and Josef von Löschner, the city developed into a famous spa resort in the 19th century and was visited by many members of European aristocracy as well as celebrities from many fields of endeavour. It became even more popular after railway lines were completed from Prague to Cheb in 1870.
The number of visitors rose from 134 families in the 1756 season to 26,000 guests annually at the end of the 19th century. By 1911, that figure had reached 71,000, but the outbreak of World War I in 1914 greatly disrupted the tourism on which the city depended.
In 1938, the majority German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia, known as the Sudetenland, became part of Nazi Germany according to the terms of the Munich Agreement. After World War II, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement, the vast majority of the people of the city were forcibly expelled because of their German ethnicity. In accordance with the Beneš decrees, their property was confiscated without compensation.
Since the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the presence of Russian businesses in Karlovy Vary has steadily increased.
Karlovy Vary has over 80 springs. They are a part of the Eger Graben, a tectonically active region in western Bohemia. Although the infiltration area is several hundred square kilometres, each spring has the same hydrological origins, and therefore shares the same dissolved minerals and chemical formula. The hottest of the springs can approach 74 °C, while the coldest have temperatures under 40 degrees. All of the springs combined provide roughly 2,000 litres of water every minute.
The hotsprings and the heydays dating to the Belle Epoque make Karlovy Vary upmost photogenic. Colourful Jugendstil houses, bridges, colonnades and palace hotels.
We tried to book Pupp but it was full. There seemed to be a conference going on.
Particular landmarks besides Pupp are the Mil Colonnade and the Market Colonnade and the many churches.
- Catholic Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, built by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer in 1737.
- Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul,1898.
- Protestant Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, 1856.
- Church of Saint Anne, 1745.
- Greek Catholic Saint Andrew Cemetery Church,1500.
- Methodist Church of Saint Luke, 1877.
- Ruins of the Church of Saint Leonard of Noblac, 1246.
- Synagogue, 1994.
Hot Spring Trail
he many hot springs of which you’re expected to drink of using expensive cups. We didn’t.
Take the funicular to Diana Viewpoint for a meal and a view of the city.
Speaking of funiculars, take the Lanová dráha Imperial funicular to avoid to climbing Ulice Vyšehradská.
Karlovy Vary is definitely a lively and pretty city and decent as hub in the region. There are some good hotels, restaurant options and cultures. For shopping the choice is a bit “meh” to our liking though. Shopping malls look a bit dreary and well not so lively to be honest.
We spend a week at Hotel Imperial and used two days for Karlovy Vary itself.
That was enough.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.
- A walk through Gdańsk.
- Gdańsk 2021.
- POLAND | PKP Intercity Gdansk to Wroclaw via Warsaw.
- Wrocław Museum of Architecture.
- The Dwarfs of Wrocław.
- Poland 2021.
- By train from Wroclaw to Karlovy Vary.