Sunday, November 08, 2009

Day 5 Monday: Karlovy Vary

The morning begins one hour early than usual so I can finish breakfast before the tour pick me up.

Around the appointed time, a van with tour company's logo and name parked outside the hotel and I went in. There were several people in the van already and I thought they would be my tourmate. But as it turns out, this is just a pick up van to take people from hotels and drop them off at rendevous points to meet the actual van.

I found out, when I got in to my actual tour van, that I was probably the youngest person who bought this trip on my own :P About 90% of the van were elderly Spanish women, with one younger couple who brought children with them. It was then that I realize that the terms spa town seems to be the selling point which eludes most young people :pp Our group were Spanish and English speaking group, thus, our tourguide speaks both English and Spanish. He is a young man with a pear shape figure and relatively cute face :P.

Anyhow, I ended up sitting close to an asian-looking elderly couple. We chat a bit and I learned that they were from US and spend their retiring years traveling around. The van stop at a petro station so people can use the restroom (the restroom do have fee). I checked out the shop area a bit, nothing interesting though, just snacks and some cheap looking keychains.

The view was nice though, a lot of green hills and some cattles in the far off distance. Then we were on the van again. Our tourguide narrate a the general information of Czech republic while we were on the road.

The town itself is a basin surrounded by moutain. The first sight of the town was posh looking hotel. The area surrounding the road into the town was very lush green forest. The van drop us off and then we start to walk to the town itself. We started out in, probably an our of town drop off area. The trees were wall and lush. The air was fresh and cool. And then the elderly spainerds lit their cigarettes... The whole lots of them... From that point on I tried to stay upwind from them.

The guide told us that the town has been long used as a health retreat due to the numerous mineral springs founded in the area. Which was said to have stomach healing properties. Then he pull out a ceramic cup from his bag. It has a thin rectangle shape from the top with hollowed sprout which you can sip the water from like a straw. He said the cups were designed this way so you can slowly sip the mineral water and warm your hand at the same time, since some of the springs give out hot water. This way you can sip the water slowly while walking through the lush green mountain paths as part of the healing process.

He said the doctors then used to prescribe the cure by having the patient drinking the mineral water and sit in the hot spring all day. He said that it was more like a punishment and I understood why once I tasted the water. It has quite a strong metallic taste and not very pleasent to drink. This is also probaly why the cups were designed for sipping and not drinking :p

Then we passed a parking spot or something of that sort which has a souvenier hut. I bought a box of the traditional cookie with lemon flavour and a mini-bar size bottle of herbal liqour for my mom. Then we headed into the main area of the town. The guide narrate some more histories of the area, pointed out a few more spring tap which you can drink from and then we arrived at the main tourist centre. Inside there is the main spring fountain and 4 spring taps with differeciate in temperature by the distance from the main fountain. Some of the unique souvenier that sell here are items that has been metalised in the mineral spring such as rose on the stem, carved animals figure. However, my main draw is the ceramic cup with straw handle. There are many selections of many colours, size and shape. They are quite pricey. I also wants to choose the one that is large enough for me to drink from it for several times before I need to refill. So I ended up with a normal shape cup, in deep blue, and not very pretty print on the cup. But it is the most price appropriate one for its size.

Then it's time for lunch. It was relatively nice, the guide warned us that the drink is not free but I did not prepared to think that the small bottled of orange/lemon soda that the waitress pour into my glasses would cost be 70 Korunas. Andw hat's shocking for me is that they charge the same price for every type of drinks in their serve, including plain water!. What a ripoff... But I did not dwell on it too much. The orange/lemon soda tasted very nice and it will be probably be the only time I had it.

After lunch, we have some free time to explore the town. Our guide mention earlier that there is a massage package that cost abotu 20 Euros. I went to the spa building and found out that it was just 15 minutes partial massage. So I did not buy that.

Walking around the town, I found a shopping area with brand name shops and what not. For me it looks rather busy for a relaxing quiet spa town :P

I also walked pass a small park area with tall trees which connected to another area that has a fountain. I filled my bottle with the mineral water to use for bathing later in the evening. There was also a traditional music band performing near by. There was also a hugh Azelea bush with large cluster of flowers. There were some comments that the reason the flowers were so big because of the volcanic soil in the area.

I went back to the hotel when it was appointed time to leave. After everybody arrived, we got into the van and heading back to Prague.

Back inPrague I went to have my last dinner in Prague at my favorite Italian restaurant near my hotel. I chatted a bit with the waiter/manager of the place. He said he had been to Thailand and play some golf.

That night I took a bath while wiped my body and face with washcloth soaked with mineral water :) I also put aside a cup of the mineral water for sipping while taking a bath. After that I packed up my stuff, ready for my flight to Amsterdam tomorrow morning.