The Czech Republic is the birthplace of some famous bitters — the original Budweiser, the world’s first Pilsner etc. These pint-sized servings might be reason enough for many to visit the country. Unfortunately I haven’t quite developed a taste for beer, and was worried that without this experience, the trip could seem a bit wasted (no pun intended).
But that’s when I chanced upon a typically Czech way to appreciate the brew without so much as sipping it — simply bath in it.
My ale tale began in Olomouc, a university town approximately three hours by road from Prague. The town had an expected youthful buzz about it and loads of watering holes, which I initially decided to skip. But as I walked down the cobbled streets, one sign board in particular caught my attention — a figure of a woman holding up a mug of beer, as she splashed about in a tub.
Rather curious, I stepped into the building to find yet another entrance — darkly tinted glass doors. Verily, I pushed them open, half expecting to see a frat party, but what greeted me was the exact opposite — white-washed interiors, the scent of vanilla candles and serene music.
This was Svatovaclavske Pivni Lazne — a beer spa. The technician, Anna, handed me a rate card and for 40 Euros, dunking myself in a tub of beer seemed a steal.
Anna led me to a changing room. The bold can strip down completely, while the bashful can opt for swim wear. Next, Anna took me to a private room with a wooden bath tub. Never before had I laid eyes on a bath tub that had a tap for hot water; another for cold water and yet another marked ‘beer’. The concept of beer on tap takes on a whole new meaning in this part of the world!
I stepped into it expecting it to be cold, but it was warm and inviting. Anna explained that this beer had been specially brewed at the spas own microbrewery such that it contained no additives. There were small pieces of hops (herb) floating about in it.
Anna explained that this herb gives beer its bitterness, but apart from adding a strong flavour, hops also comes with many health benefits. Its anti-oxidant properties aid cell regeneration. And ‘beer treatments’ have been known to give many a women smoother skin, thicker, softer mane and also soothe aching muscles.
I soaked in the foamy, golden liquid and could feel the stress melt away. At the end, a timer went off after 30 minutes and Anna led me to the sauna. She explained this helps open up the pores, which allows the beneficial effects of the herb to penetrate deeper layers. Next, I entered the relaxation room. Here, wrapped in a towel, lying on a heavily cushioned beach chair, I fell blissfully asleep. Post this experience all I can say is that without so much as drinking beer, I fear I am addicted to it!
When to go: Expect mild and pleasant weather between April and September
Getting there: There are several carriers that fly from Mumbai to Prague. Fly Turkish Airlines with a stop-over/change of aircraft in Istanbul, Turkey. Fly Emirates Airlines if you want the option to break your journey in Dubai.
Fly Lufthansa for the option of a stop-over in Germany. Since Germany like the Czech Republic, falls within the Schengen visa zone, this break of journey won’t require additional visas.