Milestones of the Major Czech SPA City - Carlovy Vary

Healing Options: to Bath or to Drink!

 The method called Haut-fresserkur, or "the devourer of the skin", meant that the patient bathed for up to twelve hours a day. The thermal water was led through wooden troughs into the bathing rooms in houses surrounding the spring. There the patients "enjoyed" the healing. The doctors believed that it was necessary to disturb the skin so the toxic substances could leave the body. What a patient looked like af­ter one of those healing procedures we leave to the reader's imagination. Drinking was not recommended. The reason was this was the concern that the sediments of thermal min­erals would cause the formation of plaque in the digestive system.

The main change in those opinions was brought by a physician Vaclav Payer from the town of Loket (1488-1537), who described the Carlsbad spring and its uses in the first known book on this topic published in Leipzig in 1522. In this book he recom­mended drinking together with bathing. This was supported by doctors Reudenius and Strobelberger in 1600. By the 17th century drinking prevailed. In the 1750s it was called 'pyramidal cure', the unfortunate patients had to drink up to 70 cups of water!

Rather more sensible methods and all the more modern procedures were introduced by Doctor David Becher (1725-1792). Dur­ing his times the patients started to go and drink the water by the actual springs and the long walks became a logical part of the heal­ing process. This led to an extended build­ing of colonnades and woodland walking circuits (promenades). The credit for the commercial use of the thermal spring’s salts goes to a physician locally known as the Hip­pocrates of Karlovy Vary. He wrote all his knowledge down in the collection of theses published in 1780.

The first public bath house in Karlovy Vary was the Mill Bath (Mlynske lazne) operating since 1711 and in 1777 the Thermal Spring Hall was finished. In 1791 the Post Courtyard (Postovnf dvur) was built and quickly be­came the goal of many walks. The bad weather ceased to be a problem in 1792 when the wooden colonnade was built by the New Spring and became the first build­ing of its kind in Karlovy Vary.

Many projects were realised partly from a spa tax (doctors, lower rank officers and soldiers, servants, poor people and children less than 13 years of age were not obliged to pay it), but a significant rale was played by benefactors and local businessmen. One of the benefactors was a Scottish nobleman, Lord Findlater, who visited Karlovy Vary fourteen times during the years 1794-1810 and helped to build woodland promenades.

One of the most known businessmen sup­porting the development of the town was a successful confectioner Johann Georg Pupp (1734-1810), who bought the Bohemian Hall and connected it with the Saxon Hall thus creating the famous Grandhotel Pupp.

During the Napoleonic era (1804-1806) a strategic road to Prague and in 1827-1832, roads to Cheb, Marienbad, Nejdek and a road to Saxony were built. Later on a rail­way connection opened the way for thou­sands of visitors.

The majority of spa buildings were mod­ernised. After 1865 experts proved that the Carlsbad waters and peloids are very effective in the treatment of diabetes, obesity and oc­cupational diseases. The physicians from Karlovy Vary were internationally acknowl­edged and appreciated. The spa reached the peak of its success just before the outbreak of the First World War. During both wars and the early days of the new Czechoslovak Repub­lic times were somewhat difficult. One part of the reason was also the fact that many clients were discovering the advantages of sea resorts and also more people preferred the spa cen­tres of the Alps. After 1948 the spa institutions went into the hands of the socialist state. There were many negative aspects of this change, but on the other hand the results of research carried out over forty years in the Balneolog­ical Reasearch Institute are outstanding. A part of Carls­bad spa institutions came back to private management after 1989. Broadminded mod­ernisation took place on a grand scale, often connected with the influx of foreign capital.

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