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Františkovy Lázně, or Franzensbad, is the smallest of the three main Bohemian spas. It isn't really in the same league as Karlovy Vary. The main spa area is only a few blocks, and aside from a dozen or so cafés in which to enjoy an apple strudel or ice cream, there isn't much to see or do. That said, the charm of its uniform, Kaiser-yellow Empire architecture grows on you. Gardens surrounding
the main spa area—both the manicured "French" gardens and the wilder "English"-style parks—grow on you, too. They're as perfect for strolling now as they were 200 years ago. Summer is particularly pleasant, when a small orchestra occupies the gazebo in the Městkské sady (city park) and locals and visitors sit in lawn chairs and listen.
The healing properties of the waters here were recognized as early as the 15th century, but Františkovy Lázně came into its own only at the start of the 19th century. Like Bohemia's other spas, Františkovy Lázně drew from the top drawer of European society, including one Ludwig Van Beethoven, who came here in 1812. But it remained in Cheb's shadow, and the spa stayed relatively small. In the years following World War II the spa declined. Most of the buildings were given over to factories and organizations to use as convalescent centers. Františkovy Lázně also developed a reputation for helping women with fertility problems, and Milan Kundera used it as the humorous, small-town backdrop for his novel The Farewell Party. Since 1989 the town has worked hard to restore the yellow facades to their former glory.
Known for centuries by its German name of Eger, the old town of Cheb tickles the German border in the far west of the Czech Republic. The town...
Karlovy Vary—often known outside the Czech Republic by its German name, Karlsbad—is the most famous of the Bohemian spas. It's named for the...