Trip Report: Karlovy Vary

Thrifty Travel Mama - Karlovy Vary with KidsSo there’s this place in the Czech Republic called Karlovy Vary.  I thought it would be a pretty sweet day trip during our week in Prague.  I thought wrong.  Well, unless you like snobby, rude, and scary people.  Then maybe you would like it.

We came, we saw, we survived within an inch of our lives.

That was a terribly snarky thing to say.  I know.  I’m sorry.  I wrote this the evening we returned.  It was a rather horrendous day for us.  Maybe under different conditions we would have had an entirely better experience.

Perhaps it was the cold.  It snowed like a man without Head & Shoulders all morning.  The boys had heaps of powder to kick around and shove in their faces.  The chill ate through my scarf and my gloves.  I really should have been wearing mittens.  But, who can operate a camera in mittens?

The cold can make people grouchy.  I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to that.  But shockingly rude is not something I normally encounter.

Maybe the spa waters mess with the people’s heads…

To get to Karlovy Vary from Praha, you can take a train but that would be dumb.  It takes an hour longer than the bus.  The bus sports leather seats, a movie, hot beverages, and an attendant.  I hesitated at the lengthy trip of two and one-half hours.  Could the boys do it?  Would we arrive with screaming and stress under par?  I usually like to find out the hard way – you know, by doing it myself.

We woke up late (I’m blaming it on the fact that our room had no windows, only a covered skylight), started out way behind schedule, frantically searched for a bank, and arrived at the bus with only a hair-brained minute to spare.

The whole waking up late is no good for me.  I have no time to think which results in some pretty stupid mistakes.  Like not bringing any toys or other diversions for T-Rex to distract himself on the bus ride.  Doh!

(Tip: counting on a movie to be a babysitter is never a good idea if your kid doesn’t even know what a movie is…)

After holding it for a movie and a half (yeah you know what I mean), we arrived in Karlovy Vary.  If there’s a petition to make peeing free of charge everywhere in the world, I want my name to be #1 on the list.  I think making people pay to pee is hogwash, highway robbery.  But whatever, I had to go – and so did T-Rex.  He can make yellow snow in three seconds flat; I cannot.  I’m a prudish American who doesn’t like a cold rear end.  So I sucked it up and decided to go in the bus terminal bathrooms.

No attendant was there collecting alms for the Toilet Cleaners of the Czech Republic.  The place was covered in weird-o dolls, the kind that are on sale at CVS every Christmas that make you want to hurl and run with fright all in the same move.  You do not even WANT to know about the flasher doll that did his thing every time someone opened a potty stall door.  I decided right then and there me and T-Rex were gonna do our thing and get the junk outta that joint.  ASAP.

As we were about to bust out the door, a really old guy with whiskers popped out of a closet and demanded (in Czech) we pay 10kc.  He pretended not to speak English… at least until he figured out that he wasn’t going to get any money out of me speaking Czech.  And then, voila!  Perfect English.  Interesting…

Now, bodily-functions-should-be-free-of-charge morals aside, I normally would have forked over the cash.  I made the decision to go in there.  But – he wasn’t there when we entered the bathroom, then he was suddenly INside the women’s bathroom, and then there was the issue of that doll…  I honestly only had 4kc in small coins.  I was pretty scared to give that guy anything bigger.  When I tried to leave, he blocked the door.  When I went around him, he shoved me.  Oh buddy, you messed with the wrong mama – this one’s got pipes and she ain’t afraid to use ‘em.

Doc Sci came running at all the shouting (he thought I was being robbed!).  He gave the man 3 more kc but this dawg still was NOT satisfied.  Over and over he threatened to call the police.  Fine, buddy.  How’d you like an assault charge to add to your creepy collection?  We gave him the only other small coin we had, 10 euro cent (way more than we owed).  And then we ran.

Don’t drink too much – you’ll have to pay to pee. And if you use a plastic kid’s cup to drink the water, you’ll get some snotty stares from the moneyed folk who use porcelain.

And while we’re on the subject of the pay-per-pee, I’d like to mention that the Karlovy Vary McDonalds is the only McDonalds I have ever been in worldwide that charges to pee (edit: some locations in Prague also charge – but see my Is Prague Kid Friendly post for more details).  Luckily, it’s free if you’ve got child in tow.  See?  Traveling with kids CAN get you something more than a headache.

T-Rex had the right idea – all he wanted to do was pour out the water.

I had read that this place has become overrun with Russians.  It’s totally true.  I also read that it’s a major money factory for the mafia (no link provided – you can look this up yourself).  I can’t attest to the truth of that – but it’s definitely a possibility.  One thing is certain – there’s a palpable snotty, what-are-you-paupers-doing-here feel about the place.

The Grand Hotel Pupp, used in Casino Royale.

Overpriced hot chocolate at the Pupp. Bonus: free (super clean) bathrooms.

I don’t think I encountered anyone speaking Czech.  Don’t get me wrong – I love Russians.  I lived in their country, learned a bit of their language, and have dear friends who are Russian.  But, I wanted to visit the Czech Republic, not south Moscow.

I also have to let you in on the secret: the “healthy” spa waters were like drinking sulfur water on tap.  Yuck-o.

By now you want to know if there was anything at all good about our trip.  The colonnade is pretty rad, the architecture picturesque, the scenery stunning.  Yeah, that’s all I got.

Little boys playing in the colonnade.

And since this is Thrifty Travel Mama, it wouldn’t be fair for me to not tell you that I don’t think this place is kid-friendly at all as I read here.  Taking a stroller here would reverse the effects of the pricey spa treatments.  You’d pull all sorts of muscles that had recently been relaxed.

If you visit Karlovy Vary (especially in winter), use a backpack carrier.

And when we begged a hotel clerk to let us change Screech on their bathroom floor (yes, we have a Skip Hop portable changing mat – we’re not keen on dragging his little bum through Czech bacteria), this particular devushka firmly denied our request as we were not guests of the hotel or restaurant.  So we changed him on their front porch.  In full view of the dining room.  It took all the I-love-Jesus I had in me not to leave the diaper on their doorstep.

Nothing can be more kid-friendly than an open, exposed log fire, right?

Doc Sci and I have decided something.  For day trips with kids, if the travel time amounts to the same (or less) time spent at the destination, it isn’t worth it.  These places are tempting, but I have to remind myself that I’ll (hopefully) have many more years to come when the boys might, ya know, actually remember.

Karlovy Vary, I wanted to like you.  I really, really did.  Change your game and I’ll give you another try, say in, oh 15 years.  Until then, we’ll take our measly kc elsewhere.

Want more Prague?  See my trip report here and other Prague posts there.Signature-Marigold

3 thoughts on “Trip Report: Karlovy Vary

  1. Ugh, so sorry😦
    Now I know where we’re not going anytime soon🙂 Nor am I going back to Russia soon, not until Andrew can fly without me going insane🙂

    First time I was back to Russia after living in US for 4 years, I was shocked that you had to pay to pee! And not only that, once you paid and went in the bathroom, there was no paper! Apparently, you had to take a piece from the lady who collects the money!!!??!?? Serioulsy?? What if I dont want everyone to know how much paper I need??!! Shocking. Oh, and some places didnt have any restrooms, not even paid once! Others, you had to eat at the restaurant to use the restoom.

    I do agree that cold makes people miserable, all the more reason to stay in Florida🙂 I also tried to be understanding in Russia, life is hard for a lot of people there. But still! All I am asking for is some common courtesy and better service when you’re paying for things. It took me a while to get used to a possibility of being screamed at for asking a simple question at the airport or a store. Needless to say, I am very happy I live in US now🙂

    I admire you guys for being so brave and adventurous🙂 I love to travel but I think we will wait until Andrew is a little older to fly🙂 He’s now crawling all over the house and I dont see how you can make him sit in one place for more than few minutes.
    I hope your future trips will be more pleasant and not as exhausting🙂

    • Don’t worry, Zhenya, I still love Russia =) My favorite Russian bathroom is the hole in the ground with two tiles for your feet. And it costs money. Fun stuff!
      Merry Christmas to you and your crawling baby – thanks for reading and staying in touch!

  2. Pingback: Turkish Family Travels: Bucket List FAIL and the Mishap That (Almost) Ruined Our Trip | Thrifty Travel Mama

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