Karlovy Vary is a charming little town in western Czech Republic. Image courtesy of Samantha Marangell.
Living in this beautiful little Czech spa town has been quite delightful. Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad, Karlsbad, or, my favorite, KV) is a pastel-colored haven, nestled up against hike-worthy hills and a calm, curving river. Not only have I been lucky enough to get stuck with the best strangers-turned-flatmates one could hope for, but, as with all of the Czech Republic, the food is hearty and the beer is plentiful.
There are the usual touristy things one should do while in Karlovy Vary (like hiking up to the Diana tower or drinking the famous mineral water), but consider these other ideas as well:
1. Enjoy tea at the Grand Hotel Pupp
Ok, this is admittedly one of the semi-touristy things on the list. But the beautiful Grand Hotel Pupp (pronounced exactly as the five-year-old in you would hope) is not only hot because Casino Royale and Last Holiday were filmed there, but because it’s stunning and fancy and a true part of KV’s charming old town.
2. Take a dip at a beer spa
While you could always opt for the more traditional water-based spa treatments, the beer spa is something unique to the Czech Republic. Soak in a two-person tub filled with a combination of authentic Czech beer and mineral spring water.
At the supposed First Beer Spa, you also have unlimited access to your own beer tap, so you can pour your own (fresh) beer to drink while you soak. It also has a large bed of straw in case you want to take a literal roll in the hay with your tub-mate while you’re resting.
3. Go mushrooming
This excursion is so popular that it has its own verb. In the late summer and fall you can frequently see people (including grown men) walking around with wicker baskets filled with gigantic, colorful mushrooms, straight out of the Enchanted Forest. Of course, some are poisonous, so be sure to go with a knowledgeable guide or friend.
4. Learn one of the “hardest” languages
With its seven cases and impossible strings of consonant clusters, the U.S. Foreign Service ranks Czech as more difficult than Swahili.
Personally, I am a self-proclaimed language freak and would love any excuse to learn a new language. More importantly, though, this part of the Czech Republic has a larger Russian-speaking than English-speaking set of expatriates, so knowing more than “Good morning” and “One more, please” will be very helpful.
5. Cheer at a Czech hockey game
We’ve gone to two hockey games so far, and the KV Energie has won both. (Obviously it is now irrefutable that Karlovy Vary has the best hockey team in the world.)
Tickets are cheap, and there are always seats available. The atmosphere is casual, the fan section is rowdy, my 11-year-old students walk around unsupervised, and the stadium food consists of cheap beer and gigantic sausages (because of course it does).
For an authentic Czech experience, go to a Karlovy Vary Energie hockey game! Image courtesy of Samantha Marangell.