It’s not very often that a town can be described as “happy”, but I think I found one recently in the Czech Republic.
It was while walking around the park in the spa town of Marianske Lazne watching the centrepiece musical, singing fountain that I suddenly thought to myself that this was a happy place. I can’t particularly explain why.
Perhaps it was the general atmosphere, as many people go there for the healing qualities of the spring waters, the air is fresh and the architecture is stunning.
Marianske Lazne is one of the triangle of spa towns in the west of the Czech Republic. The others are Frantiskovy Lazne and Karlovy Vary. Czech residents can be prescribed a 2 or 3 week course of treatment or rehabilitation in the region by their doctor.
The towns have been frequented by Kings, Tsars, Composers and Artists over the years who benefited from the elegant spa houses, exquisite gardens and the wonderful gastronomy of the region. Little wonder the towns are on the UNESCO heritage list.
On my recent visit, I stayed in some stunning hotels, like the Grand Hotel Imperial which overlooks Karlovy Vary and was the basis for the Oscar-winning movie “Grand Budapest Hotel” as well as a location for James Bond’s Casino Royale. I also stayed in the Hvezda Health Spa in Mariazne Lazne, which is a stunning building a stones throw from the town’s beautiful colonnades and the main park. Karlovy Vary is the most famous of the spa towns. There are a dozen hot springs dotted around the town, all at various temperatures and with different healing properties. Part of the relaxation experience in the town is the time spent wandering between the springs sipping on the water. I will be honest and say that some tastes and smells awful – don’t say you haven’t been warned!
There are also many treatments on offer at the spa hotels in the region, including peat wraps, gas baths and oxygen therapy to name but three. The springs are an interesting natural phenomena in themselves. The hot water gushes upwards from a natural geyser which can be seen in the centre of the town. It is then piped to the various colonnades and to some of the hotels.
I was told by folk on the ground that the main clientele are Czech, Russian and German. This was pretty evident at breakfast in particular as there were all sorts of foods on offer to cater for a variety of tastes and cultures (including pork, carrots and cauliflower – which I would term as dinner).
Looking at the “all inclusive prices” the costs for a weeks full board in a 4* or 5* hotel with up to 3 spa treatments daily and entertainment started from £300 – which is very good value – even for the hotel alone. It is a huge industry in this region. A great many people see the thermal waters as a remedy to all sorts of ills and Czech doctors can prescribe visits to the area for people with a variety of conditions.
The Spa towns are found about 70 miles west of Prague, close to the German border. Transport between the regions is excellent, with regular train and bus connections which are very reasonably priced.