Karlovy Vary: A Great Town, A Terrible Tour

Our final Remote Experience excursion for the summer was to Karlovy Vary, a Czech spa town. I was bummed that I didn’t make it over to Karlovy Vary when I studied abroad, so when this excursion won for Prague, I was so excited…and it lined up perfectly with Mikela’s visit.

For a bit of history, Karlovy Vary is in western Bohemia, not too far from the German border. The city was founded way back in 1370 and has been famous for its hot springs ever since. Every picture I’ve seen makes it look like a colorful, quaint Czech village and I couldn’t wait to check it out.

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They also have tons of spa treatments from normal massages to unusual herbal treatments for any sort of ailments. Jillian, Mikela and I were anxious to book some spa time so we kept bugging Michelle and Derar for more information on our schedule. They booked through a tour company and based on how little information they provided, we should have been leery right from the beginning. In the end, we decided to book our own treatment knowing we might have to split off from the group…which in the end, turned out to be a blessing.

We met as a group outside our “office” really early. As in, before most cafés were open. Luckily Antoninovo Pekarstvi pulled through and we were able to grab a cappuccino to go. We then waited for our ride to pull up before piling into the van and heading on our way.

We wound through the cobblestone streets of Prague, everyone ready to take a snooze on the two-hour drive. Ten minutes later, we stopped in the City Center and our driver got out. We were all a little confused but sat patiently waiting for him to come back. Someone else came, turned off the van and made it clear that we needed to get out. We proceeded to stand around and wait, still confused, for a good 20 minutes. Finally, two different vans pulled up and we boarded one while another group boarded another; apparently we were just combining groups.

Again, we settled in for our nap…and five minutes later, we stopped and were again, ushered off the van. This time, we joined an even bigger group on a huge bus. Our “private” tour just turned into a huge group excursion.

We finally got that nap, until we stopped at a gas station in the middle of the Czech countryside. We waited for a good half an hour, apparently for a bathroom break, then continued on our way.

Our next stop was a bit more interesting, the Moser glass factory. We were to tour the glass factory, seeing traditional Bohemian glass being blown by hand (and mouth). Oh, but before that, we had to wait another 30 minutes out on the lawn.

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Once we were finally allowed inside the factory, we got a quick overview of how the glass was made then walked around the factory floor.

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It was actually super cool to see. There is one master blower who is managing each piece.

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There is another understudy who is helping prep the glass and learning to blow the pieces.

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And finally, a woman making sure each man has water, snacks and of course, beer. Apparently sexism is still alive and well in the Czech glassblowing industry.

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It was crazy to watch how fast the pieces were blown. And they really didn’t care about us being there, they’d just walk through with their molten hot, liquid glass modules and if we happened to be in the way, so be it.

After we walked around the factory floor, which took all of ten minutes, we expected our tour to continue. False. We were given another 30 minutes to look through the store, which all of us had done during the first 30-minute wait.

By this time, we were all a bit annoyed as it was past lunchtime and the majority of our tour had been waiting around. Luckily our next stop was lunch, which wasn’t too far away and we were driving through some beautiful countryside. However, our excitement was short lived; the bus dropped us off at this odd looking hotel/conference center and we were escorted inside to a dreary dining room. It was absolutely gorgeous outside and there was a great deck around the whole building – a lunch overlooking the woods would have been much more ideal.

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We had a very unappetizing lunch of traditional Czech food. Afterwards, we once again piled onto the bus and we finally made it to Karlovy Vary. Our tour guides hurried us off and told us we could join the walking tour or simply explore the town ourselves. A few of us were debating what to do when one of the guides turned over to us and rudely yelled “GIRLS!!”. Her scolding made it pretty clear which option we chose.

Walking around the town was absolutely gorgeous.

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I wish we had gone straight here rather than taking a lovely tour of the gas station, the Moser glass factory lawn and a random hotel/conference center in the woods. But oh well, Mikela, Jillian and I walked up and down the town, tried the famous Karlovy Vary wafers and drank a very unappetizing espresso while we waited for our spa treatment…a beer bath! (more to come on that)

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