Karlovy Vary and Plzen

Karlovy Vary is a stunning spa city situated in western Bohemia, Czech Republic, on the confluence of the rivers Oh?e and Teplá, approximately 130 km west of Prague. It is named after the former King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who founded the city in 1370. It is historically famous for its 13 hot springs and seemingly unending spas and gorgeous buildings. It has become a popular tourist destination, especially for international celebrities visiting for spa treatment. In fact such “celebrities” over the years that have seeked treatment at Karlovy Vary include Beethoven and Karl Marx along with Morgan Freeman and Daniel Craig. The city is also known for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the popular Czech liqueur Karlovarská Becherovka. The famous glass manufacturer Moser Glass is also located in KV. Finally, the city has been used as the location for a number of movies, including the James Bond box-office hit Casino Royale, both of which used the city’s truly immaculate Grandhotel Pupp in different scenes.

My friends and I arrived there after waking up and deciding to rent a car in Prague and drive out to see the retreat city. The gorgeous drive through Bohemia was not without getting lost a few times but in the end we made it and saw KV for what it was: a gorgeous place that seems to be hidden from the mainstream tourist view. The buildings were distinctly European and it really had a feel of Switzerland but the surrounding hills gave it a really safe and alluring feeling.

There really isn’t too much exciting stuff to tell because the city doesn’t exist for excitement but it is a gorgeous place with plenty of little cafes and the stroll up the river to the Grandhotel Pupp is fantastic. I wish I had been able to check out one of the expensive spas but time and my company didn’t exactly allow that. I will tell anyone who is looking for a great place to go with a girlfriend or something in Europe that’s not too crowded and just a great place to relax to check out Karlovy Vary, it’s a really awesome place.

After KV, we shot down the E49 highway to Plzen which is the birthplace of lager beer. The city itself is an industrial town that has a charming city center and main square. The most prominent sights of Plzen are the Gothic St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral in the main square, founded in the late 13th century, the tower of which at 335 feet is the highest in the Czech Republic, the Renaissance Town Hall, and the Moorish Revival Great Synagogue in Pilsen, the second largest synagogue in Europe, after the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest. But nobody goes to Plzen for those things, they go for beer, the birthplace in fact of Pilsener Urquell, which in my opinion, may in fact be the best beer in the world. Certainly, drinking it in the Czech Republic is a rewarding experience, much like Guiness in Ireland or Heineken in Holland, etc.
We basically had a few Pilseners and had a bite to eat at a crappy Czech restaurant with some of the worst service imagineable. Luckily for them I can’t remember/pronounce the name and forgot to take their card because it was just awful or I would really lay into them. However, the overall time in Plzen was as expected. It’s a nice place to pop in for a few hours, have a few pints and head back to Prague or wherever else you’re going.

Now, I am back in Prague, freezing my ass off again. I really hope this cold weather lifts soon because I just can’t take much more of the cold.

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  1. Hello Lee and thank you for the nice story of one of my favorite cities and in Karlovy Vary. My parents began taking me there when I was a young man and have been back with my own family many times. I still live in Prague and I am pleased to hear that you have joined us. Good luck on your journeys.

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