Karlovy Vary

Trip Start Oct 04, 2007
Trip End Nov 23, 2007

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The first city I actually was able to visit, in Czech Republic, was Karlovy Vary.  Karlovy Vary is known as Karlsbad to Germans and Carlsbad to the English.   The literal meaning of Karlovy Vary is "Charles' Spring."  The city is rightfully named because the town is built upon a mineral spring.  This village is known as a Spa city.  Karlovy Vary may be one of the coolest cities I have ever visited.  I didn't know anything about the city before traveling there, I had asked people for a recommendation and they said that this city was beautiful and a very popular German tourist attraction.  That was good enough for me. 
The main drawing point to Karlovy Vary is the mineral spring water.  Locales believe the spring water has a healing effect.  The legend behind the discovery of the springs is pretty cool and interesting. The springs were first discovered when King Charles was hunting gazelle with his dogs.  Somehow a gazelle was injured (a broken leg?) and the dogs and Charles were closing in on the gazelle.  To avoid being killed, the gazelle jumped off a small cliff and landed into a mineral spring.  Charles' dogs followed the gazelle over the cliff.  But, amazingly after the gazelle had landed in the pool the gazelle galloped away as if its leg was no longer broken and evaded Charles and the dogs.  It was at this moment that Charles is credited with discovering the healing powers of the Karlovy Vary mineral springs.
Now-a-days People, from all over the world, travel to Karlovy Vary to taste its mineral waters.  There are very strict regulations about how much water can be taken and how the water should be used.  No  person is allowed to take more than 1.0 L away and all the water taken must be drank.  No one is allowed to pour the water out in on the ground or anything.
When I first arrived in Karlovy Vary I was mesmerized!  The city gives off a really cool vibe.  The main part of the city runs parallel to a river/spring that passes directly through the city.  There are small houses and local businesses everywhere.  The scenery is abundant with trees, changing color for fall, and mountains.   There are cathedrals and historic buildings everywhere.  The city is major eye candy.  But the best part of Karlovy Vary is the mineral springs.  
Immediately after entering the downtown area of the city, there were tons of tourists and tourist shops everywhere.  There were so many that the city did lose a bit of its glamour, but it was still really cool none-the-less.  I started to notice people walking around with highly decorated Porcelain mugs.  These mugs were like nothing I have ever seen before.  The handle of the mug served a dual purpose as a straw.  So basically there are all these people walking around sipping on the handles of porcelain mugs.  I started looking at mugs and found one that caught my eye but I decided against buying it; I didn't know what they were for.  
As I walked through the city taking pictures of all the cool architecture, I saw a crowd forming around this outside patio like house.  I went over to investigate and I saw them filling their mugs with water from a draining snake spigot. 
  I had a water bottle but I did not know if I could walk over and fill it up so I went up to the spigot and drank some water from my hands.  It was weird tasting for water; it reminded me of highly carbonated well water.  I ended up buying the coolest mug I could find and then continued walking through the city. 
All in all there were 12 mineral springs you could drink from.  Each had a different name, taste, and temperature.  The water varied from ~ 30 deg. C to 72 deg. C.

The water was cooled through the spigots to be a suitable drinking temperature.  In certain waters you could really taste salts, some were cold and others were hot, some were more highly carbonated, and in some you could taste actual minerals or iron.  Each station had a different flavor.  Some of the stations were ordinately decorated but the more famous stations were housed in amazingly constructed collenades.  The most famous collenade is the Mill Spring collenade.
This place was perfect for me I love water.  I was drinking mug after mug nothing could stop me.

That is until my bladder was filled.  The water may be free but bathroom use isn't.  If that isn't a great racket I don't know what is.  Have people walk around your town drinking water and then hit them up when they have to relieve themselves.  Granted the bathroom was cheap only like $0.40, but there are tons of people going to the washroom.  I think it is a pretty good business. 
In one of the collenades they had a computer that displayed which type of water you should drink to cure different ailments.   I glanced quickly at it but nothing really held my attention.
After walking to the end of the town, I ended up at this huge hotel that looked really familiar to me.  It took me a while but I finally realized where I knew the hotel from.  It was in the latest James Bond film Casino Royale. 

It was pretty cool to see it and to be able to recognize it.  I checked the internet when I got home and sure enough some of the film was shot at the Grand Pupp hotel in Karlovy Vary. 
The main city strip was relatively small only a couple blocks and I walked it for a few hours.  Eventually I decided to go hiking through the wooded trails and to visit this very scenic viewpoint - Diana's point. I didn't really know where it was I just knew it was in the woods behind the Grand Pupp.  It took me about an hour to hike to the top of the mountain.  I was kind of sweaty and my feet were hurting.  When I got to the top there were quite a few people just chilling up some were even pretty old - they seemed to be in good shape I didn't think anything of it.  Immediately I was impressed with their ability to climb the mountain.  In fact I thought to myself that I hope I can be as active as them when I am their age.  I was really astonished. 

Then as I began to walk more, I started to notice a lot of people - a lot more old people and even some really young kids like 4 or 5 years old.  Now I knew something was fishy.  I didn't see anyone else hiking while I was going up and it seems strange that so many people would be up there.  Furthermore, there is no way a 4 year old could hike up that mountain and there is no parent alive who would carry their kid up that mountain.  I started to look around and I discovered there was a tram that went from the bottom of the mountain to the top.  I quickly lost all respect for the elderly and other people atop the mountain; I had once again found another reason to hold myself in a higher light.
So after climbing the mountain I finally made it to Diana's point.  Diana's point is a tower that rises 1,425 feet off the mountain and over the trees to give a really scenic viewpoint. 

There was a long line to enter the tower and I couldn't figure out why.  I then realized that all the people were the tram riders and were too lazy to walk to the top of the tower; they were in line for an elevator.  I hustled past them shouting "Prominte" (Sorry) and then went up the stairs.  When I got to the top of the tower, the view was amazing.  I was pretty excited.  I looked for a while and then decided to take some pictures. 
The first picture I took was into the sun so I couldn't see the LCD to see how it came out.  At this time I was thinking how pissed off I would be if my camera didn't work and I hiked all the way here and can't have a photo to remember it.  I went to snap my second photo when I noticed a fucking black bar across the screen again. 

I don't believe it at first.  This would be the third time this camera model was broken within 3 months.  I turn the camera on and off and nothing works.  I look at the lens I don't see anything blocking it - short and simple the camera is fucked.  Luckily, my faith in Olympus has greatly been reduced since I have had to return the camera twice already; I decided to bring a spare camera. 
When I fished it out of my bag the camera wouldn't turn on.  The battery must have died.  Now I am pissed off.  I take out my camera, which captures images with a thick black bar through it and I start banging the camera on the ledge.  I am pissed off and figure I will be returning the camera anyways.  All these people start looking at me.  I don't care I am really pissed.  I decide to turn my camera on one more time before leaving the tower and when I do - it's fixed.  No more black bar.  I guess beating the hell out of my "indestructible" camera must have worked.  I was no longer pissed and was able to take in the scenery once again.     
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