Hope springs eternal

You say you want a revolution. Well you know, we all want to change the world

John Lennon, Revolution, 1968

In 1968 John Lennon was telling the citizens of the world who were daring to rise up against their oppressors that everything was going to be all right.

It didn’t seem that way then to the people of Prague and Czechoslovakia.

Five days prior to the record’s release tanks had rolled into Wenceslas Square.

To put down their peaceful democratic uprising, the Prague Spring.

Among the protestors was playwright Vaclav Havel.

Who 21 years later would help throw off the Communists’ shackles with the Velvet or Gentle Revolution.

Lennon was right, everything would be all right.

Give peace a chance: At the Lennon Wall in Prague

I am stood at the Lennon Wall in Prague, my two fingers up in a peace sign.

The Czechs had put two fingers up to the Communists themselves again in the 80s.

When they daubed Lennon lyrics on the wall off the main square under the watchful eye of the authorities.

Clock this

They had brought colour back to their city…

The grandeur around Prague, the Castle, the Astronomical Clock, the Charles Bridge with its more than 30 Baroque statues.

Then it had been allowed to decay for four decades…

In its place a grey architecture and the world’s second ugliest building, a transmitter rocket TV tower.

With babies climbing up the rigging, yes, you did read that right.

Swanning around Prague

There is a spring back in the Czechs’ step now in 2016.

This year they are celebrating the 700th anniversary of the birth of the Father of the Czechs, King Charles IV.

And I am happy to join these proud, passionate people and wish them Nostravia.

With beer obviously.

You might have heard that the Czechs are the biggest drinkers per head of population in the world.

It’d be us if our beer was only this good.

I recommend Longin Polotmavy Special Ruby beer from the brewery in the castle town of Loket.

Becherovkas all round

Especially with their spit roast pig and sweet apple pie.

Something for your wounds

In truth though the Czechs have always had a spring in their step… it’s probably all that spring water they drink.

And they have Charles IV to thank too for that.

Charles V Bridge

I’ve only come today to where it all started, Karlovy Vary (Charles IV), two hours from Prague.

Where the Holy Roman Emperor, as he was, came upon a hot spring by accident.

While out hunting and used it to attend his wounds.

I will have my war wounds attended to too on this Wellness trip in a mineral bath.

While an oxygen hit clears the hangover like nothing else.

I give the female mud fertility treatment a miss for obvious reasons. 

My sippy beaker

Karlovy Vary is the epicentre of an area known as the Spa Triangle which also includes Frantiskovy Lazne and Marianske Lazne.

I am strolling through this idyllic town’s collonades.And I am holding my ceramic beaker with its tiny spout, or sippy cup, as one of our party refers to it.

I feel like a local, everyone has a beaker and everyone is drawing warm salty healing water from the 12 taps.

Pleased to meet you: King Edward VII

It’s how Peter the Great and Goethe must have felt too. They too came here to take the waters. 

The best spring though is No.13, the herbal liqueur Becherovka, the Czechs’ national drink.

It contains cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and other ingredients and was originally developed as a medical stomach settler.

We sample it at the Jan Becher Museum which also opens up its lecture room/bar to us.

The name’s Pupp

The cocktail of choice at The Grand Hotel Pupp is Dry Martini where the gaming scene in Casino Royale was shot.

Karlovy Vary is a film town, it held its 51st Film Festival this year.

And its Walk of Stars has footprints of the rich and famous fronts the Hotel Pupp.

Turn the tap on

We visit the hotel which houses two cinemas.

And they have been good enough to roll out the red carpet for us and get the bubbly out.

A great drink deserves a great glass to quaff from…

Karlovy Vary has thought of everything and has the celebrated Moser glassworks on the outskirts.

Climbing babies

We observe the skills of the glassblowers before seeing the finished article.

And we inspect the walls adorned with pictures of royals, celebrities and holy men who have clinked its crystal.

Frantiskovy Lazne and Marianske Lazne have their famous visitors too,  from Beethoven to Queen Victoria’s son King Edward VII.

Put on a pedestal

He fell in love with a milliner in the town and kept coming back.

Here he is in bronze in the centre of Marianske Lazny.

With Franz Josef, Austro-Hungarian Emperor and uncle of Franz Ferdinand, yes that Franz Ferdinand.

Those damned paparazzi: Karlovy Vary

But it is Edward’s cabin and his copper bath which I’m here for.

They are in the town’s most famous hotel, the Neuwe Lazne.

And I have just walked 800 metres through the corridors of another hotel and a grand dance hall to get to Neuwe’s Roman Baths.

Florence’s Medicis had their elevated pavement to stop them from having to mingle with the Great Unwashed.

And Marianske has its labyrinth of hotels and underground corridors.

And I’m about to be washed cleaner than I’ve ever been before.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m wearing trunks with fishes on them I could imagine I’m an emperor myself.

Soaking as I am in this mosaic palace with its marble pillars.

I drag myself out and drag my shorts off… it’s the custom in saunas in the continent. Your water treatments too!

This sauna also has an Amazonian Forest simulator.

I am too relaxed. I go to the overhanging bucket of water, pull the cord and shriek with joy. 

Halo: The Sainted One

In Marianske Lazne it’s water, water everywhere and for the encore I visit the Singing Fountain for the evening performance.

Where an orchestrated dance of the fountain jets set to Czech music rounds off the night under the stars.

The jets even bow to us on our round of applause.

What a curtain call to my three days in the Spa Triangle.

Here’s to Charles

I cannot leave the Czech Republic though without thanking my host, Charles IV.

Our guides Katarina and Martina deserve honourable mentions too for their patience and encyclopaedic recall – they really were founts of all knowledge.

Czech religion: The original Protestants

I spend my last morning back in Prague on Charles’s bridge.

Where I tap my feet to the jazz band.

Only bettered by the jumpin’ trio who entertained us the previous night in Marianske Lazne, and then waft away to the classical violin.

A wee statue

I stroll along the wide Vlatva river and take pictures of the river boat.

The swans make their own way, there’s always one black scene-stealing one though, isn’t there?

A wedding party has the same idea.

I browse the souvenir stores and look through those end-of-the-pier viewfinder glasses.

At the scenes of the Castle obviously.

Playing at statues

And I stumble upon the Franz Kafka Museum.

Two everyman statues occupy the foreground.

Their waists swivel mechanically and they are peeing water onto a map of the Czech Republic.

I discover that it signifies politicians urinating on the country…  

I will recommend to our OPW that we erect such statues on my return home.

Should I draw from it… well, I have been drinking warm salty water  all week after alI.

I opt instead for a glass of Pilsener Urquell. Nas Dravi King Charles IV, and here’s to another 700 years.


Ryanair www.ryanair.com and Aer Lingus http://www.aerlingus.com fly to Prague regularly. For latest deals follow these websites.


The Hotel Lindner, Prague… http://www.lindner.de/en/prague-hotel-prague-castle/ Hotel Ametyst, Prague www.hotelametyst.com,

Hotel Imperial, Karlovy Vary. www.karlovyvary.cz/en/hotel-imperial. Danubius Health Spa Resort, Nove Lazne. www.danubiushotels.com. Hotel Hvezda, Maria Spa, Marianske Lazne. www.danubiushotels.com

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