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9 prosinec (dec)
A student recommended the spa town of Teplice to one of my Australian friends as a relaxing weekend getaway. She found three towns with that name on the map, but eventually narrowed it down to the Lazne Beethoven spa at Teplice v Cechech, fortunately the closest. I learned on the Internet (after the trip) that Beethoven had visited Teplice and met Goethe there, a celebrated connection. Although it's just an hour and a half train ride from Prague, a Czech fellow passenger in our cabin took off her boots and slipped on her sandals. (I have a student that brings her slippers to my flat for English lesson; shoes are always left at the door. I suspect I'm supposed to keep some slippers handy for guests.) The train pulled in at 3:00 in the afternoon and by 4:30 we were soaking in a warm thermal pool.

At check-in, we received a schedule of our treatments. Our package was called "Quick Energy Course" and, if I had been more knowledgeable about what was included I might have made a few different choices, but was quite satisfied with the plan. We explored the halls of the hotel on a quest to decipher the little icons marking the rooms where our hidden treatments were administered, until we found a directory of the little picture plaques with brief descriptions in four languages: Czech, German, English and, surprisingly, Arabic - the spa is popular with Middle Easterners. Meals were included, although some of them were a bit like a Czech version of cafeteria food.

On Saturday morning, we were to start the day with mineral water ingestion, a strong smelling but natural liquid, sipped from a shapely souvenir cup. This was to be repeated at several intervals throughout the weekend, not very tasty but part of "the cure." After a twenty minute soak in an individual hot tub, called thermal bath, the attendant pointed to a small bed in the dressing area and said "Sleep." I laid down and she wrapped me snugly in the sheets and blankets like a newborn, and left me for fifteen minutes, then returned to lead me to a massage table where I received the gentlest massage ever. Mineral water ingestion again before lunch. In the afternoon, a mud pack was spread on my back like jam on toast and covered with a thin plastic sheet, which was later washed off in another hot bath. The strangest session was called oxygen therapy: a room full of people relaxing in reclining chairs breathing pure air through tubes. I found that one a little creepy; it reminded me of the many hours I spent years ago while my late husband received chemotherapy treatment through an IV. Music was lacking in the room, where was the Beethoven?

In between treatments, we had access to the fitness center and pool and had time for walking. I wandered up a stairway to a high park in the light rain, and found an old tower under reconstruction there. This was not a tourist city, but alive with cultural center, well kept old buildings, brightly lit shopping areas, imposing but busy train station, and lots of little parks. We found an inviting jazz club for the evening and passed up the band at the spa.

My favorite spa session was on Sunday morning, the mysterious "perloid" bath, which turned out to be a soak in a bubbling hot tub. Later I remembered that perlova is the word for effervescent drinking water. Again I was wrapped in a cocoon of blankets afterwards, and still felt like I was floating when I left. We visited a few art exhibits on Sunday before returning to Prague.


December 6th is St. Nicholas night - there were countless bearded St Nicks in long white gowns and domed hats walking around with people dressed up as angels and devils. They stop and ask children if they have been good and request that they recite a poem, a wonderfully literate tradition. Christmas markets are in full swing in every major square, an artificial ice skating rink (it's not quite cold enough) full of kids in the square at Dejvicka. I went out to the old town square with my Aussie friends for a hot wine or two and checked out the many gift booths.

The windows in my flat have been replaced by more functional and warmer plastic windows. When the workers left their mess behind, dust everywhere, the couple that own the flat came and cleaned up better than I ever would have! She brought some little gifts to help compensate for my inconvenience, a pretty little candle and a bag of apples, a very Czech thing to do.

I've been visiting art galleries in my spare time. Some favorite exhibitions: the black and white photos of Jindrich Streit document Czech life, politics, hardship, farms and family in the 1900's; the incredibly detailed etchings of Wenceslas Hollar (you can check out a magnifying glass to use at the exhibit); and the colorful, cheerful illustrations of Josef Lada, a fitting accompaniment for the fairy tales I have been learning.


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