Celebrate Your Life – See the World
: : by J “Kat” Loren : :
Drinking cures most everything – that is if you are drinking the right thing – water. Not just any water, mind you, but the mineral-rich waters found only in a certain region of the Czech Republic.
Just a short train ride outside of Prague lie two historic spa towns near the edge of Germany – Marianbad (known by its Czech name as Mariánské Lázně) and Carlsbad (known by its Czech name as Karlovy Vary). Rich in history and full of romance and secret intrigues, travelers from centuries past arrived by the thousands during the summer to stroll the streets while imbibing in the drinking cure. Here, they dipped their special cups with straws fashioned into the handles, under mineral springs flowing through taps under wrought iron colonnades and drank the sometimes nasty tasting curative minerals.
My first stop was Carlsbad. After a lifetime of eating and drinking the typical American diet, it was time to take a break and imbibe in a drinking cure of a healthier kind.
Carlsbad: The Elegance of Old World – New World Spas
Getting to Carlsbad in the 1800s wasn’t easy. Although luxury trains such as the Grands Express Européens and the through-carriage of the Orient-Express brought the wealthy, the working class arrived by horseback, carriages, and even on foot. Rich or poor, the journey often lasted for days. Today, you can hop a train in Prague when you tire of the frenetic pace of your European travels and decide to set down your beer mug in favor of royal treatments in a royal spa town. Two hours later, you’re in Carlsbad. After checking into your hotel, the spa awaits.
Traditional drinking cures now extend to saunas, massages, facials, peat packs, and CO2 therapy as well as aesthetic and cosmetic surgery at bargain prices by extremely well trained and board certified surgeons. Some come for a 3-day spa package. Most come for at least a week. Three weeks, however, is the recommended time for the health benefits of the traditional drinking cure to kick in.
Serious healing happens here when the mostly German, Czech and Russian clientele come for a 3-week drinking cure. Serious relaxation also happens for those who want to skip the diet and the waters to laze in a spa, hike the trails, marvel at the glassblower’s art in the Moser Glass Factory, imbibe in excellent afternoon coffee and pastries, and take in the international film festival in summer or local cross country skiing in winter. The locale caters to healing both body and soul.
Carlsbad is a beautiful town. The Grand Hotel Pupp, the scene of the James bond movie Casino Royale and Queen Latifah in The Last Holiday rises majestically at one end of town. A river divides the town in half and modern hotels and shops line both sides. The west side boasts beautiful mansions restored by Russian investors and a Russian Orthodox Church with golden domes gleaming in the sun. A tram lifts tourists up the steep mountainside to a country tower and restaurant that offers spectacular photo op views of the surrounding country, hiking trails, and the town below.
The Luxury Spa & Wellness Hotel Prezident
Forgoing the traditional Bohemian hotel spas in favor of a modern boutique, more organic spa, I stayed at the Prezident Luxury Spa & Wellness Hotel. It was here that I met the world-renowned balneologist and spa owner Dr. Milada Sárová.
Dr. Sárová bought a local B&B when she was aged 60, and with the help of her sons (one an architect and the other an economist) persuaded a banker to finance the renovations. Over the last seven years, she focused on transforming the property into a world-class boutique spa. She has also studied the chemical properties of the local springs, lectured around the world on spa treatments, and now blends the science behind the drinking cure with modern, holistic treatments for body and soul.
Of the 50 guest rooms, my room felt modern and spacious with white furniture and duvet cover, exceptionally clean and oddly devoid of art. “To give room for the mind and soul to relax,” explained Dr. Sárová.
A tour of the inner sanctum on the 4th floor revealed a curvy sauna hallway sporting saunas of various temperatures, rooms to lounge in, a gym, and massage rooms. The 8th floor is where the healing happens. Rooms of modern equipment for lymphatic drainage, oxygen therapy, co2 therapies, hemp oil and mud baths, and aesthetic beauty treatments are located here along with the physicians’ offices.
While blood tests and other diagnostic tools are used to determine a course of treatment when a guest comes for one to three weeks, the main prescription Dr Marta offers is the drinking cure. She directs guests to specific taps numbered on a map under or near the town’s colonnades. Guests take their special cups that offer a long curving straw as a handle, find the tap and sip as they stroll mindfully down the street. One may be richer in magnesium; another in lithium. When you know what you are drinking and why, it is easier to embrace the taste of some of the springs.
“It takes about 3 weeks for this living water, that comes directly up from the magma at the center of the earth and matches the chemical composition of the water in the human body, to cycle through and bring your body into a more alkaline state,” Dr Marta explained. “It also takes about three weeks for the brain the change its dietary and lifestyle habits.”
Dr. Milada knows that the cure extends beyond the waters and into the diet. My vegetarian friend, frustrated by the heavy carnivorous menus of Germany and Czech Republic restaurants, raved about the organic fresh fruit and veggies and meatless main dishes. I thought the quality and variety of food fantastic as well. Between spa treatments and dining, guests retreat to the terrace to bask in the warmth of the summer sun.
By the end of a 3-day spa retreat, I felt recovered from my travels, well rested and pampered, and ready for the next adventure in life…but I wished I could have stayed for the entire 3-week drinking cure. From hotel guests remarked to me – the health benefits they noticeably experienced, was well worth the time and effort.
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J “Kat” Loren is a Pacific NW-based journalist and author of more than a dozen books. She currently focuses on writing health, fitness, and travel articles. Her blog “Crazi Culture” is a popular read among those who like eclectic topics and travelogues about odd places and adventures. http://www.craziculture.com
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