Kyselka, the Forgotten Spa Town

Zur deutschen Fassung des Berichts.

“Not much will have changed,” I thought and had packed a somewhat older travel guide for the trip to the Czech Republic.

If Karlsbad is too busy for you and you are tired of the same encounters when strolling along the colonnades, we recommend that you escape to Kyselka. This is a smaller spa town, but no less refined.

Count Mattoni, a manufacturer of mineral water, has created an exclusive resort, which has already enjoyed the honor of being visited by the imperial couple, the archduke and foreign regents such as King Otto of Greece, the Shah of Persia and the Emperor of Abyssinia.

Now, I am more a republican than a monarchist, and the time that has passed since the publication of the guide to Austria-Hungary – and the countries like Czechoslovakia that have emerged since then – has proven me right, but that Kyselka town sounds interesting.

And it is only a half-day walk from Karlovy Vary. I walk into the forest behind the synagogue and the Virgin Mary statue until I find the white-red-white marking and follow it, seemingly always uphill. It is one of the most beautiful hiking trails around Karlovy Vary, often on very narrow, barely trodden paths, then on paths carved into the mountain, on which steep slopes on the left drop down to the river Cheb.

Beautiful views, and from time to time, there is a sign telling me that I am on the right path, that there is a bus back from Kyselka, and that I still have 10 km ahead of me. However, the path winds its way around mountains, over hills and around the bends of the river in such a way that the indicated distance does not decrease over several hours.

I am cold, hungry and thirsty, but never mind. Once in Kyselka, I will treat myself to a royal meal by a warm and cozy tiled stove.

After many hours of hiking, I spot the first noble signs of Kyselka through the forest. The closer I get, the more the reputation as the most peaceful of all spa towns of Bohemia is confirmed. I do not hear a single sound, no people, no cars, not even dogs.

Mr. Mattoni, the founder of this exclusive place, seems to be spending the winter elsewhere, because his villa looks a bit deserted.

“Or maybe he’s at the mineral water works,” I am thinking. But there too, nothing sparkles anymore.

To make a long story short: the whole city looks inactive and deserted.

I won’t get anything to eat here, it slowly dawns on me. Only in the grotto above the artificially created waterfall, there is still drinking water, and even a cup next to the pool. The last person to drink from it was probably the King of Montenegro. Or the goblins and gnomes now inhabiting Kyselka instead of the kings and counts. But the water tastes good.

A car stops and a family gets out. Father, mother, child and a plastic bucket with toys. The child walks around a bit. After five minutes, they put everything back into the car and whiz off, deeply disappointed by this depressing place. Yet another family outing that has backfired.

The only other car is a fire engine, but it hasn’t put out any fires in a long time. The tires are as deflated as the local entertainment program.

It’s getting darker. It’s getting colder. And although I have heard that cities that have nothing else to offer are advertised as “air spas”, I will hardly be able to survive on air alone.

The promised bus won’t show up either, because it’s a Saturday.

So I place myself by the road, stick out my thumb and hope that one of the spa guests from the early 20th century delayed their departure long enough to return to Karlovy Vary today. And indeed, soon a car a car will stop. It’s a Czech-Russian couple who live even further back in the Cheb Valley and are taking old bottles to the recycling station in the district town. As befits a city founded by Mr. Mattoni, Italian turns out to be the lowest common linguistic denominator in the cosmopolitan car.

Speaking of language, this was probably the reason why Kyselka never reached the fame of other spa towns. In German, the place is called Giesshübl Sauerbrunn, and that sounds rather unmelodic, even to German ears.


  • If you are interested in ghost towns, you should come to Humberstone with me!
  • Kyselka near Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) must not be confused with Bílina-Kyselka, although they have unused spa hotels standing around there, too.
  • More discoveries in the Czech Republic.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Czech Republic, Photography, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Kyselka, the Forgotten Spa Town

  1. Pingback: Kyselka, Kurort für Könige, Kaiser und Kobolde | Der reisende Reporter

  2. danysobeidad says:

    Que encanto! Creo me haría amiga de los duendes, para poder quedarme un tiempo y apreciar cada detalle en cada edificación. Sabes? Me encantaría algún día producir un libro de detalles constructivos de los sistemas tradicionales anteriores al racional. Estuviste en un verdadero paraíso los paisajes naturales espectaculares, así como las ruinas de Adán. Tengo la impresión de que la lectura inicial era mas extensa o lo soñé, hasta hace poco no se podía ingresar a tu pagina desde esta ubicación.

  3. Wow! What a beautiful place! Even abandoned the buildings and the landscape are stunning!
    It seems like you can never find an open cafe or pub, you’re always going hungry. 😂 It looks like it was worth it to see the Natural and man-made beauty.
    You’ve really educated me on eastern Europe. I guess I think of the Soviets turning everything grey and dull… it’s probably American propaganda. USSR was THE enemy.
    Your travels through the area have shown me that I had this belief. I didnt even realize that I thought all formally Soviet areas must be ugly. It’s interesting to see how wrong I was/am.

    Thank you Andreas for the virtual spa day, and for an eye opening education on a misinformed belief system.😊🌻

    • A lot of people in Western Europe have the same belief. I recently managed to finally convince my father to travel those 100 km to the east, and he couldn’t believe his eyes.

      We have to consider that in many countries, Soviet influence only lasted from 1945 to 1990. In architecture, that’s not a terribly long time, and it mostly affected newly built residential areas (which were not very exciting in the west either), industrial cities (which can be very dull and grey in Germany, the UK or in Belgium, too) and government buildings. Some of those are even quite interesting, I think, but that’s a matter of taste.

      In any way, this was nothing compared to the time of the Habsburg empire which left a lasting impression on the Czech Republic and plenty of other countries from Poland to Romania.

      Actually, traveling through Eastern Europe, I would say that capitalism has destroyed much more beautiful architecture and is replacing everything with steel-and-glass office towers and shopping malls.
      Or the residential areas built in the last 30 years: Everybody wants to have something modern and no longer live in Soviet-era flats, but then they all move to the same modern flat, white, with large glass front, and they all have the same IKEA furniture. Capitalism can be quite monotonous as well.

  4. Christophe Deschler says:

    Well documented,nicely written with a sens of humor,high quality pictures.On top as usual.Well done Andreas.

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