Jane tells a story of a childhood holiday. She was playing in the woods with her sister close to the cottage in Scotland where they were staying. They came across a young lad who joined in their game for a while. She found out later that it was Prince Andrew – then second in line to the throne.
Her late father was a royal bodyguard and the McIntyres were staying in a cottage on the Balmoral estate, which enabled the family to have a holiday, whilst the policeman attended to his professional duties.
I’ve had no such close encounters with royalty. But our recent trip to Mariánské Lázně made me feel rather close to our current queen’s great-grandfather – Edward VII. The town is celebrating it’s 200th anniversary as a spa town this year, but Britain’s key connection happened in the early days of the 20th century. King Edward was a large gentleman and his August vacations in the last 13 years of his life were typically spent in the town. Physicians would prescribe a series of treatments which sent him back to England somewhat lighter than when he arrived.
I strolled through the civic gardens, hiding their summer beauty under winter clothes, half-listening to our wonderful guide, Maria, half-imagining life in Marienbad (the town’s German name) in Edwardian times. If I shut my eyes, I could almost hear the buzz in Czech, German and Russian as people spotted Edward taking an afternoon constitutional. And how that buzz would reach fever pitch if he was accompanied by the Emperor, Franz Joseph.
As I stared up at the cast iron grandeur of the colonnade, I had the same view that the British monarch would have had as he contemplated the latest mouthful of the sulphurous spring water that he was under strict instructions to imbibe. And in our hotel – the opulent Nové Lázně – we poked our noses into the exquisite cabin that Edward used for his mineral baths. It’s certainly a bath house fit for a king.
I can see what appealed about Mariánské Lázně to royalty and others in power. Its ornate buildings in pastel yellows, blues and pinks contrast wonderfully with the fir-covered hills that surround the town. Its water’s curative powers meant that social and political relationships could be forged whilst relaxing and tackling some lingering health conditions.
And, today, the town remains a wonderful place to get away from it all. Whether, like us, you visit for hot chocolates and hot baths against winter’s chill or you fill your lungs with pine-scented summer breezes, take our tip and pay this place a visit. And if you don’t take our word for it, take Edward’s.
If you like this post, why not write a comment below or share it on social media? Or even better, subscribe to our newsletter.