Vary-ing the Water
Trip Start Aug 20, 2011
47Trip End Oct 29, 2011
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Today I took a trip to Karlovy Vary. I got up and made my way to the bus station to find that the next two buses were already full, and I got the very last seat on the one after that! This meant that I had two hours to kill at the bus station (and might I add that the bus station was significantly less confusing than the train station!). So I sat, and I read and I started thinking that if these buses were all sold out, then I might have a problem getting back in the evening. So I got back in line to buy a ticket for the ride home. Buying these tickets was an interesting thing to watch happen. The three windows that were open were all sharing one phone to check the availability of each ticket someone wanted to purchase. This meant that there was a lot of extra waiting while the ticket agent waited for the other one to get off the phone. It did not strike me as the most efficient system. However, the fact that they were then having to write out the tickets by hand, combined with this phone fiasco made me think that perhaps this is not the standard practice and that there might be something wrong. There was a sign that was written with marker on each of the ticket windows. Google translate tells me now that it said (yes I wrote it down) "For technical reasons, today, limited operation of this branch". So that pretty much solves that problem (along with the fact that the lady checking the tickets to get on the bus looked a little confused when I handed it to her).
This last seat that they had for me was the middle seat in the back row of five seats. It's like riding in the middle of the back seat of a car, only on a bus. The disadvantages of this include no foot rest (my legs are short), having people on both sides of me, and a constant feeling that without a seat in front of me, I probably should have worn pants. But there were advantages of sorts. The first one was leg room. While I have short legs, I thought to myself that Rob probably would have appreciated an entire bus length worth of leg room. And the second advantage (in certain circumstances) was the fact the my seat belt had the part that crosses over you entire body whereas the other passengers only had a lap belt. I suppose the logic is that all the other passengers could just hit their heads on the seat in front of them but I couldn't... I'll take the extra seat belt in that accident please.
I'm getting off track (I had time to ponder these things today). The bus ride itself was fine, it was more like being on an airplane than on a bus, only the seats were better than on an airplane. Once I arrived in Karlovy Vary I headed to the info centre by the station because Lonely Planet tells me that they have all sorts of great information. That location was closed (noon, on a Thursday, in the summer) so I headed out to find the other one, I never did find it, and I'm a little ashamed of how much of my day (and throughout the entire course of the day) I spent looking for it. I'm convinced it does not exist. I did return to the one by the bus station on my way back, and I didn't really fine the information I was looking for.
The thing that bring people to Karlovy Vary is the hot springs. They are said to have healing powers. Some people come for the hot spring spa treatments ($$), but for the less financially endowed, there are a variety of springs located throughout town for drinking. The hot springs have a variety of temperatures (I think they were 30-70 degrees) and they also differ with mineral content. I bought a lazenske pohar (there are supposed to be accents in that word), which is a spa cup used to collect and then drink the water. I chose a small one because I'll have to carry it around with me for quite some time (also, I was pretty sure the water wasn't going to be delicious). I went to the first spring. It was hot, and not that great. The second one? It was worse. I didn't see this getting any better (and I'm not going to stop now that I've started) so I bought some oplatky (wafers) to dull the taste of the water after drinking.
I wandered through the town tasting nasty water. I saw a geyser which apparently shoots 14m into the air, and I saw the Grandhotel Pupp, which is where they filmed part of Casino Royale. Then I caught the Diana Funicular up one of the hills around the town to a lookout tower (I counted 150 steps). From there I walked through the woods, and realized that this must not be the most popular tourist activity, because I did not see a single person until I made it back to town. I came across a little structure in the woods which caught me by surprise (that's as specific as I can get on this one), and then I climbed up to the top of the next hill. This hill also had a lookout tower on it (a very different type of tower, and I wasn't expecting it to be there either). The door/gate into this building led to a sketchy little staircase (62 steps), and I contemplated the idea that someone could lock me in there, but decided that there was enough room above the gate that I could always climb over it. The view from the top was good, but it was hot out in the sin, so I returned to the comfort of the trees. Back I went into town to taste some more water (some of the springs still alluded me... I'm talking about YOU #4!). Then the sun dipped below the hills, and everything was covered in shade. Then an orchestra started to play, so I just sat and enjoyed the late afternoon until it was time to catch the bus back to Prague.
So from what I saw, people come to taste the water, and they must also come to buy jewellery (and crystal). I say this because I would estimate that 90% of the stores were jewellery stores or crystal stores. It would be three jewellery shops in a row, then a currency exchange place, followed by some more jewellery shops. Is there really that much business to go around?! That was just one more thing that I had time to think about today.