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Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary (sometimes also named Carlsbad) is the largest spa city in the Czech Republic situated in 120 km distance from Prague. It is located between the Krušné Mountains and Slavkovsky Forest in the western part of the country, in Bohemia, where the rivers Ohře and Teplá flow together. It has population of about 53.000 inhabitants (according to census of 2003).

First of all Karlovy Vary is famous for its more than 300 thermal hot springs. In ancient times the highlands surrounding the city was an area of volcanic activity, this is the main cause of existence of these famous springs. There are 13 main mineral springs and about 300 smaller ones.

The city was founded by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1370 and later named after him (however, traces of the older settlements were found there). The old legend says that the Emperor built a town after the accidental discovery of hot springs in the area during his hunting trip. As early as the 16th century the hot springs there were used for healing purposes by local aristocrats and rich burgers.

In the 19th century due to publications by doctors like David Becher and Josef von Löschner Karlovy Vary became a popular tourist destination as the all-Europe spa-resort and was one of the main balneological treatment centers on the continent until World War I. Then it was admired by celebrities of all kinds, famous artists and writers, aristocrats and nouveau riches.

Various disasters and wars destroyed most historical monuments and interesting dwellings in Karlovy Vary. Thus, the notorious fire of 1604 annihilated the whole town. Only three houses survived. So now the city cannot boast of diversity of ancient architectonic monuments like Prague or Olomouc. Most houses and buildings there are dated back to 18th and the 19th century when the city lived the „period of plenitude“.

Nowadays Karlovy Vary is not only a well-known spa-resort but also a famous Bohemian culture and sports center. The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is held there every year in the beginning of July. This event attracts a lot of cinemaddicts and idle visitors from all over Europe. Also the city is a host to many various cultural events like concerts of classical, folk and modern music, theatre productions and performances. Amateurs of sport would be pleased to visit horse races, golf tourmanents, water sports competitions, triathlon championship and many other events.

The best-known souvenirs and memorabilia that many tourists like to take home are Moser glassware and Thun porcelain, Mattoni mineral water, Becherovka herbal liqueur and delicious wafers.

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