Listen to the podcast here: Springs of life – Karlovy Vary, where you can drink yourself to…. health.
Remember how I told you about James Bond’s Elbow – link to this post:
and I mentioned Karlovy Vary, King Charles IV and the Grand PUPP Hotel? I said that we will come back to this topic again, because it is worth it. And you will see for yourself whether it was worth it or not 🙂
It is said that Charles IV once undertook a hunting expedition to the forests, which abounded in game. During the hunt, one of the dogs began to chase the deer, in pursuit of which, it fell into a spring from which water was gushing. The dog began to howl in pain.
The hunters who heard the dog’s cries rushed towards it, thinking that it had been injured by a hunted animal. They were amazed at the spectacle that had played out before them. They came closer, pulled the dog out, and then tasted the water, which turned out to be hot.
Emperor Charles IV was informed about the incident and hurriedly went to that place with a large retinue to admire the extraordinary work of nature. In the presence of his doctors, the wise ruler noted that such hot water can repel many serious diseases and is very useful and invigorating. He himself poured it on his sick leg, which brought him relief and improvement.
According to the legend, the place where the emperor used spring water was turned into a health resort. A chair was carved in the rock there, on which the ruler used to sit. Finally he ordered to inhabit the area around the spring. Under the Deer Rock – Jeleni Skok, the one chased by Charles’ dog, you can see numerous remains of fortification walls that were supposed to surround the city, but were never completed. The settlement was called the Hot Springs of Emperor Charles – Karlovy Vary.
When I first set foot in the Karlovy Vary region, I saw many beautiful villages shimmering with golds of autumn at that time. However, I did not expect to see a place as unusual as Vary. Karlovy Vary literally translate as the “Hot Springs of Charles”, the one from the hundred-crown banknote, from the Charles’ Bridge in Prague and from the castle in Loket, which I have already mentioned in my other post. Actually, the first name of the city was the Royal Baths at the Loket Castle if I remember well.
This pearl of a city stretches along the Tepla (Warm) River, but the beautiful edifices are also located in the higher parts on both banks of the river.
At first glance, a post-communist building catches an eye, quite unusual at that, and if you gave it a bit of color and added some life, it would not be so terrible at all. It was created as a hotel and serves as one of many in this city. It’s called Hotel Thermal and I’ll mention it yet below.
It is here on the bridge that we stock up on Karlovarske oplatky or wafers with crumpled pictures and the name of the city and delicious cream fillings to choose from. Produced here since 1788. Deliciousness – fingers llickers! 🙂 And they taste best warm, freshly baked.
Let’s go then:
We temporarily stick to the right bank of Tepla, which is really warm 🙂 But we don’t touch the water because we don’t want to turn into a fossil. Vapors and heat emanate from the water and float above its surface. In Vary you can buy the famous rose, which is a real flower, covered with sediment of iron and other minerals which after having been dipped in the spring waters from the area, turn into a fossil. We didn’t want to become that, so we were careful not to stumble and end up in the river 🙂
Russian can be heard everywhere and if you don’t know it yet, you will now find out that Karlovy Vary is practically a Russian city in the Czech Republic. Even local airport operates here mainly for Russian aircraft and private jets. To find a job in Vary, Russian is a requirement, and the beautiful panorama of the city is dominated by an even more beautiful Orthodox Church dedicated to St. Peter and Paul built in the nineteenth century for the needs of frequently visiting Russians. It looks a bit like a castle in Disneyland.
Various stories can be heard about the history of Russians in Vary. Sometimes you can see men in tracksuits getting into very expensive luxury cars. It is commonly known that Russians occupied Czechoslovakia for decades, and it is not surprising that they liked Karlovy Vary because it is a trully unique city. Tsar Peter I himself was a regular visitor here as well as Tolstoy, Gagarin and many more. Whatever the history behind their ubiquity in this city, it seems that thanks to them local hotels, shops and tenement houses are well-kept and the city is flourishing.
And it blooms beautifully. Especially in spring. And in autumn it surrounds itself with pyrethrums and reds of the Karlovy Vary forest.
And in the summer, in the first half of July, the city fills with the stars of the world cinema. Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is a festival of feature films, documentaries and short movies. It is the most prestigious film review in Central Europe. The first edition took place in 1946, in Mariánské Lázně, but a year later the festival moved to Karlovy Vary. Since then, it has been held here regularly and continuously to this day.
Every year, the festival premieres films from all over the world. Only those that have not yet been shown at other international events can take part in it. But this is the norm in film competitions. The main prize is the Crystal Globe but there are also: special jury awards, best director, best actress and best actor awards handed in. The center of the festival is the Thermal Hotel, whose extraordinary structure I have already mentioned above. Film screenings however take place practically throughout the entire city. The coolest screenings are those under an open sky.
Karlovy Vary often turn into movie backgrounds, including those of great Hollywood productions, such as the already mentioned Bond. Grand PUPP Hotel is where several scenes from Casino Royale were created. In front of the hotel there are paving stones with the names of some of the most famous actors in the history of the world cinema. A mini version of Hollywood-Vary Avenue of Fame.
The interior of the Spa House below played a role of the casino interior in a movie.
But let’s keep going, because we have a real treat ahead of us. Those who travel to the spring waters know small cups with noses, which often take the form of animals or plants. So here too, be sure to buy yourself a cup (šálek). Remember also that due to the rich deposits of kaolin in the area, these cups are not made in You know Where, but locally.
And why do you need such a sippy cup? Well, the greatest wealth of Karlovy Vary is 12 hot mineral water springs, used in the treatment of diseases of the digestive system, metabolism disorders, but also oncological diseases and locomotor issues (these are the most popular springs located in the city center in beautiful colonnades, apparently there are 79 of them in total, but the other ones are located on the surrounding hills and I will mention them one day because they deserve it).
And so you wander around, top up your sippy cup with water after water and slowly sip as you keep stralling.
Springs with healing water are hidden under five colonnades built at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and restored after World War II:
- Sadová Kolonáda (Park Colonnade),
- Tržni Kolonáda (Market Colonnade),
- Mlýnská Kolonáda (Mill Colonnade),
- Zámecká Kolonáda (Castle Colonnade) and
- Vřídelní Kolonáda (Spring Colonnade).
Going from the Thermal Hotel towards the Grand PUPP Hotel, we pass the colonnades and springs in the reverse order. The first and one of the most beautiful of them is: Sadová Kolonáda (Park Colonnade) made of intricately wrought iron designed by Viennese architects:
12. Sadový pramen – Park Spring (earlier name: Císařský pramen – Imperial Spring) is located in the Military Sanatorium, used since 1852, water temperature 41.6 °C, source efficiency 1.5 l/min, CO2 content: 750 mg/l. The spring was discovered during construction of the Military Spa. It is one of two springs to which access is restricted, all others but one which is closed for public, are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and without restrictions.
11. Pramen Svoboda – Spring Freedom (earlier names were: Lázeňsky pramen and Franciska Jozefa I, the current name was given in 1946), is located in the Pramen Svoboda Arbor, which was erected above it in 1865 and has been used since the early 60s of the nineteenth century, water temperature 62.4 °C, source capacity 5 l/min, CO2 content: 550 mg/l. The spring was discovered during the digging of the foundations for the new building of Lázne III.
Next, Mlýnská Kolonáda with high marble arcades:
In the movie Casino Royale, this colonnade plays the role of a train station in Montenegro.
Mlýnská Kolonáda (Mill Collonnade) is the largest colonnade in Karlovy Vary – a neo-Renaissance building with 124 Corinthian columns.
Construction took place in the years 1871-1881 according to the 2nd design of Josef Zítek. The project was originally conceived as a two-story building. Instead of the second floor, there is only a balustrade with twelve statues, which are supposed to represent the allegory of twelve months. Criticism of the building during its construction was devastating. It was being compared to a bowling alley or to a bed of carrots and asparagus. Today it is the biggest symbol of the city.
In the semicircular hall you can read the solemn Latin poem “Ode to the Hot Spring” by Bohuslav Hasištejnský of Lobkovice from 1500. For the sake of curiosity, he was an official and courtier of the Polish King Władysław Jagiełło.
The colonnade includes a total of five springs – Skalní, Mlýnský, Libušin, Knížete Václava and Rusalčin. And here they are:
10. Skalní pramen – Rock Spring, already known in 1845, water temperature 48 °C, source capacity 2.2 l/min, CO2 content: 650 mg/l. Originally, the spring beat directly from the Tepla riverbed.
9. Pramen Libuše – Source of Libuša (the previous name was: Pramen Alžbětiných růží – Spring of Elizabethan Roses, the current name was given in 1947). The spring has been known since the 70s of the nineteenth century, water temperature 62 °C, source efficiency 3-5 l/min, CO2 content: 550 mg/l. Water for the bowl is supplied by four small springs.
8. Pramen knížete Václava I and II – Spring of Prince Wenceslas I and II, used since 1784 (previously known as Bernardův pramen from the name of the rock from which it beat directly into the River Tepla). In the past, the spring was much more efficient, and its frequent ejections of water to a height of 4 m made it similar to Vřídlo, spring number 1, about which I will talk a little later. The strength of the spring was significantly reduced when the stone colonnade was erected and its waters were directed to two bowls. The first bowl is fed with water of 65.6 °C and a capacity of 4 l/min, CO2 content: 500 mg/l.
The second bowl is placed on a bridge over the Tepla River, in front of the Mill Colonnade and is fed with waters of 58 °C and a capacity of 2 l/min, CO2 content: 500 mg/l. The 2nd spring of Prince Wenceslas is the youngest spring in Karlovy Vary. It came to life only in 1964. Probably the reason for its creation was superstitious. According to the legends there should be twelve springs in Karlovy Vary. The waters of this spring were formerly used to produce Karlovy Vary medicinal salts.
7. Pramen Rusalka – Nixie Spring (previously called Nový pramen – New Spring), known already in the sixteenth century, water temperature 60.2 °C, source capacity 4-7 l/min, CO2 content: 600 mg/l. The spring originally flowed directly from the Tepla River. Right next to this spring, in the eighteenth century, spa doctors ordained.
6. Mlýnský pramen – Mill Spring, also known since the sixteenth century, water temperature 56.6 °C, source capacity 4.5 l/min, CO2 content: 600 mg/l. Its name comes from the mill on the Tepla River, which stood there until the end of the eighteenth century. It was recommended to patients as early as 1705. At that time, used mainly for medicinal baths. Water from this spring is bottled and sold all over the world.
We reached the area of the medieval market, the old center, so the springs in here are among the oldest and longest used in town.
In the years 1882-1883, a wooden Tržní Kolonáda (Market Colonnade) or Swiss-style Market Colonnade was built above the springs, according to the design of Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer.
Its main function was to cover the springs rising here on the site of the then market. The springs here are Tržní, Charles IV and Dolní Zámecký. Here they are:
5. Tržní pramen – Market Spring. Water temperature 62 °C, source capacity 4,9 l/min, CO2 content: 500 mg/l. Discovered during construction works in the historic market below the Castle Tower (Zámecka věž) in 1838. It caused a lot of worries for people in the pharmacy “At White Eagle” and in the house “At Giraffe’s” in the center of the then famous market, but it was thanks to this unruly spring, which repeatedly disappeared and reappeared, that a beautiful carved colonnade was created. Today, the spring is available in a semicircular apse, which, due to its excellent acoustic properties, is a popular concert venue.
I’m going to jump here from the fifth spring to the second one now, but don’t worry, I’ll explain everything in a minute.
2. Pramen Karla IV – The Spring of Charles IV (previously called Žrout – Glutton). Water temperature 64 °C, source capacity 4.8 l/min, CO2 content: 250-450 mg/l. This spring is used since 1769. Just above the bowl there is a metal relief by Adolf Zoerkler from 1930 representing the discovery of the of Karlovy Vary springs by Charles IV during the famous deer hunt. It is therefore apparently also the one in which Charles IV himself treated his sick leg, and it was this legendary spring that led to the creation of Karlovy Vary. This bowl stands in the place where the first spa in the city was once located.
And what made us skip the 3rd and 4th springs was Zámecká Kolonáda (Castle Colonnade). This building was originally built in the years 1911-1913. Its creator was the Viennese architect Friedrich Ohmann. In 2001 it received its current form when it was rebuilt into the Castle Spa (Zámecké lázně). This is when Spring 3, Lower Castle Spring was brought to Tržní kolonáda and made available to the public while Spring 4, Upper Castle Spring remained within the spa, closed to the public.
From the outside, it is decorated with elements of classicism and artesuvia. Inside this colonnade there is a sculpture of the Spirit of Springs by V. Hejda. 🙂 And it looks like this:
3. Dolní zámecký pramen – Lower Castle Spring. Water temperature 55.6 °C, source capacity 2.5 l/min, CO2 content: 600 mg/l. Known since 1769. Cows were the first to pay attention to this spring and liked to gather near its waters. Later, children made a small pool in it. During the very cold winter of 1784, when the water in the city froze, this spring supplied water to the public fountains. In 1809, it completely disappeared for 14 years.
4. Horní zámecký pramen – Upper Castle Spring, also used since 1769, water temperature 49.8 °C, source capacity 1.5 l/min, CO2 content: 600 mg/l, not accessible to the public. The low water temperature is reportedly caused by the higher location of this spring.
And finally, on the left we also see the queen of Karlovy Vary springs, namely:
1. Vřídlo – Hot Spring is located in Vřídelní Kolonáda (Spring Colonnade), originally built in 1826 under the supervision of Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer. Already in 1939, this building corroded and was demolished. The current form dates back to 1971-75 and was created in the style of functionalism under the supervision of architect Jaroslav Obraba.
The waters of this spring have served people since the sixteenth century. The Vřídelní sál visible in the above photograph was built next to the original spring once discovered and in accordance with the healing principles of David Becher, which required drinking water right next to the springs. I will talk about Becher a little later.
Vřídlo is the hottest of all springs, it is something really unusual; nearly 2,000 liters of water with a temperature of 72-75 °C shooting from a depth of almost 3,000 meters every minute, to a height of 12-15 meters. CO2 content: 400 mg/l, available during the opening hours of the pavilion.
Today, water from it is used mainly for bathing, less often for drinking. In the past, its waters were used in all Karlovy Vary facilities, because their healing properties were praised already in the sixteenth century.
In the old days, irregular shots of water, due to their strength, could scare local residents quite well. Today, this phenomenon is regulated, but it still makes an amazing impression on observers. The geyser explosions are so high that you really can’t absorb the entire glory of this spectacle, let alone take a nice photo.
The warmth of the water makes the droplets falling on you have a magically calming power and looking at this unique phenomenon you stand there speachless. Those interested can go on the excursion called “Underground Hot Spring”.
And while the official number 13 belongs to pramen Dorotka (Dorothy’s Spring on the mountainside), many call so the famous Becherovka – an alcoholic drink created by Dr. Becher, who for years engaged in the study of the content and properties of mineral waters in Karlovy Vary springs. As you can see, the temperature and carbon dioxide levels, in his opinion, were not sufficient for healing all pains 🙂 and that is why today you can visit the Becherovka Museum.
Read here about the Number Thirteen and I meawile can personally assure you that if you do not know this spring yet, you should not hesitate to get to know it 🙂 It has many flavors, it is also widely available around the globe and treats many ailments. I checked so I know!
If you play Geocaching, you already have one place to visit: pramen 13
And those who know where to go and how to get there, like us 🙂 climb the roof of the Mill Colonnade and absorbe the tremendous views on the city.
I wonder if our Polish national poet, Adam Mickiewicz, who used to reside here in 1829 also ran on the roofs of Karlovy Vary….
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