Hotel Review: Hotel Dvorak, Karlovy Vary

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I arrived at the famous Karlovy Vary/Karlsbad spa city at the end of the season, at the beginning of November, but the life in the city was nothing but quiet. Tourists from all over the world, but especially from Russia and its former Soviet Republics were everywhere, checking the late evening offers from the expensive shops. Thus, is was not a big challenge to find my way to the Dvorak Hotel, who kindly accepted to host me during my stay here. Walking is the longest way to reach the hotel, besides the direct bus connection and the taxi, but it offers me the first encounter with the city lights, and also to experience of getting the right help for reaching my destination. English and German are easily spoken, so no risk of getting lost in translation. Half an hour after arrival – 20 minutes of walk and fast 10 minutes of checking, I am ready to go to my room, crossing a classical hall with red doors and modern photography snapshots.

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The same classical Art Nouveau style is waiting me in my room. Big bad with red-wine bed covers bordered with gold, minimalistic furniture, just enough place to rest and take your time before heading to the spa. Named after the famous local composer Antonin Dvorak and part of the Vienna International Hotels, it has 126 rooms, out of each 15 apartments, 60 standard rooms, 48 type comfort as well as 3 accessible rooms, with available services round the year. The hotel is family and generally children friendly, proof being the many kids running around the breakfast hall early in the morning. Pets are also accepted, in exchange of some extra charges.

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A welcoming note on the big TV screen, near the desk where I will keep working for a couple of hours every day, enjoying the efficient wifi services, brought me back to the practical reality. While I do my hard work, I can get updates of news from around the world, either from BBC or from CNN. Everything is quiet and early in the morning, a sunny view of the center of Karlovy Vary and the yellowish autumn hills around are an invitation to be as fast as possible for enjoying the short days outside. The many leaflets and guides I received on my desk help me to make my stay easier, but with so many choices, it’s a bit difficult to keep being organized. Every room is also provided with a direct dial telephone.

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Coffee and tea are available to fill my time but I am too excited to finally be in Karlovy Vary for spending too much time in the room. Maybe I would have like more coffee for my long writing hours, but for now, it is just enough. My room is also provided with a minibar, with drinks and beverages, including the fanous local Becherova but also peanuts and different snacks.

??????????Only the elegant bath tube can offer me an alternative to the long walks around the hotel. My room is also provided with separate bathroom, and different practical amenities, among which a functioning hair dryer.

??????????The ambiance in the room is elegant enough to make my stay pleasant, although I travel alone this time. The small Art Nouveau details are exactly what I need to relax before going out in town. A small notebook and a pen will keep me punctilious company and will help me to record my discoveries, while enjoying the lights and shadows of my stylish Art Nouveau lamp.

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A big package with shower and bath products made of wine, a local speciality, are the complimentary offer of the hotel. The other branded products offered are also based on natural products and confirm the reputation of spa hotel of Dvorak. Home shoes and white clear bathrobe are ready just in case I am planning to visit the spa any time soon.

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The morning breakfast is a pleasant surprise and gives enough energy for being able to keep walking for long hours. It takes place in a big hall with classical paintings on the wall and another sample of Art Nouveau decorations. Besides the classical French pastry and cheeses, plus the tasty coffee, kindly brought at the table by the careful team, there are a lot of regional specialities, aiming to accommodate probably the culinary tastes of the guests: red beet juice, herring, porridges. The selection of breads is also great and I hardly say good bye to all the delicious temptations, but the travel work is calling me loudly.

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The small lobby near the dinner hall, with its green leather decorations, keeps inviting me for more laziness, but I’m decided to keep my schedule for the time being. In the evening, I am enjoying some fresh drinks in the lobby bar. As there was no concert there, I just have some quiet time, eventually reading something, but usually the hotel guests can also enjoy some live music concerts, besides their cocktails. The smooth background music is very inviting, and the cakes are also delicious. There is only one problem: too many active smokers around.

When needed, the hotel can also book a dedicated guide, in English, German or Russian. My experience with the guide provided was excellent, after almost two hours of walking, being introduced to a lot of well kept secrets of the city.

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But most part of the tourists are actually here to enjoy the diversity of spa treatments offered. From relaxation and aqua aerobics, to the very complex F.X. Mayr Treatment, everything is ready to make the guests feel better. With so many extensive packages around, there is a bit hard to make the offer interesting, but at Dvorak things are quite easy, it seems. For instance, they are the only ones in town offering the F.X.Mayr Treatment, removing toxic substances from the body. The program of choice also includes: oxygen therapy, various treatments for the locomotive system, treatment of rachialgia or relaxation therapy, aimed to help the workaholics to get rid of the pressure accumulated after long hours of work and too much deadlines’ stress. There is an indoor pool, sauna, steam bath and a fitness studio too, and the complex treatment is made under the close supervision of the hotel’s physician assisted by a team of therapists.

My stay in Karlovy Vary ended too soon, and unfortunately, the check-out is as faster as the check-in. Now, that I finally my dream of visiting Karlovy Vary was made true, it’s time to plan a new return to this classical spa resort, most probably for enjoying a longer spa season the next year.

Disclaimer: I was offered two nights at Hotel Dvorak, but the opinions are, as usual, my own. 

For more images from Hotel Dvorak, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/hotel-dvorak-karlovy-vary/

Small tips for a great city. What not to miss in Prague

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Every year it seems to have a favourite city where I am back more than once. Once upon a time was Budapest, or London or Tel Aviv. The winner of the 2014 trips was the lovely Prague, which I had the occasion to visit at least four times this year, after more than 2 trips on previous occasions in the last years. This last time, as it was a spontaneous trip, I tried to spot those things that should be on the bucket list of the traveller to Prague, and mostly can be done without too much money or special efforts.

During my first trip to Prague, the spectacular Dancing House – nicknamed Fred and Ginger, after the famous dancing partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – caught my eyes. Designed by Frank Gehry in collaboration with the local architect Vladi Millenic, it goes against the classical standards of local architectural beauty, but it definitely has its special charm. If you see it once, it’s hard to forget it!

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The lovers of classical architecture and especially of Art Nouveau, will have a lot of opportunities to nurture their eyes with beautiful apparitions. All you need is to learn how to use your eyes. After the first hour of walking around the old city, it will easily become a habit to speedily browse with the sight every building looking for some special unexpected corner.

??????????There is not only the Charles bridge. Although the most famous, it is only one of the 10 bridges over Vltava river. Many of them can be crossed by foot.

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Prague and the Czech Republic are famous for their exquisite glass art. Around the capital city, there are a couple of glass factories that can be visited, but otherwise, the best works of glass art can be admired in the small shops, some of them also offering live workshops introducing the visitor to the secrets of this traditional craft. Booking in advance is not necessary.

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If you start your journey early in the morning, it’s hard to avoid the open markets, selling besides souvenirs, among which various drawings, also fresh fruits and vegetables. My newest discovery was the Havlova Market.

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Some of the local samples of architecture are more than simple habitats, but decorated as unique works of art.

??????????Prague is a traditional city for jazz lovers. One of the famous one is Reduta, but there are many others inviting places for those passionate about this music style.

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The newly reopened Prague Technical Museum offers an extensive introduction to the Czech industrial history, with its samples of cars, airplanes, balloons and bikes. An interesting journey also for the non-practical humans, like this writer.

??????????If not necessarily in the mood to spend one or two or three late nights in a club with live music, it’s easy to have your own musical auditions. Some of the bands can be really good so they fully deserve some $$.

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While walking in a completely new area during my last trip, I was surprised by the ugly yet interesting insertion of the highway in the middle of the small buildings from the Vinogrady neighbourhood.

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My first encounter with Prague took place at the Art Nouveau decorated Central Station, as I was coming by train via Budapest. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the Hlavni Nadrazi – the busiest railway in the Czech Republic – went through massive renovations in the last years.

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Although Prague is still an affordable city for tourists, little by little it is developing its luxury side too. Proof: the recent Jimmy Choo boutique opened, where else, but on Parizska – Paris – street.

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If not in the mood for some luxury shopping, a good coffee, near the window, from where you can observe the daily coming and going of the street is a good solution. This time, I tried O’Papa, a quiet bistro with a lot of healthy food options too.

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Last but not least: don’t forget to try some good traditional Czech beers. Near the Florench bus station, you can find the smallest microbrewery in the world, Pivovarsky Klub. Don’t forget to order some traditional Czech food too!

For more pictures from Prague and links to previous posts, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board