The Ancient Mecca of Mindfulness: Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic’s Healing Town

Even Holy Roman Emperors have hobbies. For the 14th Century ruler Charles IV, a spot of horseback hunting was the ideal way to pass the time between imperial duties.

He was a bane to the scurrying wildlife in the Ore Mountains. However, he had an impeding ailment—an injured leg. One day, his travelling men discovered a warm pool of water mystically bubbling up from the ground.

The emperor plunged his aching heft into this Godsent hot spring and felt an instant miraculous recovery.

In the wake of his holy discovery, he granted city privileges to the small encampments surrounding these divine lands, and the healing springs were soon to form a brand-new mindful municipality.

This new type of magical town was to be named after Charles IV, the King of Bohemia. The healed hero would ensure that this spiritual land retained its curative origin, and the first Spa Town in Europe was spawned.

Homely and humble, architects set out to create a wholesome town. Resplendent with the grandeur of nature, pastoral-coloured fortresses bloomed throughout the all-giving hills. Soon, physicians heard about this new healing town and flocked there in their droves. They wrote of Carlsbad’s calm, peaceful, and hot springs.

Perhaps the magic was overstated, but the crisp, clean air, warming water and clean, serene streets were bound to be boons.

Thus, great artists of the day soon followed these physicians, and everyone from Wolfgang Mozart to Nikolai Gogol and Sigmund Freud was soon plunging into its restorative beauty.

The town grew in their wake, but with peace being the pound earner for the area, all the art nouveau architecture was done with mindfulness at its heart. No prize tree was felled, nor a flowing stream impeded for the bricks and mortar of man. Nature and art were to be as one in this heavenly retreat.

Shrouded in the hush of the rolling hills, a quietude descended on the town that nobody has cared to break ever since. Sixty-six miles west of the hustle and bustle of Prague, this miracle of nature and man remains a world where contentment is king and noblemen are happy to shed their crowns and take respite in the tranquil side of life.

Although these kings have tried to keep it a secret, with over 80 springs within a few kilometres of Karlovy Vary International Airport, this wellspring has since gone global.

Now, it not only hosts an International Film Festival, but it is also frequently used for filming. The place’s palatial peace has featured in Casino Royale, and the Palace Bristol Hotel was even used as a model for The Grand Budapest Hotel. If there is one thing that director Wes Anderson knows, it is style, so it says something when he is scouting around this Eden for inspiration.

Beyond the springs and well-being hot spots, there are golden roofed church steeples, an art nouveau City Opera House, the crisp green Park Colonnade, the canal way, an indoor geyser and the party popper colours of the inviting Dvorák Park.

All woven through the green mountainsides, the rivulets of culture seem entwined with the warming landscape like almost nowhere else in the world. Bohemia proves an utterly apt name for this utopia that has always stayed true to its healing roots of a hunter breaking from the grind and taking a miraculous plunge.

If you don’t feel refreshed in the embalming hush of this homely Shangri-la with a hot chocolate in hand, then it would seem peace is simply not the practice for you to engage in—head back onto the D6 for two hours to Prague and take in a heavy metal gig.

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