Prague was the first of the many cities that we visited with pedestrian-only sections, in at least part, if not all of the central districts. This makes the ambiance wonderful. Despite our timing of late May (the “shoulder” season), the city was busier than we expected. So we could only imagine the crowds and be grateful not to experience summer-peak months. Our cozy and quaint Hotel Ventana, on a small quiet street near the Clock Tower Square, was only minutes from many forms of public transportation or walking to all sights in Old Town, New Town, and across the Charles or other bridges to Prague Castle. Frankly, our favorite area was the Old Jewish Ghetto, filled with proud and sad moments in the history of Jews in the Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, formerly part of the Habsburg aka Austro-Hungarian Empire in Central Europe.
One of our days in Prague, we drove to the charming “spa” town of Karlovy Vary aka Karlsbad. It was originally founded by King Charles IV (Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia) when during a stag hunt, he noted a hot spring. In 1370-ish, he built his palace which burned down twice and was eventually abandoned in the 1700s. There are streets, particularly the Ohre River promenades, lined with gorgeous row-houses in Art Nouveau style. Thanks to some Russians (oligarchs?), they have been restored to their former glory, though they stand empty most of the year. Karlsbad is best known for its many “fountains” or spas flowing with the mineral- and element-filled water at varying temperatures, from 30 to 72o C. The fountains are generally found along covered, fancy walkways called “Colonnades.” When you “take the water,” you can both soak in a pool and drink (from separate sources!) the hot, sulfur-tasting water appropriate for your ailment. See our Travelogue for more details.