Places in Czech Republic

Winter trip to Karlovy Vary

In the Czech Republic, we have a tradition of so called “spring holidays” for schoolchildren. The holidays last one week but they are planned within several weeks so that all districts don’t have them at the same time, this year the span is from February 5 to March 18.

My younger son Zbyněk has had the holidays this week and because we don’t go skiing, we were thinking about a trip to make. Finally we decided to visit the spa Karlovy Vary where Zbyněk was on a school trip last June and it seemed interesting to visit the spa in winter under quite different conditions. Also, I had never been to the spa so I asked him to be my guide in the town which he liked. Thus on Monday morning, Zbyněk and I sat on a bus and went to the spa.

Despite an unfavourable weather forecast predicting an overcast sky and cold and windy morning, we enjoyed quite a nice and almost sunny day with temperatures just slightly below the freezing point.

My son told me before the trip that he wouldn’t mind if I was taking photos but asked me not to spend too much time doing that which was quite difficult to comply with actually, there would be so much to pay attention to. But I understand that for him it’s boring to stay at a place waiting for me while I’m trying a few settings or compositions so I did try to respect his wish although based on his remarks here and there, not always I managed to fulfil that…

Here are a few photos from the trip which I’d like to share, starting with the Mill Colonnade.

The Mill Colonnade is built of stone in Pseudo-Renaissance style and was opened in 1881. There are five mineral springs you can taste in the colonnade, all salty and warm. Not bad but you couldn’t drink them in large quantities as after a few sips you have enough. At least I had.

There are five colonnades in Karlovy Vary intended to shelter spa guests from unfavourable weather when coming to drink water from healing springs. They are made of different material and in different styles. They have a long history as they were gradually repaired, improved, enlarged or replaced before they became the impressive buildings we can see nowadays.

The colonnade in the following photo is the Market Colonnade.

It’s built of wood in Swiss style, was opened in 1883 and shelters three mineral springs.

The most impressive spring in Karlovy Vary is called simply “Hot Spring” and can be found in the Hot Spring Colonnade, which is built in Functionalistic style from reinforced steel and concrete and was opened in 1975. The spring is 72°C (162°F) hot, on average it yields about 2,000 litres of mineral water per minute and its geyser reaches a height of about 12 metres, which together makes the spring quite a unique natural phenomenon.

Right next the Hot Spring Colonnade you can see the church of Saint Mary Magdalene which was designed by the distinguished Czech architect Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer, it was opened in 1736. In 2010, the church was declared a National Cultural Monument.

Our next stop was the observation tower Diana placed on a hill above the spa, we used a funicular to get there. The tower offers beautiful views of the spa and the visibility was good so we did not regret the 150 stairs we climbed to get upstairs. There is a lift you can use to get to the top of the tower which may be very helpful for many spa guests but I chose to go by foot and not to be lazy which would have been my case.

The church with those gold-plated cupolas at the bottom of the photo above is an orthodox church of Saint Peter and Paul. It’s accessible during its opening hours and we visited it for a while when we got back to the town. It’s a beautiful building both from the outside and inside.

There are many Russian visitors in the spa and I read that many buildings are owned by Russians, we could hear the Russian language everywhere we went.

We didn’t return down with the funicular but chose to follow a tourist path that lead us to several lookouts. The path was a bit tricky as there was snow and ice and the hill was quite steep but gradually we managed to overcome all the obstacles safely.

In the photos below, there is the Deer jump lookout on the left, the observation tower Diana in the middle and a lookout arbour on the right.

Another lookout called Peter’s Height was built to commemorate the Russian tsar Peter the Great who skilfully rode to the top of the hill on his horse having no path to follow in the rocky terrain during one of his visits to the spa.

Back in the spa we had some more time before our bus was coming so we ate some warm food at McDonald’s and went back to the colonnades to enjoy them a bit more and also to taste the hot spring. We bought three boxes of spa wafers to bring them home and then went to the bus station.

Along the way I was happy to take a photo of a statue positioned on a house facade which I noticed in the morning.

And that was it. Time to go home. We spent 7 hours in the town and were very tired but we loved it all. We both agreed on coming back again with a few more members of our family.