Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sunday in Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary was founded by Charles IV (hence Karlsbad in German), wiki it yourself . . . but there is a legend that he founded it because he was injured when he fell over a cliff (and the deer he chased and his dog) into a pool of incipient spa water that healed him of his injuries . . . now we know that the unwary traveller drinking this water will have the runs for a week, but apparently that didn't happen to Chas IV . . . 8^D . . . else there would be something besides a spa-town here . . . The Czechs wanted to erect a statue commemorating such an event, but an individual wealthy from Slivovice profits, jumped in and put the statue of a mountain goat up instead of a deer, for his own reasons, so the event is mis-commemorated as only the Czechs can do.

We climbed up to Jelinec Skok to see this monument, but missed it, went too high, to a look out by the grave of Marie Therese Charlotte Dauphine, if you can believe it.

In the left of the photo you can see the Springs Museum, with a functioning geyser inside; in the middle is a park by a local bus stop; at the top in the middle is the 2nd best hotel in KV (hence in Bohemia, hence in the Czech Republic), The Imperial. The best hotel, the Pupp, is off to the right, at river level; our hotel, the Thermal is off to the left, mercifully out-of-sight.

We stopped off at the Eden Cafe, 3/4s down the hill for a restorative Kava & spring water, then marched up the other hill to the Imperial.

On the way up, we passed this rather non-descript installation . . . I can't decide if the artist did too much to create it or not enough, if you know what I mean.

So: the imperial is an impressive hotel, if you're into impressive lobbies, but it just made me hungry for some reason . . . so a quick inquiry confirmed that the buffet was open to outsiders and we sat down . . . the normal protocol for Czech dining "seems to be" that you seat yourself, then order your drinks, then order your food, but they sometimes make exceptions for Americans, with a kind of humorous condescencion, I personally find aggravating, but never mind that.

In this case, we were sitting there a while, when the steward we'd talked to came over and shooed us over to the buffet, and pointed out where the free tea was . . . well, dang, if I wanted tea, I'd go to an old ladies home . . . maybe that's what this place was . . . 8^D . . . I got this Cream of Chicken soup that wasn't horrible, in a refined, little-old-ladies' kind of way, if you know what I mean, but Mrs said not to take a picture of her vegetable soup, wasn't worth it, visually or gastronomically. I enjoyed mine, and eventually the steward came back over to tell us where the tea was again, but I interrupted him in my pidgin-Czech, "Prosim! Male Pivo?"

"Of Course," he said with deep misgivings obvious.

"Pilsner," I pointed to Mrs . . . "Krusovice," pointing to myself. The Krusovice is made locally, and the dark beer I find especially pleasing. Pilsner Urquel, of course, is non-pariel.

Mrs said, "Well, we should get something exotic, if we're going to eat here." So we assaulted the buffet line again. This is what I came away with. I tho't it was eel, but it's some kinda shark with mixed grilled vegetables. I have a picture from a seafood restaurant downtown that had the same shark on display -- might have been the very same shark! -- but I don't have enough words to show another picture, in all the ambiguity that lends itself to.

She came away with Lamb balls -- meaning reconstituted lamb meatballs, rather than anything else such a name might intimate -- and mixed legumes . . . we both felt rather pious and well-treated with such cuisine . . . I suppose for the 500Kc we could have returned to the buffet for more items, but this was plenty, and everything else looked rather ordinarily Czech: shiskabobs, goulashes, dumplings, etc . . .

In between bites, Mrs said, "when we come back to KV, we gotta stay here, instead of the Thermal . . . this is a lot better!" which is not damning with faint praise, but it's not really a contest . . . architecturally or gustatorially or, I expect, financially, but uvidime (we shall see!).

I wound up my lunch with a chocolate mousse, to which I was entitled only by the pious & spartan strength of my main course. Mousse, whipped cream, vanilla wafers, raspberry sauce, and a tube-cookie. I would have killed for a coffee and an armagnac, but they had neither in open view.

So we paid and left, after a quick pit-stop at the necessaries to make us ready for the hike back down the hill to town. Those rest rooms were very nice, also . . . love to see the rooms . . .

So we tramped back down to the Thermal, and over to the pool . . . the famous pool, 1/3 heated by hotsprings to a constant 29 C . . . It was 24C air temp, so that differential is very refreshing . . . very few serious swimmers, thank goodness, mostly bobbers. So we bobbed for an hour and then went out to see the Becherovka Museum. . . missed the english tour, declined the German tour, might've bought some samples, but you can buy those in PRG, anyway, and the clerk was a little surly, but she was dealing with some very indecisive and apparently penurious japanese and russian tourists, that would have tested the patience of Job, so we blew that off anyway, and went off to compleat our collection of cobalt-blue-painted porcelain hot-spring-water drinking mugs. Heaven Help Us.

We had amazingly enjoyed an Indian dinner Saturday, and seen a Thai restaurant near the Eden Cafe, and since we weren't very hungry tho't some Tom Kar Gai would hit the spot . . . but the Thai restaurant just didn't appeal . . . too many chinese dishes on display to be a bona fide Thai . . . so we walked all around downtown twice . . . finally wound up at the Bolero, by the river, a sort of italian bistro . . . with the added entertainment value of watching the waitresses dodge cars, horse-carriages, and pedestrians crossing the street from the kitchen to the riverside seating.

We managed to get our pivos ordered, but we had trouble understanding the waitress when was time according to protocol to order food . . . in desperation, she switched to German, "Essen?"

"Ja, Ja," I confidently riposted, "Wir Mussen Essen!" and we pointed at our orders on the menu, which she clearly understood with relief.

"Danke weilen!" I told her as she left, "Alles is ordnung!"

That was the last we saw of her. Another waitress brought the food and an english speaking waiter brought the check . . . apparently my German is even more execreble than my Czech, and she couldn't bear to hear it anymore. . . 8^( . . .

Altho' these plates look the same, they are not, except in mediocrity . . . not bad, y'unnerstand, just not as wonderful as the other meals we had in KV. Mine was a Penne Pepperoncini, which makes me think I'm getting tiny pepperonis, but in Czech it just means peppers . . . it was amazing hot for Czech cuisine. Mrs' was just chicken in tomato sauce on Penne. humpfh.

We were done for the day, we just didn't know it . . .

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