< CZECH REPUBLIC | KARLOVY VARY: Hotel Imperial
The idea of building the „fairy-tale“ international grand hotel Imperial was conceived by Carlsbad entrepreneur Alfred Schwalb in the early
20th century when the spa town lacked sufficient accommodation capacity. A single view of the panorama of Karlovy Vary was enough to convince the investor, the
renowned „Hotel King“, Lord Richard Westbury, of the feasibility of Schwalb‘s idea. First investments involved the development of a transport solution in the
challenging hilly terrain. Thus, a single-track funicular, which is a part of Karlovy Vary city transport even today, went up the 127 metre long tunnel cut in the
rock massif above Divadelní náměstí (Theatre Square) for the first time in 1907.
The investors entrusted the development and the execution of the grand hotel Imperial project to an experienced French engineer, Ernst Hebrard, who participated, among other things, in the construction development of the city of Hanoi, or Thessaloniki, Greece. In the course of years from 1910 to 1912, a new dominant and the first structure to be built with the use of cast concrete technology on Czech territory grew in the natural greenery above the spa town. Its interiors richly decorated with stuccos were furnished with elegant mahogany furniture in Sheraton, Chippendale and Adam style, Art Nouveau brass beds, and ingenious built-in wardrobes delivered by Portois & Fix, a Viennese furniture company. Moreover, modern folding windows offered a marvellous view from all the rooms. Imperial opened its doors on June 18th, 1912.
The Grandhotel Imperial quickly became popular, because at the time of its origination, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) hosted up to 70 thousand guests yearly, which is the highest visitation rate in the entire history of the spa city. The Grand Hotel provided mainly luxury accommodation services to its first honorable guests from the aristocracy, politicians, entrepreneurs, and financial magnates. In this time, guests from overseas and from England also brought a new type of entertainment and change of lifestyle to the spa. Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) saw new tennis courts, golf courses, and a racecourse.
Guests at the Imperial included, for example, members of the large family of the Rothschilds, the Polish noble family of Potocky or the Russian Grand Duke Paul, Hollywood stars Douglas Fairbanks with his wife Mary Pickford, composer Richard Strauss, and President T. G. Masaryk. In 1923, the hotel was the venue of the World Chess Championship, at which chess champion A. A. Alechin participated.
Unfortunately, both world wars interrupted the inflow of guests and caused the collapse of spa tourism and balneology in Karlovy Vary. In 1948, all curative mineral resources and spa facilities in Czechoslovakia were nationalised. Hotel Imperial became a state sanatorium with its own balneological facility. The quality of the spa services was of high quality, nevertheless, the once typical nobleness of the hotel was replaced by „socialist realism“. A new chapter in the history of the Imperial began with Imperial Karlovy Vary in 1992, which has returned its former appearance and glamour to the hotel with a complete reconstruction (2003), as well as fame through first class quality hotel and spa services.
The present four-star Hotel Imperial is a holder of the World Travel Awards, a prestigious international prize for the best spa hotel in the Czech Republic. The Imperial Balneology Centrum received a brand new face shining with colors in 2007. Practically everything here is new: the layout, all the technical equipment, balneology technology, tubs, and the modern stainless steel rehabilitation pool.
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