Last week, Steve and I rented a car and drove out to Karlovy Vary, a spa town almost due west of Prague and about two hours south of Dresden, Germany. The town is incredibly picturesque, sits on a pretty little river, and, per Wikipedia, it is the site of 13 main springs and 300 smaller springs. It was founded by Charles IV, who was the first King of Bohemia and later became Holy Roman Emperor, in the 14th century. Today, it’s apparently very popular with Russians, and many of the signs in the town, restaurant menus and hotel notices are printed in Czech, German, English and Russian.

The town has several colonnades, which are long, covered, open-air, arched walkways that house little fountains where the spring waters come to the surface. The little taps are called “seeps.” It looks like there are usually from one to five seeps in each colonnade. Some of these structures are quite ornate and pretty. There are special ceramic cups that people carry around to collect water from the springs to drink.

Here is Steve at one of the seeps.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to a 100-year old spa called Elizabeth Baths. It’s in a gorgeous old building that looks quite majestic from a distance, though a little ragged up close. They have doctors on staff, and offer all manner of wacky “treatments.” We opted for soaking in tubs of mineral water, massages and hanging out in a salt cave. My massage therapist was Russian, and Steve’s was from somewhere in Eastern Europe, and they worked us over pretty good. I absolutely loved it, and I think Steve had a good time, too. One of the great things about Czechia is that the prices are reasonable. The whole visit, for both of us, cost less than $150. These days, you would be lucky to get one massage for that amount in the U.S.

We also tried some authentic Czech food. One of the more interesting dishes was “steak and dumplings.” To my great surprise, the steak was topped with a lemon, raspberry or blueberry jam and a huge pile of whipped cream, surrounded by a brown gravy. The dumplings were not exactly like those my grandmother used to make. These were like slices of white bread that had been steamed. It was tasty, if a little bland. Steve had a venison ragout with spaetzle, which was really good. The cuisine is pretty heavy on meat, sauces and root vegetables, which is about what we had expected.

This is the steak á la whipped cream and dumplings. It was OK, but I don’t plan to try this at home.

I would go back to Karlovy Vary and to the Elizabeth Baths in a heartbeat. The whole town is also a medical tourism hot spot for things like cosmetic surgery and dentistry. In addition to visiting some of the spas, you can go to one of the doctors there, and they will prescribe a whole course of treatment for whatever ails you, or put you under the knife to improve your appearance. It’s the whole package in a gorgeous setting.