Review: The Market Courtyard-Jerusalem Suites: your home far away from home

DSCN0336Nachlaot is one of the nicest neighbourhoods of the busy Jerusalem, with its traditional small houses, quiet parks where people can meet to talk the latest news or play some chess or shesh besh, small green streets and local synagogues. During the sunny days, the old buildings are wrapped into the light and made you forget which century you are living in. I passed along HaCarmel street many times before, but never had the reason to stop for more and read its messages. It is close to the famous Mahane Yehuda Market and the flea market from Agrippa Street, but also from the Central Station and the Light Rail. The friendliness of the people and the colours of the streets invited me to stay more and this is what I did before checking my apartment at the Market Courtyard -Jerusalem Suites.

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Once I was given the key, some small details about entering the courtyard and the house and some codes – everything looked very safe – , I am free to discover my residence for the rest of the day and the night. My apartment has a big living room, a bathroom, a bedroom that gives into the interior yard, a kitchen and a balcony where I am thinking to spend as much time as possible.

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The bathroom is spacious enough, with a bathtube, a priviledge that is not easy to have, either in apartments or hotel rooms in Jerusalem. Hot water is available round the day and everything looks white and clean.

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The kitchen is provided with minimal amenities: a fridge, a microwave, coffee machine, coffee and sugar. It is enough space to give you inspiration to cook a family meal and the vicinity to the Machane Yehuda offers more than an opportunity to make yourself, your family and children feel like home. As the table in the living room can be enlarged and made bigger, you can also have a big meal, eventually with your new friends.

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The decorations are minimal, but with good taste, especially the old black-and-white pictures from the old city or the posters about art exhibitions. The furniture is custom made, with serious brown and red pillows that brings more life into the room.

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The residences are tailored for short, medium and long stay, as you can rent them for the day, week, month and even year. It works very well for couples, single travellers longing for the feeling of being at home, families with or without children. The wireless works very well and there is TV and air condition too. Well-written and interesting books about Jerusalem and history of Israel are inviting you to plan more wisely the next legs of the trip.

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The bedroom reminded me a bit of a bungallow, and as in the rest of the house, the details are minimal, offering enough space for moving and thinking freely. Who needs too much furniture when you are on vacation? The closet is big enough to accommodate different wardrobe needs. Mine gave to the courtyard and was quiet for this time of the year – beginning of January.

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The Market Courtyard (or the Hatzar Hashuk, in Hebrew) is a historical building, preserved and reinvented as an apartment building, keeping in mind the traditional elements of the Jerusalem architecture. Its internal courtyard leads to a 3-storey building, each new and provided with modern facilities. Every residence offers a different view of Jerusalem: either the Nachlaot or the marketplace bustle. If you are lucky enough to stay at the top floors, you can even have a view of the Israel Museum, the road to Gilo, or the Supreme Court Building.

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My balcony offered a view over Nachlaot, without too many people outside during the day, but apparently with its own secret life during the night. In the middle of the night, a guitar player and singer in the park, made me think about some local Romeo and Juliet story, and these thoughts kept me busy enough for not trying to bother the solo concert. The balconies are big enough to allow you spending a good part of the morning there and if you want to better understand this city and its people, this seems to be a good standpoint to start with.

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The courtyard offers a fascinated view, and its interior yard offers opportunities to the guests to meet and, who knows, to plan some trips together. The green plants hanging fhe balconies give an air of familiarity and friendliness. The main construction was originally built in 1886, and was part of the larger efforts to bring more Jewish population outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The old stones of the courtyard can be a reminder of the old and many untold histories.

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When it was about time to go to my next destination, I had the feeling that I have to leave a place that I was just starting to become too familiar with to abandon without regrets. The Nachlaot and the secrets kept into the courtyard were calling me back. I wonder if the guitar musician still singing in the park?

For more insights from this accommodation, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/the-market-courtyard-jerusalem-suites/

Disclaimer: I was offered a one-night stay at the Market Courtyard – Jerusalem Suites, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Friday afternoon walking in Jaffa

DSCN0698It is Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv, and for a short while, the life is slowing down, but just for a couple of hours. Everyone is getting ready to join the usual family gatherings of the evening, marking the start of Shabbat, the day of rest. There ae even less tourists on the streets, so quiet now that you can hear the waves of the sea nearby. For me, this is the perfect time to go back to Jaffa, walking slowly on the beach till I reach the area of the port, with its coquette shops hidden between ship repairing garages.

DSCN0699Especially in this moment, when there are not too many tourists and the shops are getting ready to close, the streets usually crowded with visitors can reveal their mysteries and stories, testimonies of the long and rich centuries of history.DSCN0702Compared to other historical places, here in Israel or elsewhere in Europe, you don’t have the ovewhelming feeling of being in a museum of human history. The human presence integrated the rich past into through the colouful windows and the green alleys that spring from the millenial cobblestones.DSCN0703Beyond each massive door mysterious stories seem to hide in their well locked wooden boxes. But right now, I can only hear my steps on the stones and the sound of intensive preparations in the kitchens.DSCN0708Either there are private houses, art galleris or antiques shops, you feel invited not to buy, but to stay, hear stories and eventually take a decision while admiring the streets, with a glass of fresh lemonade or a big cup of hot black Turkish coffee in the front of you. DSCN0709Every time I visit this part of Israel, considered as one of the oldest in the region, I feel that there are always so many things that I want to learn about: about the three different religions coexisting here, and the various religious symbols can be noticed on the streets outside the old city, about the history of architecture of the country, about its nature and beautiful trees, about its old and new traditions, visible in the variety of art styles dispayed in the many art galleries. DSCN0713Like in the old city of Jerusalem, there are so many short streets and houses that are so close that you can mistake them as part of the one and only block of buildings.DSCN0719Besides the art galleries and antiquities shops, another important landmark in the area is Ilana Goor Museum, hosting an interesting collection of works, that can be eventually introduced by the artist herself who is often there talking with the visitors. DSCN0720But today, I rather want to feel free, taking the advantage of a sunny December afternoon and walk as much as I can, together with my friend which wants to learn so much about the art, history and the controversies associated with the region. But when you walk these old streets and you see everything with your own eyes, you don’t need any more to get your sources from the biased media.DSCN0721The art courageously dispayed on the antiques walls make me feel less guilty for not visiting too many art galleries this time. Only one every ten minutes. DSCN0727The artists and the gallery owners are there not only to help you take the right decision, but also to tell their and other people’ stories. The beautiful pieces of jewellery from Yemen or Morocco are especially beautiful, displaying old crafts for ever lost in Europe. At one antiquities shop that is about to close, I am showed different Seder plates brought from Jews home from all over the world. My favourite is one made shortly after the creation of the State of Israel, provided with a little machine that sings for a couple of minutes Hatikva, the national anthem talking about hopes and love for freedom.  DSCN0730For me, nothing can represent better the spirit of this place than the 1993 work of Ran Morin – Oranger Suspendu ( in English, Hanging Orange Tree). Made of steel, artificial stone and orange tree, it can be read as a narrative about strength and resilience, that needs to fight against unexpected artificial problems but tempered and helped by the given natural destiny. This piece of art is considered one of the top photographic attractions of this area, so during the busy week expect to wait a bit in line till you will be able to take your selfie here. Morin, who lives in Israel, is the author of several full-sized living trees.DSCN0735While my mind is thinking maybe too much for this time of the week, the streets are getting empty and I feel somehow compelled to find our way outside the area, maybe going back to Tel Aviv for the Friday evening meal with a view over the sea. DSCN0739

The streets are getting cleaned and the tables are ready to be set. The quiet stones are ready to hear more family stories. DSCN0746Accoding to the Biblical story, Jaffa was the location from which Jonah set sail before his encounter with the whale. A massive statue of a whale by Ilana Goor reminds the visitors about this reference. Another story says that the famous cedars used in building Solomon’s Temple were shipped to the Jaffa port.DSCN0751Right now, the port is quiet and the touristic restaurants serving fish dishes and the tasty local versions of Mediterranean food are ready to open. Far away, but still very close, I can see the lights of the beautiful city with its sky scrapers and creative high tech industry. This is the moment when past and present meet and I am happy to be here and hear this story of hope and resilience.

Hotel review: Gordon Hotel&Lounge Tel Aviv

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The hotel industry in Tel Aviv is offering every year more and more pleasant surprises and new rising stars, the boutique hotels being one of the most dynamic offers. Situated at the corner of Hayarkon and Gordon Street, the newly renovated Gordon Hotel&Lounge is hosted in one of the famous Bauhaus white buildings. It used to be before only a small bar, that was maintained now, with additional 12 cosy rooms and a modern restaurant and bar space.

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The entrance looks a bit poor and may misguide you about the simple and warm yet polished ambiance waiting from inside. As it is situated on a very busy street, minutes away from the beach, the high traffic can be a problem,  including during the night, for those looking for some perfectly quiet nights. But you are in the ‘City that never sleeps’ so don’t expect too much slow life during your stay hee…

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Once I arrived from Jerusalem to join my friend for a long weekend in the bubbling city, I preferred to go first to catch the sunset from the terrasse, with a glass of wine and the view of the beautiful Mediterranean sea in the front of my eyes. Altough the end of December, the weather was perfect not only for photographic opportunities, but also for enjoying outdoors on the comfy chairs the beautiful colours of the sky reflected into the water. For a couple of minutes, the time just stopped.

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Indoors, I was welcomed with a smile by the personnel and given always good suggestions for the choice of breakfast (my constant choice, delicious black lentils and artichokes, hummus, red beet and cranberries). The decorations of the rooms and of the lobby are in the style of the 1970s, in light colours and transparent stickers, the warm contrast to the black massive doors.

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The rooms are cozy, with simple functional additions and depth perspectives given by the discrete and romantic lights. The rooms are provided with technical facilities, plasma TV, mini-bar and Internet (during my stay, the wifi was not properly working, but I took it as a sign that I can use my time otherwise than checking news online). From the balcony, one can spend hours and hours looking at the sea and the fast city life.

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The predominant white in the rooms gives you a feeling of quietness and peace and makes your sleep full of nice dreams. The only think that I did not exactly understand from the interior design setting was the curtain outside the bathroom glass wall. Maybe an opaque glass wall would have been a more practical and aesthetical solution. But spending time in the room – although the temptation to watch the international news on the huge tv is dangerously great, but I can stand it – is not on my to-do-list, and shortly after checking I am out to see, feel and smell the city.

On the way to the beach, I could not resist to make a stop to the tempting SALT Kitchen&Drinks Restaurant, and I am lucky to find a place and hang around chatting with the locals. The next evening, the bar is fully booked for a party, but from now on, I know that regardless how much I want to see new places in the city, I will make sure that at least once in a while I will stop here too.

For more images from Gordon Hotel&Lounge, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/gordon-hotellounge-tel-aviv/

Fancy staying in a cinema? Think about Esther Cinema Hotel in Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv has not only a very spectacular real estate, with impressive prices that may easily compete with Beverly Hills or Manhattan, but also went through an dramatic development of the hotel industry. The creative spirit of the people were able to adapt to new situations, giving new destinations to old buildins, while keeping the original spirit. An example in this sense is Esther Cinema Hotel, hosted in a traditional Bauhaus building in Dizengoff Square.

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The cinema was inaugurated at the end of the 1930s, as the property of Moses and Esther Nathaniel both born in Aden that emigrated in 1924. The cinema was considered as part of their contribution to the improvement of the cultural life in the country, and Esther Cinema succeeded to be a noteworthy institution, part of the Dizengoff Circus complex. Classical movies were displayed here, including top European and American productions. Provided with the last cry technology brought from all over the world, it used to host around 1,000 people. ??????????

At the beginning of the 1990s, the cinema went through serious financial problems and was soon purchased as part of the Atlas Hotels network. The original structure was kept, and the space was separated into 83 hotel rooms,  with 2 new suites recently added. The rooms are provided with modern amenities, such as air condition, multi-channele cable TV, coffee and tea facilitis, safe, free wifi. It also has a business lounge and offers to the guests the possibility to use a nearby gym for a moderate fee. The location is perfect, as it provides access within minutes to the beaches, as well as to shopping avenues and many restaurants, some of them open all round the week and the year.

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When you enter the hotel lobby now, you may be tempted to go directly to the reception desk and ask what movies are in the program tonight. Original projectors and classical ads are displayed, as well as original chairs. Some of them were converted to the modern style, but keeping the furniture fashion typical for the Bauhaus design. Regularly, classical movies are projected in the lobby, with popcorn treats included. The rooms also do have a traditional touch, with ads and posters that may remember about the golden times of the cinema.

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The monumental staircase is a trademark of the hotel and still looks as a work of architectural avantgarde. It radically separate with vertical lines the enormous interior space of the building, creating a deep perspective in the middle of the building, similar with the voids in the water during high storms.

The stairs lead to a terrace on the upper level, from where one can admire not only the fancy Dizengoff Avenue with its expensive shops and glamorous restaurants, but also the dynamic city of Tel Aviv and its ports.

In this modern network and spectacular life that seems to never rest, the cultural and historical legacy of Cinema Esther stays as a reminder of how far you can go if your mind aims for change.

For more images from the hotel, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/esther-cinema-hotel-tel-aviv/

The secret gem of Jerusalem: Chagall Synagogue at Hadassah Hospital

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Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem is worldwide known for its extraordinary medical achievements, saving and improving lives of people from all over the world. As I visited the hospital for a minor medical checking, I was impressed by the friendliness of the people and the feeling that I am in the middle of the huge factory of people working without break to save lives. Young girls were distributing for free kosher food to the patients and everyone was friendly and keen to help us to find the right directions.

But there is something else that you can find inside the hospital, probably less known for many of the people coming here: the Chagall synagogue.

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The entrance is made from inside the hospital, at the ground level. After paying a ticket and receiving an audio guide and an explanatory leaflet, you have to slowly close and open your eyes for entering in a different world of colours and lights. The 3-meter high panels, made of 144 pans of glass represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Every one is a small world in itself of Chagall work. Inspired by the Biblical sources of Jacob’s blessings of his 12 sons and of Moses own blessings for the each of the 12 tribes. Each has a dominant colour and is represented by one of the 12 distinctive gems on the breastplate of the Grand Priest and is built around the specific blessing attributed to them.

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‘All the time I was working, I felt that my father and my mother were looking over my shoulder and behind them were Jews, millions of other vanished Jews of yesterday and a thousand years ago’ wrote Chagall after the work – that he considered his gift for the Jewish people – was finished. The works lasted for 2 years and the painter himself took part at the official inauguration.

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His assistant, Charles Marq developped a special technique allowing the use of more than 3 colours on a single pan rather than the usual procedure of one colour separated by a lead strip. The stained glass was created in Chagall’s workshop in France.

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Chagall studied at length the place, trying to find the best way for a proper reflection of the light through the colours inside the synagogue. The rest of the space is simple, with a stone floor which serves to receive the projections of the colours during various times of the day.

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The decorations of the Aron Kodesh were made by the American-Israeli artist Aviva Green and she finished the work requested by Hadassah together with another Israeli artist, Ruth Hayatt, specialized in textil art. The aim was to offer a simple contrast to the colours of the stained glass, by using simple materials, such as natural fibers and organic contexts.

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During the Six-Day War in 1967, shrapnels of the Jordanian Army destroyed four of the panels. It is said that Chagall, still alive at the time said: ‘Don’t worry about the windows! Worry about Israel. I’ll make new windows!’. A year after, the damaged glass were replaced under the artist’s supervision. Another massive reparations took place at the end of the 1980s that also considered the damage done by the specific Jerusalem climate and the other effects of war, the works being supervised by the son-in-low of Marq, Jacques Simon. The works lasted for one year almost.

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The shtelt of Vitebsk where Chagall grew up is no more here, but his work and modest dedication will keep inspiring us. In the middle of a hospital whose achievements can make the world a better place, the delicate stained glass are a testimony of the victory of the spiritual world against all odds and tragedies of the last centuries.

Your best hotels for an unforgettable stay in Karlovy Vary

Visiting Karlovy Vary was an old travel dream of mine that I was finally able to accomplish at the end of the last year. For 48 hours I had the opportunity to explore almost every corner of the city, enjoying the beautiful autumn colours and intensively hiking on the hills around. Although the high season was already over for a couple of days, the streets were full with tourists and the hotels kept working at high capacity. As a first time visitor, you may be surprised of the many hotels and trying to make your life easy, when I was not too busy hiking or visiting glamorous shops, I also made a short tours of some of the most recomended hotels in the area. My choices for now are as follows:

??????????During my stay, I was the guest of Dvorak Hotel, with its Art Nouveau design and a generous breakfast. Familiy and children friendly, it offers a variety of special spa treatments, including the unique FX.Mayr Treatment, aimed at eliminating naturally the toxines out of the body, oxygen therapy, special treatments for the locomotive system or relaxation therapy, designed to help people cope easier with the work load accumulated during the year. Here you can have a full review of the hotel rooms and its facilities.

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In addition to the healing waters, Karlovy Vary is also famous for its International Film Festival, considered one of the most appreciated in Central and Eastern Europe. Most of the screenings are hosted at the Thermal Hotel. Although from outside it may look a bit too serious and even unfriendly – since the name of its architectural style ‘brutalist architecture’ -, it offers a lot of special facilities to guests, including a vey elegant swimming pool. From the window of your room on the top you can also have a beautiful view over the city. During the festival, don’t be surprise of meeting around big movie stars such as Leonado di Caprio, Robert de Niro or Sharon Stone…

??????????Elizabeth Baths first caught my attention by its big park with large alleys, but those doing an intensive documentation before coming here they know that here you can find the largest balneologic facilities in the city, with over 60 types of treatments. A special place should be given to the aesthetic treatment the visitor receives when admiring the beautiful architecture and classical interior decorations.

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Grand Hotel Pupp is the favourite choice of luxury travelers, as well as of the many VIPs visiting Karlovy Vary (especially the big movie stars invited for the Film Festivval). Opened initially in 1700 as Saxony Hall, it went through dramatic changes under the direction of the Austrian architects Fellner and Helmer, by the requests of the Pupp family. An articulated collection of new-baroque buildings, it offers to their high end customers a royal spa and clinic, special treatments, including laser and other wellness packages. The gastronomic offer is also impressive, with a bar, gourmet restaurant and a coffee open to outside visitors as well.

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Luckily, the tourists looking for some affordable packages do have from where to chose as well. Situated close to the hills around the city, Villa Smetana offers not only a fresh air and a quiet stay, far away from the busy central areas, but also attractive massage treatments, lymphatic drainage, shockwave therapy, sauna and acupuncture.

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Those interested for a more central location, can check the 3-star Ontario Hotel, situated a couple of minutes away from the famous Mill Colonades and their healing waters. Their 12 appartments do offer a family ambiance plus special treatments such as: bath and spa (pearl, mineral, carbon dioxide), wraps (paraffin, mud, peat packs), therapy (electrotherapy, pneumo puncture, laser, gum irrigation, ultrasound) or massage (traditional, arctic fire, reflexology, underwater).

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Also close to the center is the four-star family friendly Hotel Embassy. It offers to the guests various special deals, including some golf classes, as well as a traditional Czech restaurant. Don’t forget as well about the exclusive La Prairie packages.

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Hosted in a 18th century building, Renesance Krasna Kralova Hotel is also situated just in the heart of the city. After the a first luxurious view of velvet and Oriental carpets, silk and hardwooden floors, the guests are tempted with various massages, including Thai-style, and other packages, some of them also including medical examination.

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Another sample of the local 18th century architecture is Hotel Salvator, with its restaurant and Cigar Club, and Romantic Biedermeyer furniture. The treatments are focused on balneotherapeutic and rehabilitation procedures, the bath using the thermal water channeled to the hotel directly from the neighbouring Vridlo Geyser.

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After extensive hiking, spending time in the chic lobby of Interhotel Central was a pleasure that I wanted to enjoy as much as possible. Besides the spa treatments, indoor swimming pool, sauna, solarium, fitness and balneotherapy, it also hosts regularly corporate events and is a favourite choice of business travelers. Professional snooker opportunities are also part of their offer.

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Although at some distance from the busy city, Park Hotel Richmond has a lot of privacy, fresh air as it is situated close to some interesting hiking trails and a quiet stay. Besides the usual treatments offered, it has special antistress programmes, beauty parlours, and a 200-person lounge capacity. During the sunny days, having a coffee on the terrace may be also part of your antistress therapy.

48 Hours in Karlovy Vary

??????????I wanted to visit Karlovy Vary for a very long time, but not obviously for very logical reasons. Blame it a lot of Central European literature, including Czech, indiscriminately and voraciously consumed during my childhood, or the regrets of never being able to attend the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the famous movie fans gathering in Central Europe.  As the last year was one of my best in a while in terms of travel, I marked another priority (out of many hundreds) on my travel bucket list.

??????????I arrived there in the middle of the autumn, at the beginning of November, exactly at the end of the spa season. But the city was far from being dead, as I noticed while walking slowly from the bus station where I arrived from Prague to Dvorak Hotel, that generously hosted me during my stay.  I not only got to know the local generosity, with people helping me to get the right directions to my accommodation, but also a very glamourous night life, with luxury shops open till late in the evening, and ladies in fancy dresses checking the last offers or maybe a must have Faberge egg or a massive gold pacifier, who knows? Only the steam of the famous hot springs created an ambiance of mystery and suspense.??????????Ignoring the late arrival and the whole day of travel by bus from Berlin to Prague and then to Karlovy Vary, I decided to have a short tour of the central area. Hungry, I ended up in a German-Czech local and guest house, Egerländer Hof with many historical references on the walls of what used to be the Sudeten area and dusty stuffed animals. I ordered some Czech dumplings with eggs and mashed potatoes, whose oily and too salty composition gave me some nasty stomach pains the day after. Maybe the antidote would have been the famous Becherova, a local Anis liqueur made here from 200 years, but was not that brave to try it.

??????????The next morning, a beautiful autumn palette that seemed hastly painted overnight on the hills around invited me to go out of my bed as soon as possible and start the city discovery.??????????If ones arrives in Karlovy Vary dreaming about a very active night and day life, he or she may be disappointed. The life goes slow, except the exciting times of the film festival, with slow walks  and shopping sprees, before or after some treatment sessions. The local theatre, offering shows not only in Czech, but also in the omnipresent Russian, spoken everywhere by everyone, brings more cultural events in town. Some local jazz festivals held here are opening the doors to everyone in love with the universal language of music.

??????????The mild light and colours of the autumn are calling me though for some hiking adventure, a call I am ready to answer, as soon as I am able to see the main points of interest in the city.

?????????? Most part of the people coming here are for a more serious reason than I: the unique qualities of the thermal waters. Used for treating problems of the digestive system, diabeters, weight excess, post-oncological diseases treatment and metabolical diseases among others, the mineral waters do have the same composition, but their health effects differ up to their different temperature and carbone dioxide content. The spectacular strength of the giant spring (Vridlo) makes the beautiful architecture around to look like doll houses.

??????????As the springs are spread all over the city, decorated pavillions were made in order to allow people to get to the mineral waters whatever the weather conditions.

??????????One of the most famous such construction are the Mill Colonades, hosting 13 major springs, built as a neo-Renaissance Temple, by the same architect who designed the National Theatre in Prague. During the high-season, special open air concerts are creating an ambiance that makes the sick visitors forget for a while the reasons they are here.

??????????When I am not too busy to find out about the special mineral waters, I am amazed by the architecture, that combines all the possible Central European styles, with fine golden lines matching green decorations, or with Portuguese tiles bordering big windows of building covered by castle-like rooftops. ??????????The visitors are busy sipping their mineral waters from the special bottles especially created by the legendary Ludwig Moser, the famous porcelain producer. The pipes were added later. Nowadays, the Moser factory can still be visited, and many of the locals in Karlovy Vary used to work or are still working there. The special patterns of his glass work, oftenly combining porcelain with crystal, are another trademark of Karlovy Vary that can be found on the exquisite lunch tables of many world personalities, including European royal families, such as the new Spanish king.

??????????The autumn is the queen of Karlovy Vary now, and the leaves from the parks are displaying passionate nuances of red and burning yellows.

??????????Only the too much serious building of Hotel Thermal, hosting for over 49 years the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival brings you back to a less spectacular reality. Held in the first week of July, it gathers famous movie personalities, among which John Malkovitch, Robert de Niro, Woody Harelson, Sharon Stone, Leonardo di Capri, Gerard Depardieu, Franco Nero or Fanny Ardant. Many of the famous guests do have their own star on the Hall of Fame in the front of the luxurious Grandhotel Pupp, where the VIP guests coming to town are usually hosted.

??????????The heavy impression of the film festival venue is easily dissipated by the mild colours of the architecture and the diversity of the options to spend the easy life in Karlovy Vary. When the weather allows, a short tour by carriage can be a pleasant option.

??????????For a short break before planning the next stage of my trip, I am back to the Giant spring area, at Cafe Reserva, where I sip a  coffee made with mineral waters – all I can say is that it is a really good strong coffee as I am used with – with some Oblaste, thin rice waffers that are available  in town in different flavours.

??????????Although buses are available in the city, as well as cabs, I am doing my best to enjoy as much as I can the rays of autumn lights. I pass fast near the tempting shops from Lazenska street, not without a short stop looking at the special Mikimoto pearls, or the Hasi Shopping Center, a building where Freud stayed long time ago, and I go up on one of the many streets around, in an area with many villas and  hotels with discrete entrances and huge parking spaces.

??????????I don’t need to think twice before heading on an alley with stairs and foliages, till the top of a small hill from where I can see the crowded buildings of Karlovy Vary.

??????????The hiking is short and relatively easy, but comfy shoes are required. Some people do Nordic walkings – there are many such routes in many places around the city – some, like me, just enjoy the pleasant beginning of the afternoon.

??????????Behind the wild stones covered by leaves, the discrete human intervention makes you feel safe.??????????The beauty of nature is simple and inspiring, and before I am heading back, I enjoy the quietness and the original colours.??????????The combinations between nature and hard human work probably fascinated many European intellectuals and crowned heads that tried to found a remedy to their maladies from the spring waters here. Goethe, who ran here several times for meeting a much much more younger lady, Freud, Marx, Franz Joszef and Sissy who loved so much the oblates it seemds, or Peter the Great for whose highness a special door was modified in order to allow him to go in or the Turkish reformer Atatürk were some of the famous visitors. ?????????? Nowadays, the visitors only looking for wellness, are tempted with a long list  of spa services, that includes a variety of treatments, based on wine, beer, hemp or using various techniques aimed to regenerate and rejuvenate the body and mind (more about the best spa options in town in my next post).

??????????My first full day in Karlovy Vary ends with a full tour of the main historical and touristic sights of the city offered by a very talented guide booked by my hotel. As usual, getting in touch with local people brings valuable information, and most hotels are able to offer such knowledge, mostly in Russian and German, but also English.

The next day, early in the morning, I am ready for more hiking. I follow the street near the Carlsbad Plaza, surprised to discover also a Thai and Chinese restaurants, after spotting mostly local Czech or German-inspired cuisine, or some classical Italian restaurants. From Goethova street, I arrive at the 60-year old Karlovy Vary Art Gallery where together with some school children I have a look at an art exhibition by a local artist. From the Park Hotel, I start doing more hiking on the top, and the banks every couple of hundreds of meter guarantee that I should not worry for getting exhausted any time soon.

??????????Soon, it is about time to say ‘good bye’ to Karlovy Vary for now, not before saying a last hello to the huge statue of the Soldier Svejk, a typical Czech character, a busy tourist spot for selfies most part of the time.

??????????The beautiful pastels of the live exhibition that Karlovy Vary offered me in the last 48 hours was worth the long years of waiting. There are places you might fell in love with before visiting them and following your feelings can prove to be a perfectly inspired decision.

Fore more visual insights from Karlovy Vary, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/karlovy-vary-czech-republic/