DAY 5 – Thursday, June 27, 2019 – Prague >> Becov Castle >> Marianske Lazne
Breakfast. Same as the last two days. After saying good-bye to David and his parents at the adorable Penzion Ganymed, we were off to Becov Castle in West Bohemia. On the bus ride, we saw red and white poppies, a field of hops, and a brewery.
The Becov Chateau is designed in Baroque style. We had a guided tour of the castle, including the chapel, the library, and the strongroom that holds the St. Marus Reliquary, a shrine that includes all of the bones of St. Marus (except the skull), the finger of St. John the Baptist, and the skull of some other dude. We heard an interesting story of American businessman, Danny Donald.
St. Marus Reliquary is the second most valuable goldsmith artifact in the Czech Republic. It was made between 1225 and 1230 for the Benedictine Abbey (which is in present day Belgium). The reliquary is decorated by a set of 12 reliefs, fourteen statuettes made of gold-plated silver, nearly 200 precious and semi-precious stones, 70 ancient gems, filigrees, enamels and other goldsmith techniques. It contains the remains of St. John the Baptist, St. Maurus, St. Apollinaire, and St. Timothy. It stayed at the Abbey until 1838, when it was purchased by Alfred Beaufort-Spontin. In 1889, the Beufort-Spontin family transported the reliquary to their manor in Becov. At the end of World War II, the Beaufort-Spontin family was forced to leave Czechoslovokia in 1945. Before fleeing the country, they hid the reliquary under the floor of the Castle chapel. In 1984, mysterious businessman, Danny Donald offered Czechoslovokia $250,000US to transfer abroad an unspecified artistic relic. Czechoslovokian authorities negotiated with a group of criminal investigators led by Frantisek Maryska to search for an unknown relic. After a thrilling year long search, the reliquary was rediscovered on November 5, 1985. It took almost 12 years to restore. It’s been on exhibit since 2002.
After our tour of the chateau, we walked down the street, and had lunch at Stara Posta, a barn looking building. I had a grilled chicken salad.
Then we went to Marianske Laszne (Mary’s Spa). It originally belonged to a monastery in Prague. According to Misa, a Czech priest from the same monastery works at St. Norbert in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Marianske Laszne was founded in 1808. Log houses were built around Mary’s Spring. They treated dozens of patients the first years; patients brought their own food and bed sometimes, as there was no place to stay. Additional spa buildings were financed and run by the monastery. The Cross Spring building was built in 1818 by an Australian minister. There was a boom in 1820 when a doctor came to do healing work. The original buildings are no longer standing. There’s a nice golf course from the 1800s.
From 1779 – 1820, Dr. Johann Josef Nehr, the monastery’s physician, demonstrated the curative properties of the springs and the waters began to be used for medicinal purposes. In the Golden Era, between 1870 and 1914, many new hotels and other buildings were constructed or rebuilt. The town soon became one of the top European spas, popular with celebrities and European leaders who came to enjoy the curative carbon dioxide springs, including Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Frederic Chopin, Thomas Edison, Richard Wagner, Prince Friedrich of Saxony, King Edward VII of the United Kingdon, Russian Czar Nicholas II, and Emperor Franz Joseph I. At that time, about 20,000 visitors came every year. By the early 1900s, approximately one million bottles of mineral water were exported annually from the region. The water from Cross Spring was evaporated and the final product was sold as a laxative. The town remained a popular destination between World War I and World War II. The town’s first golf course was opened in 1905. After World War II, the ethnic German population of the town was forcibly expelled, emptying the town of the majority of its population. In 1948, it was sealed off from most of its foreign visitors. After democracy was returned in 1989, much effort was put into restoring the town into its original character. Today, it is a spa town and popular holiday resort with a population of 13,000.
The Singing Fountain next to the Colonnade operates at odd hours – as the music plays, the water moves according to the melody. We waited about 20 minutes for the Singing Fountain. The music, from the movie “Once Upon a Time In The Old West” was beautiful, but I didn’t think the fountain was timed so fantastically. Misa told us that movie was a favorite of her and her late husband. We walked through the Colonnade. A jazz band was playing. Barbara and I drank curative spring water from the fountains. It tasted a little weird, almost carbonated and tinny. I hope it heals me! We bought a couple of spa wafers – delicious! I should have bought some to bring home. Barbara and I went in and out of a few shops. An Italian waiter tried to convince us to eat at his diner.
After Marianske Lazne, we drove to Chodova Plana and checked into our hotel. Barbara and I plugged our phones and cameras in. I used the free toilet in our room. Nice bathroom; the fan comes on when you turn the lights on. Barbara read hotel literature to me. That’s when we discovered U Sladka Hotel is a beer wellness hotel – meaning they have beer baths – who knew that was even a thing?!? Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to schedule a beer bath. We decided to go to the pool and soak our aching feet and drink a beer before we met the rest of our group for dinner. Sadly, they only serve non-alcoholic beer at the pool. We said, “Hi” to two old guys in the pool, and went to the other end by the stairs. After about ten minutes, the old guys left, walking past us on the stairs. We went back up to our room to get our partially charged phones. My phone was hot and about half charged. Barbara’s phone came unplugged when I pulled my cord out. She plugged it back in – No Power. We tried a couple of other outlets and another converter. Nothing. The lamp next to my bed didn’t turn on. We checked the bathroom – no light, no fan – Damn! We blew a fuse! We grabbed our stuff and headed down to meet our group for dinner. I was going to stop at the front desk to tell the clerk we blew a fuse. Partway down the stairs, I realized the language barrier was going to be a problem for this conversation. Luckily, Misa was right behind us. When I told her our dilemma, she asked for my card and room number. Then, she explained the card key needs to be in the reader for the electricity to work. Odd! Why did it work before we went to the pool?
On the walk to dinner, we saw four storks in a giant nest.
We ate dinner at Ve Skale, a brewery restaurant inside Chodova cave. Barbara and I sat at the end of the long table next to Jan and Ann. We had chicken schnitzel with boiled potatoes and a small side salad, followed by apple streudel for dessert. There were so many unique, interesting, and funny decorations in the cave. I really LOVED the whole experience. I think the screaming children kind of ruined it for Barbara, but they didn’t bother me.
After dinner, we said “good-bye” to George and Vladymir, our first bus driver.
George was a student of Misa’s many years ago. He and his business partner, Vladya (who will be our tour guide with Misa for the remainder of the trip), own a fleet of buses together. Vladya, who use plastic clapping hands to get our groups’ attention, is taking over for George because he is more fluent in German.
There was only one stork in the nest on our walk back to the hotel after dinner.
Back at our room, Barbara and I got ready for tomorrow’s adventures. It was still early, so we decided to venture out for one Pivo. We walked around three sides of the building and through a gate. We saw six people from our group sitting on the patio, and then heard, “It’s the swimming ladies”. The two old guys who were at the pool waved to us from a different table. Barbara and I walked inside the bar. It took a long time for anyone to serve us. While we waited, I showed Barbara a photo on my phone of my grandpa (he’s been dead for over 40 years). I told her I thought one of the old guys looked like him. We went back into the beer garden. I sat down with our group. After a few minutes, I heard Barbara talking politics, in German, with the two old guys. Eventually, I went over to rescue her. Only Carl spoke any English. He was very interested in talking only to Barbara. I tried to have a conversation with Olag (my grandpa’s look alike). Barbara suggested that I show him the photo. That did NOT go over very well. Carl translated to Olag that I thought he looked like my grandpa; I explained that my grandpa died before he reached age 60, but I still think Olag was offended. Oh, well. Before heading back to the hotel, I took a picture of Barbara with Carl and Olag, so I could ask my family if they agree he looks like Grandpa. Unfortunately, the picture was straight on and the resemblance is more striking with his profile. We walked back to our hotel with Carl and Olag. Not surprisingly, Barbara and I walked the wrong way out of the elevator; we hid in the hallway until we were sure Carl and Olag were in their rooms.
Have you ever drank spring water or had a beer bath? Did you find it to be healing?