Czech Republic: Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary is a world famous hot spring spa resort in western Czech Republic with its fame go back many centuries. It was founded as Carlsbad in 1358 by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and has attracted hordes of famous people and celebrities of all sorts since to its supposedly curative waters. There are 13 major hot springs and over 300 smaller ones along the course of the warm Tepla River that flows through town. Art Nouveau and Neo-Classical buildings (all hotels) line up the embankment in both sides interspersed with galleries (long colonnaded halls with hot springs for drinking the “magical waters”). Market, Castle, Mill, and several other colonnades offer visitors chance to drink a variety of warm slightly-carbonated and fairly disgusting-tasting water. For some reason, perhaps from the socialist days, this resort is a Mecca of sorts for older packaged Russian tourists and thousands invade absolutely everything in town, while the local businesses tailor and optimize to extract every possible euro. The entire town is an overload of kitschy atmosphere, crowded to the rim, shops peddling souvenirs, and fake gourmet restaurants serving awful food as well as hotels cramming the tourists into tiny overpriced rooms. If somebody paid me to spend a day here, I’d probably emphatically say “no” – not my cup of tea (or mineral hot spring water).