Each day during my week in the historical thermal town of Františkovy Lázně (Czech Republic), I followed the most glorious routine. With the early morning light, I stirred awake to the sound of the famous subterranean waters flowing up through a glass cylinder right there in my room. As I opened my eyes, I would first stare from the soft covers of my bed at the water fizzing up from deep below the ground, clear and sparkling. Then, still half in the realm of sleep, I would take my special thermal water cup, fill it up from the cylinder, and take a long drink. The water, cold and fizzy and laden with healthy minerals always seemed to stir in me a feeling of rejuvenation, as if it was helping to rid my body of any toxins and replenish it with the goodness of the earth.
Then, still in a state of blissful rest, I would walk down to the main spa of my hotel: a series of large glistening pools with fountains spurting up from below and little waterfalls raining down from above. As I immersed my body into the water, I could feel every muscle relax, every knot in my shoulders or back loosen. Weightless, almost as if gravity no longer existed, I would slowly swim through the water, hearing nothing but the comforting fizzing and splashing all around me.
After about an hour or so, drifting through the marvelous pools, I would move on to breakfast. Sometimes, I took it in my room, which had a lovely view over the central promenade of the town. Other times, I took a table by the window in the hotel restaurant. Either way, the location made for a wonderful setting to eat a delicious meal of fresh fruit, hot pastries baked that very morning, and medium roast coffee. After just a few days of this morning routine, I felt as though every pore of my skin had been hydrated, and perhaps most importantly, any inkling of stress I might have had when I arrived had disappeared as a wisp of steam and vanished into the air.
I found Františkovy Lázně thanks to the advice of my Czech friend, Petra. After a particularly trying few months at work, Petra suggested I take a solo trip to her home country and rest. Františkovy Lázně was her idea, particularly because it had won the title of most beautiful spa town in the country some years back. As each morning with this routine passed and I felt more and more rested and revitalized, I started to ask myself this question: what gives these waters such power? The answer is simple. For thousands of years, people have travelled to places where thermal waters naturally flow up from below. These waters, often warmed by the earth itself, carry with them essential minerals that heal us and relieve us from our stressful modern lives. Whether we drink them, as I did first thing in the morning, or swim in them, they offer healing properties that are truly unique. Over the years, studies have shown that sulphureous water of the sort found in Františkovy Lázně can strengthen the immune system, have powerful relaxing effects, reduce pain, and impact inflammation. What I can attest to with certainty is that my levels of anxiety—especially about work—fell significantly in even such a short time.
The beauty of places like Františkovy Lázně is that in addition to the many wonderful thermal water experiences, you also have other relaxing activities within walking distance. Františkovy Lázně is famous for a type of mud bathing, which makes use of the mineral-rich and healing power of a certain type of earth to clean your skin. I tried it and the feeling of having warm mud covering your body was far more pleasant than I could have expected.
Aside from mud bathing, there is much to discover. Františkovy Lázně is home to one of the most gorgeous central promenades I’ve ever seen. Flanked on both sides of the wide street are dozens of thermal bathing centers, many housed in elegant 19th century buildings made of marble and with intricate carvings and designs. In between these buildings are charming cafes with fresh local delicacies as well as restaurants serving delicious Czech and European cuisine. In between bathing sessions, I often took long walks down the promenade and through the manicured gardens and parks nearby. If I ever got peckish, I would just pop into any of the many restaurants for a piece of salmon over fresh vegetables or local dumplings. There was even a theater in town and several sporting areas for those who enjoy volleyball, pétanque, or frisbee.
In Františkovy Lázně, I closed most days in a very similar way to how I opened them. Once the light dimmed and dusk approached, I slipped into my bathing suit and walked down to a part of the pool that overlooked a dense forest of deep green trees. There, with the sky faintly pink, I would float in the warm water and watch the birds fluttering in the sky. Then, I would close my eyes and enter a meditative state. All I could feel was the water lapping against my cheeks and bubbling about my legs. All I could hear was the faint rushing of the water shooing up from below. It was an astoundingly beautiful and calming experience.