|Towns of the Czech Republic|
Besides the town's spa tradition, which goes back some
600 years at least, Karlovy Vary can also boast a good mix of architectural
styles ranging from the Baroque to Art Nouveau. It is also home to the
famous manufacturer of Bohemian glass Moser, the delicious Carlsbad
wafers, and of course the popular Becherovka liquor.
There are four lookout towers that surround Karlovy Vary in a
semi-circle, making it possible to view it from all sides. Many people's
favourite view is from the hill called Jeleni Skok, which translates into
' stag's jump' and is apparently the place where Emperor Charles IV went
hunting and discovered the curative mineral springs.
The springs most probably began to be used for treatment after the
town was founded in 1350. According to legend, Emperor Charles IV
discovered the thermal springs by chance while he was deer hunting. They
say his doctor suggested he try to heal a leg injury with baths in the
thermal spring water. It was successful and Charles IV (or Karel IV in
Czech) ordered a town to be founded by this spring and gave it his name -
The colonnade and pedestrian zone are lined with
breathtaking architecture from world famous architects such as Kilian Ignaz
Dientzenhofer, who built the Baroque Church of St. Mary Magdalene in the
1730s or some twenty late nineteenth century Art Nouveau buildings by the
architectural duo Fellner and Helmer, and the list goes on.
The architecture here is a true gem of the town and takes us back to
the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. You find buildings in the Romantic
style, ideal for dreamers and lovers of the old days. Today's Karlovy Vary
is mainly in the 19th century "historicist" style with a little
Art Nouveau as well. Most of the town is only some 120 years old because,
the first, gothic and renaissance, town burned down in 1604. Then there
was another fire in 1759. The third building phase, which the famous poet
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe fell in love with, was in the Neoclassical
style. These buildings were also gradually torn down in the late
nineteenth century because the old houses were too small and failed to
offer the comfortable living conditions that the spa guests demanded -
electricity, hot water, flushing toilets, elevators... The town had to be
modernised, leading to a boom in construction, eventually transforming the
town into what we see today.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the spa town
was a popular place of stay for the nobility as well as poets, writers,
and musicians. Goethe sought the healing powers of the mineral springs
thirteen times in the years between 1785-1823. Russian Tsar Peter the
Great visited the town twice - in 1711 and in 1712.
Time must have stood still since then - well dressed spa guests take
relaxing walks along the colonnade, sipping mineral water in their special
cups, which they fill at one of the springs in the late Renaissance Mlynska
Kolonada or Mill Colonnade - a traditional symbol of Karlovy Vary, built
between 1871 and 1881 and designed by the architect of Prague's National
Theatre, Josef Zitek.
It is unclear how many thermal springs can be found in Karlovy Vary. Some
books write there are up to 150, while most expert literature says there
are between sixty and seventy, with their temperatures varying from 30 to
73 degrees Celsius. Twelve of them are currently being used to cure
disorders of the digestive system, metabolic disorders and disorders of
the locomotive organs. Today, Karlovy Vary attracts some 70,000 spa guests
The souvenirs - the 'petrified' rose: comes to being when paper roses are showered by
thermal water in a special underground chamber where wastewater from the
source of the thermal fountain is collected. The 73 degree aerated water
releases calcium carbonate and a thin layer of sinter, coloured by the
oxidized iron, settles on the objects. In the case of a rose it takes
about six days for the sedimentation effect to turn it into stone.
Karlovy Vary wafers are thin
circular wafers filled with chocolate, vanilla, or nuts.
Becherovka Museum - two hundred years ago in 1805, a count came with his personal doctor Frobrig to be treated in Karlovy Vary. They were put up in a house owned by the pharmacist Josef Becher. He had a very well equipped pharmacy here in Karlovy Vary and Dr. Frobrig spent all of his free time carrying out various experiments with herbs and spices there. He finally composed a secret formula for stomach drops and gave the recipe to Josef Becher as a gift. Josef Becher adjusted the recipe for two more years and started to sell the liquor as medicine in his pharmacy in 1807.