Another part of the holistic wellness experience in Karlovy Vary is to take daily walks in nature, and there are plenty of paths and self-guided tours in the forested hills near the town. The tourist information office has put together detailed walking tours – or you can choose to wander; entry points into quiet wooded areas abound.
For a good view of Karlovy Vary, the Diana Observation Tower is a popular choice and it can be accessed on foot or via a cable car starting near the Grandhotel Pupp. The Charles IV Lookout is not far from there, and in the other direction is Deer Leap (Jelení skok), crowned eccentrically with a statue of a chamois.
I found myself reflecting on archetypes and symbols: The Goddess of the Hunt watching over the King on his Hunt in the Woods...
My thoughts were racing but slowed down at the curious sidewise glance of our Cavalier King Charles spaniel on the path ahead: making me wonder when the hound’s role in the story would be properly acknowledged – with a statue or lookout point.
The forest feels protective and inspires contemplation. And such walks whet the appetite. As a soft rain began to fall, we returned to town, ready to experience Bohemian cuisine.
For an aperitif, we sampled the renowned Becherovka liquor, which originated in a Karlovy Vary pharmacy in the early 19th century. The recipe is a secret, of course, but it includes the local mineral spring water and a combination of herbs and spices.
Venari, in Latin, means ‘to hunt’ or ‘to pursue’ and it is the root of the word venison. As we perused the menu, I had to reread the description of their venison: “sleepy steak over the moon with a creamy parsley”. We started our meal with a fresh mushroom soup, which tasted especially savory after our walk in the forest. Foraging mushrooms is no recent trend in Czechia, reserved for celebrity chefs and foodies; for many Czechs living near forests, it’s a hobby and a part of seasonal, local cuisine.
Other specialties you will find in Karlovy Vary include beef goulash (Hovězí guláš) with bread dumplings (Houskový Knedlík) and roast pork with dumplings and cabbage (pečené vepřové s knedlíky a se zelím/vepřo-knedlo-zelo). And the highly recommended restaurant Tusculum also offers a tasting menu for vegetarians, with seasonal ingredients from local farms.
The town is pedestrian-friendly, which naturally also makes it shopper-friendly. There are brand-name stores and local boutiques if you’re looking for special items to take home. Some of the famous products from the town and region are made by Becherovka (liquor), Kolonáda (traditional sweet wafers), Carl’s (spa cosmetics using Karlovy Vary mineral water), Thun (porcelain), and Moser (masterful handmade glass, lead-free crystal).
And let’s not forget the Bohemian garnet: a bright red stone that is said to help overcome sorrow and to increase vitality...