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History of the City

Carlsbad is the largest and the second oldest bath resort in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1350 by Charles IV, Czech King and Roman Emperor. The place was known for its hot springs since Celtic settlement, and its Czech name "Karlovy Vary" originates from "Wary", Slavonic word for a bath resort, which was later complemented by the name of its founder.

The rise and development of Carlsbad were always closely connected with beneficial effects of its hot springs. In 1370, Charles IV promoted the village to town; during the reign of Wenceslas IV, the town was given the right of sanctuary, which was very rare in the Czech lands. At the turn of 16th and 17th century, the town suffered destructive flood and also huge conflagration, which did only three houses outlive.

After decline during the Thirty-Year War, a new bloom of bath industry occurred, especially after 1707 when Emperor Joseph I declared Carlsbad free royal town. From this time Carlsbad flourished despite the Napoleonic Wars.

The present appearance of Carlsbad has been created mainly by construction work at the end of 19th century, which was strongly influenced by Historicism and the coming Secession Style. Series of important objects were built, such as the Town Theatre, The Mill Colonnade, several lookout towers, Bath I, the savings bank, the post office and many imposing hotels and bathhouses.

The architecture of the baths was determined by Vienna architecture, in Carlsbad represented by architects F. Fellner and H. Helmer. French architect Le Corbusier described Carlsbad as a "gateau gathering". Connection to the European railway network in 1870 had essential importance for the development of the town. Prosperity of the bath resort at the end of 19th century was so distinct, that this period became called "Golden Age of Carlsbad ".

Carlsbad is a social centre with long tradition. One of the most important cultural events is the International Film Festival held since 1946, which belongs among the oldest film festivals in the world. Carlsbad is also famous for its world-known crystal glass production in "Moser" glass-works in Dvory (since 1857), its China production and production of "the thirteenth spring" - Carlsbad Becher Liqueur since 1805. At present as well as in the past, Carlsbad, the most famous Czech bath resort, is a favourite rendezvous place for visitors from the whole world and it carries on the tradition originating centuries ago during the reign of our wise king Charles IV.


Dr. Burachovic: History of the city

motto: "Karlovy Vary it is a diamond in an emerald setting" (A. von Humboldt)

The founding and evolution of the Karlovy Vary was always indivisibly combined with the beneficial effects of the warm, curing springs. They marked the history, architecture, economy and whole spirit of the city. These springs have fascinated mankind and stirred its imagination since the old ages. Legend states that the Karlovy Vary mineral hot springs were discovered during the first half of the 14th century by Czech King and Roman Emperor Charles IV while on a deer hunting expedition. This spa city was founded at the junction of the Tepla and Ohre Rivers during the reign of Charles IV. This wasn't the accidental and romantic act that is portrayed in the old legend but a result of the natural evolution of an area already famous for its curing tradition.

The actual founding date of the city is not known but the date of settlement around the geyser has been placed at approximately 1350. Actual traces of man in areas surrounding Karlovy Vary go back much further. Archeological findings have proved that on the site of today's city there were a few settlements from the Stone Age era. Evidence exists that people lived in a settlement near Drahovice during the bronze era. In the neighbourhood of Karlovy Vary, documentation exists confirming the existence of Slavic settlements in Tasovice and Sedlec. It has been proven that people lived on the present-day site of Karlovy Vary as early as the 13th century. We assume that even at the time the curing effects of Karlovy Vary thermal springs were known and utilised. Written history of the geyser town starts on the 14th of August 1370 when Charles IV gave the already existing settlement, a list of rights and freedoms similar to those that were given to the nearby royal city of Loket. The privileged status of Karlovy Vary as a spa is documented in the numerous privileges given and ratified by rulers of the Czech country up to the year 1858. Between the Middle Ages and the end of the 16th century, Karlovy Vary's spa treatment consisted mostly of bathing in the thermal water. Treatment involving the drinking of geyser water was begun by Dr. Vaclav Payer. In  Leipzig he published the firs expert book about the Karlovy Vary cure. In this book, in addition to bathing in the geyser water, he recommended also drinking it. After 1600, local doctors Michael Reudenius and Johann Stephan Stroebelbergerbecame additional enthusiastic proponents of the drinking cure. In the 17th century the drinking cure became more popular than the bathing treatment and around the year 1750, in some cases people drank between 50 and 70 cups of water daily. 

Two natural disasters, one at the end of the 16th century and another at the beginning of the 17th century, unfortunately affected the prosperity and construction of new facilities. On May 9th, 1582, a great flood submerged Karlovy Vary. On the 13th of August 1604 the city was almost totally destroyed by fire when 99 of its existing 102 buildings burned down. Despite its privileged spa status, not even Karlovy Vary could avoid the suffering of the 30-year-war. Many times over the duration of the war, armies, fires, illnesses and hunger revaged the city. The uncertain times and economic results of the war years were evident in the decreased number of spa visitors which in turn affected the overall economy of the city. This meant that Karlovy Vary residents had to look for different sources of income in addition to the spa industry. As a result, in the 17th century there was a gradual increase in the number of typical Karlovy Vary trades. In the surrounding area there were tin mines and this led to production of tin tableware in Karlovy Vary. Other trades included gun making, production of needles, knives, scissors and medical instruments. A noticeable increase in the level of spa activity started at the end of the 17th century with the increase of rich, noble visitors from German, Russian and later, Polish royal courts. Great advertisements for Karlovy Vary were two spa stays by Czar Peter the Great in 1711 and 1712. 

Up to the end of the 17th century Karlovy Vary maintained its closed Gothic style with city gates and high density of buildings around geyser area. The dominant feature of the city was the Gothic tower of the former hunting castele of the Charles IV on the rock above the marketplace. In 1520 a city hall was built under this tower. Beside it was the city pharmacy and in 1531 the Hospital of St. Spirit was built across the street. On the right river bank of the Tepla River above the geyser stood the timber-framed, late Gothic style Church of Mary Magdalene, first mentioned in the year 1485. The St. Andrew Chapel was consecrated around the year 1500. It stands on the side of the Three Crosses Hill. The houses were mostly timber-framed with shingled roofs. 

The 18th century brought long decades of boom and glory to the spa city. In 1707 Kaiser Josef I ratified all privileges for Karlovy Vary and at the same time he proclaimed it to be a "free royal city" . In the first half of the 18th century, Karlovy Vary was favorite of the Habsburg dynasty especially the Empress Marie Teresa. The city's loyalty towards the Viennese court was positively rewarded in the financial grants given for the city's development and improvements of its government. In 1719, the city council proclaimed special city laws that regulated all spa life in detail. In 1739 new city rules called "Instructio politica" were accepted. As the spa treatments evolved, numerous public and spa buildings were erected. These included Sasky's Hall built in 1701 and the Czech hall which was constructed in 1728. The Grand Hotel Pupp later replaced these on the same site. On the site of today's Mill Spring, the first public spa building was built in Karlovy Vary in 1711. At the beginning of the 18th century the town began growing in size. The area known as Stara Louka was covered with buildings that became the centre of the social life for the spa guests. In 1717 the spa area already had its first modest theatre.

Between the years 1732 and 1736 on the site of the original Gothic church a new Baroque cathedral St. Mary Magdalene was built according to the plans of architect Kilian Ignac Dienzenhofer. A very important spa doctor, David Becher, played a major role in the modernisation of Karlovy Vary's balneology with his life-long work. Dr.Becher started a line of new curing methods such as drinking the water by the springs, walks as a part of the therapy and a balance between the drinking and bathing cures and he also helped to build up Karlovy Vary. 

On 23rd of May 1759 a catastrophic fire that destroyed 224 buildings interrupted the promising spa boom of the first half of the 18th century. The effects of the fire were overcome in a relatively short time and the rebuilding of the city was done generously and according to a plan. Instead of the original timber frame buildings, taller stone houses with more floors, rich outside decorative fašades and modern roofs were built. The original city gates were not rebuilt because they slowed down the city's growth. More and more spa visitors came into the beautiful, rebuilt city. With the growing number of visitors the Karlovy Vary it was getting richer and the city officials could spend more on expensive projects to improve the city's appearance. The financing of these projects was guaranteed by the proceeds of the spa tax that was established in 1795. In 1762 the Mill Spa was modernised. A modern geyser hall was built in 1777 that allowed the use of Dr. David Becher's spa method with the accent on drinking the water by the spring. Also at Dr. Becher's instigation Karlovy Vary produced and exported the geyser salt. The profits obtained from the sale of the salt partially financed the construction of a new theatre in 1788. One of the spa visitors' most favored places to visit , "Postovni Dvur" (The Postal Court) was built in 1791. This was later made famous when concerts by Josef Lybicky and his orchestra and numerous musicians were performed there. A wooden colonnade called New Spring was built a year later and it was the first construction of its kind in Karlovy Vary. It gave spa visitors the opportunity to remain by the springs even in bad weather. This colonnade was rebuilt by Dresden builder, Giesel in 1811. 

The most famous cultural centre for the nobles at the end of the 18th century was the Czech Hall which was purchased by a pastry chef Johann Georg Pupp in 1775. This was the beginning of the development of Karlovy Vary's biggest hotel and restaurant in the city, The Grand Hotel Pupp. The increase in the number of spa visitors led to the establishing of a record of visitors. They were called "Kurlisty". The first existing records are from the end of the 17th century. Until the year 1794 these were hand-written. From 1795 on, the Kurlisty were printed in the local Franieck publishing house.

The beginning of the 19th century brought another spa boom to Karlovy Vary. The spa city's prosperity was not threatened too much by uncertain times of the Napoleon wars. In the firts half of the 19th century, Dr. Becher's established curing method was further improved by line of excellent Karlovy Vary spa doctors. Most of the credit for these improvements goes to Dr. Jean de Carro, Dr. Rudolf Mannl, and Dr. Eduard Hlawaczek.

The generosity of rich visitors to Karlovy Vary sped up the development of the walking path network surrounding the spa. Around 1800, an important sponsor and lover of the spa city was Scottish Lord J.O. Findlater. He financed the construction of numerous forest promenades. Up until the First World War the combined lenght of all spa-walking paths around Karlovy Vary totaled 130 kilometres. In the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century, the nacionalities of visitors meeting in Karlovy Vary took on a more international flavor.  In addition to the aristocracy, the European cultural elite was meeting by the geysers. Visit s by outstanding personalities are a traditional speciality of Karlovy Vary and greatly marked the cultural history of the city. We can remind you about some of the most important visitors at the break of the 18th and 19th centuries. They were J.W. Goethe, F. Schiller, T. Koerner, L. van Beethoven, F. Chopin and N. Paganini.

From the second third of the 19th century most of the spa visitors in the city were the rich city clients. As a result of the French Revolution the nobility gradually disappeared form the spa scene. Karlovy Vary became the favored place of numerous political and diplomatic meetings. In the year 1819 an important conference of Ministers was held by the geyser and was chaired by Austrian Chancellor K.V.L. Metternich. 

An important moment in Karlovy Vary history was the year 1844 when the city started exporting the geyser water i large quantities. The chemist A.M. Pleischl and spa doctor E. Hlawaczek were instrumental in exporting the geyser outside Karlovy Vary. The selling of mineral water and geyser products was an excellent source of income for the city. After 1860 in addition to the purely German population, a small community of Czechs began to grow in Karlovy Vary. They obtained jobs and settled here. The Slavic Club was established in 1881 to represent the Czech minority living here. Leaders of the organisation in its forty-year duration were the outstanding Czech doctors, E. Engel, F. Zatloukal, V. Janatka and M. Mixa.

The last third of the 19th century was an extensive period of construction work and building of modern spa projects in Karlovy Vary. This period gave the city its present-day appearance with its distinctive mark of history in its architecture. This was the birth of Karlovy Vary's fourth visage, the beauty of which we are enjoying up to today. The first look was a Gothic and Renaissance city destroyed by the fire in 1604. Baroque Karlovy Vary was burnt again in 1759. The outdated and small town appearance of the buildings in the Rococo, Classical, Empire and Biedermaier styles were gradually torn down during the reconstruction between 1870 and 1900. In their places were built modern and comfortably equipped new buildings that reflected the city's importance as the most famous spa location in Europe. Dominant new spa buildings such as the Military Spa (1855), the Geyser Colonnade (1879), the Mill Colonnade (1871-1881), the Market Colonnade (1883), Spa III (1866), the beautiful Kaiser's Spa (1895), a new theatre (1886), the Anglican Church (1877), Synagogue (1877) and Russian Orthodox Church (1897) were built.

The construction style of the spa was greatly influenced by Viennese architecture, represented in Karlovy Vary by two architects F.Fellner and H. Helmer. These two architects  designed twenty important buildings in Karlovy Vary. This huge construction boom before the First World War included the building of the International Grand Hotel Imperial in 1912. 

Of major importance for further development of  the city was its connection to European train network. In 1870 a connection from Karlovy Vary to Cheb was established. A year later the train started running between Prague and Karlovy Vary. Around 1900 the regional train network was improved by the addition of local railway lines from Karlovy Vary to Marianske Lazne (1898), Johanngeorgenstadt (1899) and Merklin (1902). The railway connection meant a drastic improvement in the economy and an unusual increase in the number of visitors. After the year 1860, the number of visitors grew rapidly thanks to the influence of the successful treatment of diabetes in Karlovy Vary. The spa's prosperity at the end of the last century was so drastic that the period is called "the golden age of Karlovy Vary". The only black date of this famous era was the 24th of November 1890 when the centre of the city was badly damaged by a huge flood. In addition to the modernisation of the spa institutions there was further developments in the theory and practice of Karlovy Vary's balneology. Local doctors L. Fleckles, P. Cartellieri, E. Gans, E. Hertzka and V.N. Kronser recorded a beneficial study in this field. A lot of attention was given to the use of Karlovy Vary's waters to treat diabetes, job-related illnesses and obesity. 

The social standings of Karlovy Vary before 1900 was drastically influenced by visit of leading representatives of European culture, science and politics. Some of these people who stayed near the geyser in the 19th century were: K. Marx, J. Brahms, R. Wagner, E. Grieg and other famous personalities. Shortly before the N.V. Gogol, F. Lizst, S. Freund, J. Barrande, H. Schliemann, T. Fontane, A. Dvorak beginning of the First World War, Karlovy Vary had the highest number of spa visitors during its history. For example, 70.935 patients were treated here in 1911. The First World War brought to an end the increasing development of the spa city which was certainly in the good old times combined with the spirit of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The war affected the coming of spa visitors and this had serious effect on the life of Karlovy Vary. Five hundred and fifteen med from Karlovy Vary died on European battlefields. The shortage of supplies meant hunger and misery even for the privileged spas. bells from churches and dogs suitable for pulling loads were confiscated for war purposes and rations were imposed on groceries, soap and tobacco products. There were social uprising. For example by the geyser on the 17th  and 18th of July 1918, women demonstrated against hunger.

After the First World War, spa life in Karlovy Vary was renewed quickly although the city never reached its pre-war level of visitors. War was the tragic milestone that changed life in Europe. The extinction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire unfavorably affected the prosperity of all  spas in its former holdings that also included Karlovy Vary. After the creation of the Czechoslovakian Republic in 1918 a complicated situation arose along its border.  Germans living here for centuries tried to maintain their customs, economic and political positions. In the border area therefore they tried to create an autonomic province called Sudetenland with its full right of  self-government of ethnic Germans. Their efforts were stamped out by action of the Czechoslovakian army and police even in Karlovy Vary. On the 4th and 5th  of March 1919 German citizens held large demonstrations for their right to self-government. These resulted in fights between demonstrators and Czech soldiers. Tragically, six Germans died in these conflict. This month of March 1919 was beginning of two decades of national conflict between Czechs and Germans in the border regions. We have to state that these conflicts were sometimes artificially fuelled in the interest of political ambitions by nationalistic circles on both sides. The German national movement peaked in 1935 with the founding of the Sudeten-German political party was led in Karlovy Vary by K. Henlein and K.H. Frank.

The depression that hit all of Europe in the 30's didn't miss Karlovy Vary. At that time the indebtedness of hotel and pension owners grew drastically. For the small business and trade this depression had dramatic results in bankruptcies. In 1936 alone there were over 1.000 court bankruptcy orders. The city in its fight to survive had to borrow large amounts from the state. A few expensive projects were constructed in Karlovy Vary between the two World Wars despite the difficult economic depression. The most important of these was the building of the dam on the Tepla River in Brezova in 1936. This forever stopped the threat of great floods in the city. In 1927 the city's spa capacity was increased with the building of the modern Spa VI. The pride of the business section of Karlovy Vary was the Health Insurance Building (1931) and the Monk's Church of Redemption (1933). In 1932 a bridge across the Ohre River leading to the Upper Railway Station was built. It was a technically remarkable steel-concrete bridge. 

Karlovy Vary balneologists Buxbaum, Ritter, Simon, Hendrych, Stransky and others solved some of the problems with the spa treatments.

Despite the euphoria of the German population of the spa city, the Second World War created economic hardships here. The spa business was dramatically limited as a result of the war. Already in 1940 there were problems, beginning with food supplies. The number of spa guests diminished and many spa facilities were changed into military hospitals. In October 1938 after the visit of Reich leader A. Hitler, the German army occupied Karlovy Vary. As part of  Sudetenland, the city was annexed into "the Third Reich". Shortly before the occupation the last Czechs, mostly state employees, left the city. On September 12th 1944, April 17th and 19th 1945 Karlovy Vary was the target of few air raids of allied bombers that destroyed the upper and lower railway stations. The area of the city known as Rybare and the northern part of the spa center suffered heavy damage. During the air raids a few hundred people were killed.

In Karlovy Vary on the sixth of May 1945, the Czech Revolutionary national Commitee was established and two days later, without any conflict, they took over the city administration with the assistance of the American army. The Red Army reached Karlovy Vary on May 11th, 1945.

In 1945 and 1946, the Postupim agreement brought about removal from their homes and eviction from the country for most of German residents of Karlovy Vary. The complicated process of re-establishing the Czech population in the border regions began simultaneously with the eviction of the Germans. The Czechs gradually found e new home here. The installation of the Communist regime after 1948 started the devastation of areas surrounding Karlovy Vary especially in the Ore Mountain District, Doupov Mountains and Slavkov Forest, and the destruction of numerous villages and memorials continued in the 50's and 60's. Extensive demolitions that were not will thought-out were done even in the center of the spa district.

After 1948 spa treatment in Karlovy Vary was centralized and nationalized. The curing mineral springs and spa institutions were taken over by the state. Karlovy Vary started pioneering year-ground complex spa treatment that were insoired by Soviet examples. Today's Karlovy Vary treatment is based on centuries of practical experience and actual scientific discoveries in the field of balneology and it is obtaining excellent results. Today's theory and practice of the spa treatments were enriched by the work of the Research Institute of Balneology that worked in Karlovy Vary for almost forty years. 

The construction development of Karlovy Vary during the period of the "building of socialism" (1948-1989) was evident mainly in the huge apartment blocks which were established. New subdivisions first built from bricks and later from pre-fabricated panels grew in Dvory, Tuhnice, Drahovice, Stara Role, Rybare, on Ruzovy Vrch and Cankovska Sreet. Unfortunately, the core of historical buildings was ill-maintained over the decades and resulted  in many of them  being in critical condition. This  gradually changed under the new economic and ownership conditions after 1989. Sad examples of modern architecture in Karlovy Vary are Thermal Sanatorium (1977) and the Geyser Colonnade (1975). Other construction projects built in the spa city over the past three decades include: the complex of spa buildings in Kostelni ulice (Church street) (1978-1982), Sanatorium Swiss Court (1971), Sanatorium Sanssouci (1970), the winter stadium (1983), youth dormitories in Drahovice (1982), Perla Business Center (1986), Sanatorium Druzba-Bristol, also the new building of the Czech Trust Company (1994) and the Czech Insurance (1994). Major modernisation was carried out by most of the Karlovy Vary business firms - Moser Glassworks, china factories, Beckerovka, Sedlec Kaolin Mine, There were also new business established.  Some examples of these are: Geyser Production Co-op et, Panel factory in Otovice, central heat supplier in Bohatice, Elektrosvit, etc. After the year 1990 a whole line of important historical objects were expensively renovated or replaced by replicas - Mill Colonnade, Postal Court, Little Versailles, Pupp, Bristol Hotel, Main Post Office, Imperial, Felix Zawojsky House, Mozart House, Sirius Hotel, Krivan Sanatorium, Patria Hotel etc.

The year of 1989 was the beginning of a new era of free evolution of the spa industry, travel industry and business activities in the geyser valley at the junction of the Tepla and Ohre Rivers. Harmonious combination of these three elements is a problem that hasn't been optimally solved yet. The most famous Czech spa, Karlovy Vary, today is, as it always was, the favorite meeting place of ill and healthy people from around the world. In this way it continues the tradition started centuries ago under the rule of wise King Charles IV. The international flavor and good  name of the curing springs gives us the firm belief that geyser city, as well as Prague, will remain the most famous and visited sites in Czech Republic even in  the 21st century.  ........Dr. Stanislav Burachovic