Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad for German) is a spa town in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. The town, surrounded by green mountains, is a mosaic of parks and noble houses. Most of its buildings come from the town's Golden Era in the second half of the 19th century, when many celebrities and top European rulers came to enjoy the curative carbon dioxide springs. In 2021, the town became part of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name 'Great Spa Towns of Europe'.
Although the town itself is only about two hundred years old, the locality has been inhabited much longer. The first written record dates back to 1273. The springs first appear in a document dating from 1341 where they are called 'the Auschowitzer springs' belonging to the Teplá Abbey. It was only through the efforts of Josef Nehr, the abbey's physician, who from 1779 until his death in 1820 worked hard to demonstrate the curative properties of the springs, that the waters began to be used for medicinal purposes. The place obtained its current name of Marienbad in 1808; became a watering-place in 1818, and received its charter as a town in 1868.
By the early 20th century, approximately 1,000,000 bottles of mineral water were exported annually from Marienbad. The water from the Cross Spring (Křížový pramen) was evaporated and the final product was sold as a laxative under the name of sal teplensis. The modern spa town was founded by the Teplá abbots, namely Karl Kaspar Reitenberger, who also bought some of the surrounding forests to protect them. Under the guidance of gardener Václav Skalník, architect Jiří Fischer, and builder Anton Turner the inhospitable marshland valley was changed into a park-like countryside with colonnades, neoclassical buildings and pavilions around the springs.
The name Marienbad first appeared in 1786; since 1865 it has been a town. Then came a second period of growth, the town's Golden Era. Between 1870 and 1914 many new hotels, colonnades and other buildings, designed by Friedrich Zickler, Josef Schaffer, and Arnold Heymann, were constructed or rebuilt from older houses. In 1872 the town got a railway connection with the town of Cheb (Eger) and thus with the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire and the rest of Europe.
The town soon became one of the top European spas, popular with notable figures and rulers who often returned there. Among them were such names as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Frédéric Chopin, Thomas Edison, Richard Wagner or Prince Friedrich of Saxony, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, the Russian Czar Nicholas II, and Emperor Franz Joseph I and many others. At those times, about 20,000 visitors came every year. It was also a popular resort and vacation venue for European rabbis and their Hasidic followers, accommodating their needs with kosher restaurants, religious prayer services, etc.
Marienbad remained a popular destination between World War I and World War II. After World War II, the ethnic German population of the town was forcibly expelled according to the Potsdam agreement, thereby emptying the town of the majority of its population. After the communist coup-d'état in 1948; it got sealed off from most of its foreign visitors. After the return of democracy in 1989 much effort was put into restoring the town into its original character. Today it is not only a spa town but also a popular holiday resort thanks to its location among the green mountains of the Slavkovský les and the Český les, sport facilities (the town's first golf course was opened in 1905 by the British King Edward VII) and the proximity to other famous spa towns, such as Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) or Františkovy Lázně (Franzensbad).References:
The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.
A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.
In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.
In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.
In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.
From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.
In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.
The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.
In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.
The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.