TOP TEN Our region has an impressive list of the "most" and we have selected some of them for you. So join us in our excursion to these untraditional places, taste the local specialities........
The “MOSTs” of the Karlovy Vary Region; or you will recognize them for sure when…. …. balneology, Becherovka, spa wafers, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival or the Charles´ Race; are mentioned.
The Best-Known Spa Town
Undoubtedly, it is Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad). The most significant cultural event in this city is the International Film Festival; however, theatre and music (the Karlovy Vary Symphonic Orchestra was founded in 1835 as one of the oldest in Europe) have their tradition too. Golf, horse-racing, tennis etc. rank among the leading sport activities. Karlovy Vary is proud about many products connected with this town: the Becherovka liqueur, Moser glass, and the hundred-year production of porcelain.
Such personalities as the Russian Tsar Peter the Great, Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, French Empress Maria Louisa, Emperor Franz Joseph I, Johann S. Bach, Johann W. Goethe, Giacomo Casanova, Friedrich Schiller, Ludwig van Beethoven, Karl Marx, Richard Strauss and many others belong among the notable visitors to Karlovy Vary. The Karlovy Vary thermal springs, unique by their composition, belong among the most effective mineral waters in the world. The Karlovy Vary Hot Spring (Vřídlo), the most mighty of the springs, jets from the depth of 2,000 m, with the spring-discharge of 1,500 l per minute. It is characterized by its absolute ecological purity, which you do not find at the majority of surface waters nowadays.
Twelve Karlovy Vary springs serve primarily for drinking therapy, the significance of which has not been reduced even in the times of a great medical developments. External usage of mineral water within the frame of a wide range of spa treatment procedures significantly supports the resulting effect of the treatment. The quantity of water, the duration and selection of the spring is determined by the spa physician on the basis of an individual physical examination.
The Most Beautiful Natural Sceneries
SOOS Natural Reserve
It is located 6 km to the northeast of Františkovy Lázně. It was declared a reserve in 1964 and its area is 221 hectares, but only part of it, namely along a 1.2 km long matted nature trail with provided descriptions and explanations, is accessible. It is a vast bog and moor area, where many mineral springs and pure carbon dioxide emissions rise in so-called moffettes – mud vulcanos. The instructional natural trail passes at the bottom of the dry lake that once had salt (mineral) water. Nowadays we can find a European curiosity here – a so-called diatomaceous peak – a cumulus of diatomaceous earth from hard-shelled algae sedimented at the bottom of the lake. It is a "moonscape" furrowed by erosion and covered with a yellow and white layer of sedimented mineral salts. Many protected animals live here and an abundance of wetland and salt-loving plants grow in the reserve.
In 1875 Count Schönburg-Waldenburg purchased a large forested territory; and in 1877-78 he built a hunting lodge in the style of Swiss cottages, bought at an exhibition in Vienna, on an upland meadow (814 m above sea level) near the pond Kladský.
At the turn of the century five other log houses grew up in the vicinity. Around the Kladský Pond a 1.5 km long nature trail passes along rare plant associations typical of the high moor bogs. As early as in 1933 the area, consisting of three extensive forest bogs, was declared the Kladské rašeliny (Kladský Peat-bogs) Natural Reserve. Its area is about 600 m2 and stretches over into four districts.
Vlčí jámy (Wolf Pits)
Walking along the nature trail Vlčí jámy, you can get to know several natural curiosities that make the area of Krušné hory (Ore Mountains) special. At the places where ore deposits came up to the surface, adits were driven in order to get to the ore underground. Then chambers were excavated there. However, sometimes it happened that a chamber roof did not endure the pressure and caved in along with neighbouring walls. In this way the largest roof cave-in Vlčí jámy occurred in the Wolfgang mine. It was 120 m long and 14 m wide. It thus uncovered even the remains of the older mine drifts. The Vlčí jámy instructive nature trail starts on St. Lawrence’s Square in Horní Blatná and ends at the museum of the same village. It includes a total of 7 stops with informative displays and is 5.5 km long. The trail also includes the Blatenský vrch (Blatná Hill) with its lookout tower, from where there is a magnificent view of the surroundings. From this trail you can also enter onto the trail that leads to the famous Blatenský příkop (Blatná Ditch).
The Most Interesting Historical Monuments
They undoubtedly include the Bečov Castle and Chateau or the Loket Castle that most likely haunted Charles IV’s memories. As a little boy he was imprisoned here by his father John of Luxembourg. Let us go for a visit, for example, the Royal Mint in Jáchymov. The mining settlement of Jáchymov was founded by Count Štěpán Šlik in 1516. Silver mining satisfactorily developed and so it is no wonder that this settlement was raised to the status of a mining town as early as in 1520. As the Šliks had the right to mint coins, they built an imposing renaissance building for the mint in 1534-46.
In 1964 the Jáchymov Town Museum moved into this building. It nowadays is a part of the Karlovy Vary Regional Museum. The mint is a four-wing, two-storeyed building with two courts; the quoin towards the square is provided with an imposing richly-decorated bay. The present museum exposition called “Jáchymov in the Mirror of Time” consists of a total of 15 halls on two floors; the sightseeing tour includes imposing courtyards and very large historical cellar vaults of the mint, in which a collection of rare stone remnants from Jáchymov and its surroundings are exhibited (late-Gothic and Renaissance portals of the Jáchymov houses, etc.)
A technical monument of the Central-European significance is an extant chimney cowl (a huge chimney removing smoke and waste gases from assaying and coinage areas of the mint) that had been walled-in for several centuries and uncovered accidently only during the building reconstruction in 1985.
It is without question that the Seeberg Castle is an interesting historical monument too. It was built late in the 12th century and served as a military defensive fortress because persistent fights took place here during German colonization of the Cheb region. Nowadays several exhibitions are displayed here. Right next to the entrance there is a room where itinerant exhibitions are presented. Next is the Karlovy Vary porcelain exhibition, which is located downstairs and in the basement, complemented with antique furniture. It has an entrancing atmosphere in this historical environment. The most comprehensive one is the exhibition of the history of furniture and interiors of the 19th century on the first and second floors.
Here you can also see several rooms furnished with furniture and living accessories, glass and porcelain in a certain style. You have an opportunity to see the Patrician Empire Style, Biedermeier, Second Rococo, Gothic Revival Style, Neo-Renaissance and Chippendale. Although the sightseeing is unguided here, you recognize everything as thorough descriptions are provided here. In one room there is also a gothic scullery that you can see leisurely through glass. There is also a large hall, which might have been initially a banqueting hall, with a small balcony that, unfortunately, cannot be entered onto, and from which there surely is a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. Now various festivities and weddings are organized here.
The Most Mysterious Place
If you long for mystery, head towards the Krudum Mountain. The whole area in the surroundings of Horní Slavkov, Krásno and Loket is closely connected with this mysterious mountain and its surroundings. Our ancestors told many legends, the origins of which are very old and the roots of some of them reach back to the Middle Ages, and even earlier. They were also inspired by many historical and social events, many legends relate to the world of animals; with their narration people animated the history, they vivified the charming landscape with wonderful transcendent beings. They attributed the power over the mountains, rocks and underground to dwarves and mine kobolds, settled the Ohře River and ponds with water goblins and beautiful nymphs bewitching with their beauty many earthly young men. They saw romp places of devils, wild women, will-o´-the-wisps and cunning bugaboos in dark deep forests and swamps. All these mythical creatures as well as bad knights, weird Venetians; legends about the Krudum Mountain and fabulous hidden treasures were told from generation to generation.
For example, the Krudum Mountain is said to have a green head (forest), a silver heart (silver ore) and golden foot (gold was formerly placer-mined in the swamps at its foot). From Plzeň (Pilsen) to Chomutov people used to tell their children: ”When you are nice, St. Nicholas will come from Krudum and bring you a nice present, but if you are naughty, he will take you back with him to Krudum.“ It was said that the old man had his home on the mountain and distributed his presents from here. They often even did not know where mysterious and occult Krudum is located. This legend is connected very much with the defunct St. Nicholas Church that, in the Middle Ages, used to stand under the mountain, at the junction of the roads between Hrušková, Třídomí and Nadlesí and to which many legends relate too. Today the St. Nicholas´ Church is the centre of interest of the archaeologists.
The Hottest Spring
Naturally, it is the Hot Spring (Vřídlo). Its temperature is 73 °C and it jets up to the height of 14 metres. History of the first collecting water from the Hot Spring dates back to the 16th century; at that time the geyser was known as the Brudel, Sprudel or the Fous Spring. Till that time the only natural sources in the Teplá River Valley emerged in Karlovy Vary. Care of natural outflows consisted in their enclosing so that they would not be inundated during floods. Their waters supplied the cities’ bathrooms. The first collection took place after 1571. Till that time the springs´ water had not been utilized and had flown away. The Hot Spring was collected on the right side of the Teplá River.
Let us mention some buildings closely connected with the Hot Spring. First, we should mention the Public Bath, a baroque building from 1774 which was replaced with the Empire Colonnade some fifty years later. A wooden construction replaced the cast-iron colonnade. The current colonnade, famous all over the world, was built in 1967-1969. The first drills were shallow and, thanks to the thermal pressure, supplying the spa houses was no problem. Patients there could utilize baths and, naturally, drink curative Karlovy Vary water. Later, on the basis of research, 4 inclined drills were made to the depth of 48-49 metres.
Every visitor to Karlovy Vary today probably knows the Hot Spring (Vřídelní) Colonnade Who would not stop and admire the fountain, jetting up to 14 metres high - this never-dying energy from the Earth depths.
The Highest Mountain
Klínovec, at 1,244 metres above sea level, is the highest mountain of the Krušné hory (Ore Mountains) in North-West Bohemia. On the top of the mountain there is a hotel, currently closed, with its 24-metre-high observation tower and an 80-metre-high transmitting tower. The cable railway connects Jáchymov with the summit. The observation tower, as well as the hotel, is the oldest and most-highly situated building in the Krušné Hory. The northern slopes of the mountain are a popular ski centre.
It is located close to Boží Dar, 4 km northeast of Jáchymov in the Karlovy Vary District on the ridge of the Krušné Hory. The border crossing with Germany and the village of Boží Dar lie about 2 kilometres to the northwest. The German spa town Oberwiesenthal, towered over by the massive Fichtelberg Mountain, which is only 30 metres lower than Klínovec, can be found below the northern slopes. Easterly, along the border creek Polava, originating on the slopes of Klínovec in Germany, the Czech town Loučná pod Klínovcem lays and, still further to the east, behind the bare and flat ridge, reposes the village of Háj u Loučné. The average annual temperature of air is 2.6°C, the annual precipitation is about 986 mm.
Klínovec was mentioned by Johannes Mathesius in the 16th century. Klínovec is also often mentioned in connection with avalanches causing deaths, forest destruction and even damage to several houses. In the past the Klínovec area was called Bartum as well as Bartholomäusberg; and also the name Sonnenwirbel was used. In 1817 the town of Jáchymov had an lookout tower built on top of the hill above it, but it burnt down in 1868. This first observation tower was often visited by spa visitors from Karlovy Vary, from where they came by the horse carriage In 1883 the Krušné Hory Association of Jáchymov began to build a stone lookout tower. It was inaugurated under the name “Kaiser-Franz-Josephs-Turm” (Emperor Franz Joseph’s Tower) the following August.
The lookout tower is 24-metres high and still stands on the mountain; however, it is in a bad technical condition and, together with the hotel, is currently under reconstruction. 75 footsteps lead to the top. The number of visitors grew fast and, for example, in 1885 the mountain was visited by 6,000 people, out of which, however, only 4,623 ascended to the top of the tower. The reason, as described by one of contemporaries of that time, was the especially physical severity of the climbing and the very narrow staircase. Because of severe winds blowing almost the entire year the upper floor of the observation tower was roofed-over; and in 1888 it was covered with a glass roof. At that time the admission fee was 10 Kreutzers.
With development of tourism it was decided to build an annex serving for accommodation. Opened on the 18th of August 1893, it was annually in operation from May 1st till September 30th. Aside from its temporary accommodation for ten people, it also provided hot and cold meals. Together with the annex, a stable for eight horses was built. In June 1897 a postal station was established on Klínovec, which dispatched over 7,000 consignments to Boží Dar during the first summer. In 1907 another building was built, including a spacious hall with a stylish coffered ceiling displaying the coat-of-arms of the Krušné hory cities. On the occasion of an anniversary exhibition, organized in honour of Emperor Franz Joseph I, industrial and craft products from the entire Czech Krušné Hory region were displayed here.
The hotel was extended and another floor was built before the outbreak of the First World War. At the same time the former stable was converted to other accommodation facilities and the entire complex was coated with wood that remains intact to the present day. In 1913 the hotel had 40 accommodation rooms for 80 people. Besides the stables for 35 horses, there were also garages for automobiles here. With the establishment of Czechoslovakia, to which the territory fell, bilingualism in the mountain’s name disappeared. At first, the name Klín was selected and used. In the second half of the 1920s the use of today’s name Klínovec was agreed upon.
Previously, a meteorological station was on the top also. The number of tourist exploded especially due to the construction of the road leading all the way to the top, and because of the bus used to travel regularly from Karlovy Vary here. Late in the 1920’s the complex was expanded again and the number of beds was increased to 100. The restaurant was operated by the Wohlrab family at that time; and it consisted of three large rooms: the Dotzauer´s Hall, Sobitschka Hall and the Müller’s Hall. The latter one was named after Anton Müller, school inspector and a longstanding chairman of the Jáchymov Krušné Hory Association. On the slopes towards Jáchymov downhill ski-trails and a sled run were built for winter sports.
From 1922 a ski-jumping ramp in the direction of Oberwiesenthal was in operation; the local jump record of 50 metres was held for many years. Before the Second World War the hotel’s capacity was 112 beds. After the war the mountain again took on the official Czech name. The stream of especially German tourists ceased and was renewed as late as in 1972, after the cancellation of visa requirements for the citizens of the GDR.
The Largest River…..,
passing through the Karlovy Vary Region is the Ohře (Eger) River. It is 316 km long (of which 256 km are the Czech Republic). The river-catchment basin area of the Ohře River has a size of 5,614 km². It originates in Bavaria at the foot of the Schneeberg Mountain in the Nature Reserve Smrčiny (Spruce Mountain). The source of the river is to be found near the town Weissen-Stadt (about 35 km from Cheb). It flows through a hilly country up to Kadaň; and after having passed through the Nechranice Dam, it forms many meanders.
The Ohře is the second largest left tributary of the Labe River, into which it flows at Litoměřice. The highest volume flow-rate occurs in spring. The average flow-rate at the mouth is 37.94 m³/s. The extent of the lower part of the river flows through areas with the lowest annual precipitation amount in the Czech Republic (less than 500 mm). The Ohře is, therefore, primarily used for irrigation and hydro-energy. There are two dams on the course of the river: Skalka (built in 1962–1964, with the total area of 378 ha) and Nechranice (built in 1961–1968, with the total area of 1,338 ha).
The river passes, among others, through the following important towns: Cheb, Sokolov, Karlovy Vary (the spa-city at the mouth of the Teplá River), Klášterec nad Ohří, Kadaň, Žatec, Louny, Terezín (Theresienstadt) and Litoměřice. The most popular section sought-after by water tourists is Loket - Vojkovice with many attractive places from the point of view of water tourists´ and the hikers´ such as Loket, the Svatošské Rocks, Karlovy Vary, the Hubertus training rapids, Kyselka, as well as two dangerous weirs of Tuhnice and Radošov.
The origin of the name Ohře is probably Celtic from Agara (Ag means salmon, Ara flowing river). It corresponds to the German name Eger. Another theory attributes the name to the original Celtic or pre-Celtic name, meaning agility and brightness.
The Rarest Treasure
The Karlovy Vary Region has a real treasure. According to the experts, with its significance it ranks right after the crown jewels. If you guessed the St. Maurus Reliquary, you are right. St. Maurus Reliquary was made in the first quarter of the 13th century by the Köln-Mosan Art Circle. It represents Romanesque goldsmith artistry with its extraordinary art and craft quality and is an absolutely unique relic in the territory of Bohemia. In the 11th century the Benedictine abbey in Florennes (in what is now Belgium) was established and gained step-by-step several mortal remains of the saints – among which were the relics of St. John the Baptist, St. Maurus and St. Timothy. At the beginning of the 13th century a spectacular shrine with a “little-house” shape was made for them. Medieval artists covered the oak base with filigree decorations made of gilded copper and studded with gems, alternated with enamel plates that had geometrical motifs.
The St. Maurus Reliquary remained the only one of its kind in secular temporalities. It was possessed by the Beaufort nobility family that also owned the Bečov Castle and Chateau. At the end of the Second World War the Beauforts as the aristocracy cooperating with fascist Germany had to leave Czechoslovakia. According to the archive records Heinrich and Friedrich Beauforts were members of the NSDAP and the SS. Before leaving the country they most likely hid the Reliquary below the floor of the Bečov castle chapel, thinking that they will return for it soon. However, as many as 40 years elapsed, during which the rare relic had to wait in the earth, exposed to humidity and corrosion.
In the autumn of 1984 an unmatched case in the history of criminology was opened under the name “Antique“. Criminal policemen were looking for something, but did know what or even where to look for it. The primary information was – in Western Bohemia, roughly 150 km from Nuremberg, there is an object of a great historical value, hidden during the Second World War or immediately after it. The object is not big in terms of its size, but well-known in the artists´ circles. It had no relation to the Czechoslovak history. Complicated investigations succeeded in rediscovering the St. Maurus Reliquary in the castle chapel under the wooden floor and submerged in the soil backfill on the 5th of November, 1985. So at last, following forty years, the reliquary saw the sun again.
The mysterious, complicated and prolonged “St. Maurus Case” was successfully concluded in the spring of 2002 when, after demanding restoration work, the Reliquary is now displayed in its full beauty in the chateau at Bečov nad Teplou, where it undoubtedly belongs. On June 19, 2002 the government added this rarest work of the Romanesque craft masters in the territory of the Czech Republic onto the list of the National Cultural Monuments.
The Westernmost Observation Tower
The observation tower Háj u Aše was erected on the top of the mountain with the same name about 1 km from Aš. The construction of the lookout tower took three years, from 1902 to 1904.
It was built according to the design of architect Wilhelm Kreis. Such a 34-metre high massive lookout tower is unmatched in our country. The lookout tower consists of four viewing floors; and the most beautiful view is, of course, from the highest one, where you can see distant beauties of the Karlovy Vary Region and the adjacent part of Germany.
The Most Significant Pilgrim’s Site
Chlum sv. Maří (The St. Mary Wooded Hill)
The St. Mary Wooded Hill was first mentioned in 1341. However, the settlement of the area dates back much earlier. In the 13th century the statue of the Virgin Mary and a wooden chapel stood here. In about 1400 the chapel was replaced with the stone Church of Assumption of the Virgin and of Mary Magdalene. The pilgrims coming to Chlum were taken care of by members of the Order of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, who founded a settlement near the church. Miracles and mysteries mystifying the origin of the place and the oldest history caused the birth of many legends attempting to explain the mysterious facts.
The myths that told about the discovery of a miracle Madonna, about the Chlum highway robbers; and the local church bells, originated here. After the Thirty Year’s War pilgrimages were booming and Jan Bedřich Valdštejn, Prague Archbishop and Grand Master, promoted the local rectory to a provost’s place, which initiated the construction of a new church and a pilgrim’s area. The complete baroque construction according to Kryštof Dienzenhofr´s design was completed in 1728.
In 1960 the name of the village was changed to Chlum nad Ohří. Only after thirty long years its original name was returned to it. Chlum Svaté Maří has been and probably will remain a popular pilgrim’s place, not only for the faithful from all over the Czech Republic.