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A spring fit for a king The history of the best-known spa town in the Czech Republic goes back more than 650 years he name of the west Bohemian spa town Karlovy Vary (sometimes better known abroad by its German name, Karlsbad) literally translates as “Charles’ hot springs.” The Charles is question is one of the most famous men who ever lived in Bohemia: Charles IV, who reigned as king of Bohemia, king of Italy and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century.


According to legend, Charles IV was visiting the present-day Karlovy Vary region on a hunting expedition when he came across a hot spring that seemed to have a visibly curative effect on the leg of one of his hunting dogs. The emperor decided then and there to found a town on the site. Others have claimed that pilgrims had already visited the spot over the previous 100 years, but the town has stuck with the royal legend.

Karlovy Vary has historically boasted 12 springs (although this figure is no longer accurate), and besides the ample variety of treatments at the myriad spas scattered throughout the town, the lush hillsides offer numerous walking trails to take in the fresh air, get the blood flowing and relax amid the natural surroundings. The city also offers a multitude of biking trails, and the Karlovy Vary region, which also contains other noted spa towns like Mariánské Lázně and Jáchymov, contains a total of some 2,000 kilometers of trails on which bikers can explore the area. Karlovy Vary is not only the balneological capital of the region, but of the entire Czech Republic, even though those in need of therapeutic thermal treatments are already spoiled for choice, with options ranging from Františkovy Lázně, situated in the far west of


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the Karlovy Vary region, almost on the German border, to Luhačovice in the east, 30 minutes from the Moravian border with Slovakia. The treatments available in the city run the gamut, with options ranging from simple procedures like prescribed doses of spa water and a routine of baths to electrotherapy, phototherapy and having one’s body encased in a carbon dioxide bag, and many more complex treatments like cryotherapy, lymphatic drainage and hydrocolonotherapy. Usually, visitors who come to the town primarily for its curative benefits stay here for at least one week. Those who don’t wish to spend this amount of time can, however, also check into some of the spas as outpatients. Whether the patients stay for only a few days or for a longer period of time, they can find accommodation in any of the roughly 150 establishments located across the city (and there are many more in the smaller towns in the surrounding area), many of which have their own treatment centers. In total, the city has 14 springs (15 if the Dorotka spring, located a short distance uphill from the Grandhotel Richmond, is included, but this spring is not open to the public). Most of them are to be found in the center of the city, with the imposing stone Mill Colonnade, built toward the end of the 19th century, measuring 132 meters and supported by some 124 columns, containing five of them, with a sixth just off to the side. VŘÍDLO SPRING, THE HOTTEST OF ANY SPRING IN KARLOVY VARY, WITH TEMPERATURES UP TO 73 C, SHOOTS ITS HOT WATER HIGH INTO THE AIR AT THE FUNCTIONALIST VŘÍDELNÍ COLONNADE.



• Thermal mineral water should be consumed only after consultation with a spa physician with the necessary qualifications. • To achieve the highest therapeutic effect, consume the thermal mineral water in the vicinity of springs. • Drink the thermal mineral water from the purposely shaped porcelain or glass cups. • The therapeutic cure should not be combined with the drinking of alcohol or with the smoking of tobacco products. Passive inhalation of tobacco smoke is also harmful. • The drinking cure should also include exercise. It is recommended that you drink the water while walking at a slow pace. • The drinking cure should proceed with peace of mind, without hurry and in a completely relaxed state. • Repeat the drinking cure according to the schedule prescribed by your physician. • Do not disturb others who are drinking the thermal water. • Mineral water can’t be used to water plants, and it should not be poured on the floor in the colonnade area. • For health reasons, don’t touch the spring stand or outflow pipes when you take water from the spring g - André Crous can be reached at



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Returning to the source hen one thinks of the intersection today between the spa town of Karlovy Vary and the world of celebrities, one tends to imagine the paparazzi snapping pictures as a Hollywood star (or, more often, starlet) floats past on the red carpet leading up to Hotel Thermal at the annual international film festival. But this town in west Bohemia has a history of attracting celebrities that stretches back much further than the festival has been around, for which its beauty and mostly its thermal springs take the credit.


As part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the 19th century in particular was the time of the town’s glory days, in part initiated by the brewing of Becherovka, an herbal liqueur that has become one of the town’s most well-known exports and has MARKET COLONNADE: THE FINELY CARVED MARKET COLONNADE IS ON THE SPOT WHERE, ACCORDING TO LEGEND, KING CHARLES IV OF BOHEMIA DISCOVERED THE ‘ORIGINAL’ SPRING IN THE TOWN.


West Bohemia’s most famous spa town has attracted bigger stars than those of the silver screen over the years

been named explicitly by the current Czech president as his favorite drink. Better known at the time by its German name, Karlsbad, the town attracted some of the biggest names in the Germanspeaking world, from composers (Wagner, Liszt, Beethoven and Mozart’s son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang, a well-known musician in his own right), writers (Goethe) and poets (Adam Mickiewicz, Friedrich Schiller), to philosophers (Karl Marx), statesmen (Bismarck) and psychologists (Freud). Over time, many other artists, writers and politicians from farther afield (Chopin, born in Warsaw, Turgenev from Russia, and Mustafa Atatürk, the founding father of the Republic of Turkey) also made their way to these springs on the banks of the Teplá and Ohře rivers.


The medicinal properties of the town’s mineral-rich waters have been known for centuries, and today most people come here to imbibe the wholesome liquid by means of a specially designed spa cup that looks like a small, kitschily decorated teapot. The town had always had 12 spas used for treatments — with dozens more hot springs — and the running joke was that the 13th “cure,” if all else has failed, is to drink the Becherovka. However, two more spring have been acknowledged over the past two decades, and a there is another that is not used because its mineral properties are not significant enough. Some of Karlovy Vary’s most famous visitors are commemorated in the names of paths, or with busts in their likeness. So, for example, there is Goethova stezka, or Goethe’s Path, which leads from the luxurious Grandhotel Pupp along the Teplá River, past his marble bust, to the Karlovy Vary Art Gallery a short distance further. Goethe was one of Karlovy Vary’s most regular visitors, and during his lifetime, he made some 13 visits to the spa town. Because he was German, his bust, which had remained undisturbed for more than 60 years, was removed after World War II, only to be put back in 1952.

Goethe also has a lookout tower named after him (the popular Karlovy Vary late-night parties were held there every night for the duration of the 2013 film festival), which is located on a steep hill about 1.5 km. southeast of his memorial. Opposite the Grandhotel Richmond, at the end of Goethe’s Path, is a granite memorial to the memory of Ludwig van Beethoven, erected on the same spot where a monument to the long-reigning Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria had stood in earlier times. Beethoven had visited the town twice — once meeting up with Goethe — and even performed on at least one occasion, at the Czech Hall, where the Grandhotel Pupp is located today. Of course, the most famous visitor of all is the man who gave his name to the town its name. King Charles IV, also known as the Greatest Czech, allegedly discovered the healing properties of the town’s waters while on a hunting expedition, and ordered that a town be established on the site. The town’s supposed original spring, “pramen Karla IV.” or “the source of Charles IV,” can be found in the wooden Market Colonnade structure in the heart of Karlovy Vary.g - André Crous can be reached at H E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m





Cards spell good fortune Baba Studio about to launch its most ambitious project en years ago – who knew what the future held for Alex Ukolov and Karen Mahony? When the couple formed their company Baba Studio in 2002 and began designing tarot cards, no one could have known how successful their products would become. Now, Baba Studio’s catalog includes not only several unusually artistic tarot decks, but high-quality bags, unique clothing including corsets and scarves, beautiful cushions, dolls, books and soon even perfume and jewelry, all designed by Karen and Alex in their modern-meets-baroque style.


In the course of 10 years, the pair has converted their minicompany into a mini-empire that sells all over the world. Soon they will release a project they have been working on for four years, a tarot deck based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books, and already many hundreds of pre-orders have flooded in. Neither Karen’s nor Alex’s background indicates the unusual career they would be pursuing together. Karen is Irish and has


a background in corporate brand design in London, while Alex is Russian and first worked in film before setting up his own advertising agency and art gallery. The couple met in Prague and started their company, Baba Studio, from a tiny studio in Malá Strana. The Tarot of Prague was their first project, launched in 2003. This deck takes photos of the art and architecture of the city to make pictures that match the meanings required by the 78 different cards in a tarot deck. The couple knew that they were taking a huge risk, as the project took more than a year to complete and the public’s reaction to the deck could not be predicted. Fortunately, it became surprisingly successful both with art lovers and fortune tellers, and was even voted Deck of the Year 2003. The success of their first tarot deck gave them the encouragement to design other decks and take even greater risks. At first, the pair thought about designing the next deck around another city, such as London. But they knew that this

approach could become repetitive. So instead, they embarked on an entirely new theme. The next deck featured cats in Baroque costumes shown against lavish Czech backgrounds. “The Baroque Bohemian Cats' Tarot shocked people because the Tarot of Prague seemed much more serious. This deck was crazier, less conventional in its symbolism and wildly decorative,” Karen recalls. “But it stretched us as illustrators, and it meant that Baba Studio's tarots came to be seen as unpredictable and stylistically adventurous.” From that point on, Alex and Karen have ensured that each new deck design was different from the one before. “People criticize us because we change every new deck from the old one. … However, after some time, they come to love it,” Karen said. It is similar to rock bands, when fans always hate the new album because it is different from the previous one, but then after a while regard it as a classic. The Baroque Bohemian Cats' Tarot was a great challenge for Alex and Karen to design and create. In order to make the images for the cards, they had to photograph cats and miniature models with costumes, and then use computer graphics skills and conventional drawing to combine them into seamless pictures. “Over the years people kept on writing to us asking how we managed to get the cats to do the things they are doing on the cards,” Karen remembers. The truth is that the cats on the cards were “dressed” using the kind of CGI techniques used in films , and actual cats were never inconvenienced. One of the cats featured in the deck still lives with Karen and Alex.


The Bohemian Cats' Tarot became very popular in the USA and UK, and also had great success in China, Korea and Japan, probably partly because cats symbolize luck in many Asian countries. It has now become a classic and has been reprinted many times. The next decks Karen and Alex designed were the Victorian Romantic Tarot and Bohemian Gothic Tarot. These decks further developed Baba Studio’s extravagant yet witty brand style. Both of these decks became Decks of the Year when they were published. As Baba Studio sells mainly online and ships internationally, Karen and Alex have become aware of different national preferences, with certain styles and imagery selling better in some countries. “Our Gothic themes hardly sell at all in Japan,” says Alex, “But they're loved in the USA, UK and Germany.” The studio's main market is in the USA but they have shipped to nearly everywhere in the world, with growing markets in Europe, Russia and Australia. Significantly, however, in the Czech Republic there aren’t that many people currently buying Baba Studios products. “Perhaps people here find our work a bit too bizarre,” Alex believes. Until now, much of the work produced by Baba Studio has been heavily inspired by the local region. However, with the upcoming Alice Tarot, which will come out in June, the couple decided to follow a different artistic path. “You can see a lot of Prague creeping into our former decks. For the Alice Tarot however, we use a lot more English imagery.” Karen explains. The couple is designing The Alice Tarot with similar techniques to the Bohemian Cats' Tarot. First a storyboard was created, which was completed four years before the actual deck could be produced. Then costumes were designed, photos were taken and later everything was composed into the final imagery. “We’re unavoidably influenced by Tim Burton, “ Alex laughs, “But we aim to have a completely fresh take of our own and we avoid Disneyfication at all costs.” For Baba Studio it is especially important to create an interesting Alice-centered design that at the same time makes for a usable deck of cards. “In tarot, each card has a specific meaning. We balH E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m




ance the themes of Alice with the classical tarot structure,” Karen explains. hile the cats deck used small-scale models, many of the costumes and props for the Alice deck were life-sized. “We put a lot of quirky detail into our illustrations so we search for antique props online, we haunt bazaars and antiquariats for inspiration, and we design the costumes ourselves,” Karen explains.


Over the years as the studio has grown, a new opportunity opened up that was in fact initiated by customers. “A few years ago, some customers began to ask for bags to go with the decks,” Karen remembers. At first she was skeptical about the demand for this, although she did have a textile design background and was intrigued by the possibilities. But when the couple began to print simple bags that matched the designs of the decks they became a huge success. As a result, Baba Studio went from small runs of hand-sewn printed bags and scarves to expanding to the point when they needed to acquire a large professional textile printing machine from Japan. Throughout these years of growth, much of the work was sewn by a Czech graduate in textiles, Romana Vojtiškovà, who has become an essential part of the team. To meet demand, the studio now collaborates with small,


socially responsible sewing workshops in Vietnam and India selecting partners that behave ethically and don’t use child labor. This has allowed them to offer many more types of bags, scarves, clothing and even art dolls. While all these products are to some extent inspired and lead back to the decks, they have acquired a life and a distinct design approach of their own. “We're inspired by people like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, because they aren't afraid to take stylistic risks,” Karen says. The future holds many projects for Baba Studio. An extravagant silver jewelry line is in development and Karen and Alex are also working with an Irish natural perfumer on the creation of alchemical perfumes. Everything has to fit with Baba Studio's reputation for products that are mystical and quirky but of much higher quality than the average “New Age” item. But not all products are physical — the Bohemian cats have already starred in an animated movie, and there is another short film being planned in collaboration with a well-known US animator. In typical Baba style, the story will center around a lavishly dressed cat singing a Mozart aria. “The idea for the future is to have Baba Studio working across lots of different media but staying true to the brand, which is always magical, historical and humorous, slightly bizarre and just a bit over the top,” Karen says with a smile. g




Hemp for health C Legal hemp products are pushing into the mainstream

zech and European laws on hemp are fairly relaxed, as long as products are made of “industrial hemp” that contains only a trace amount of THC, the chemical that causes intoxication. This has led to a growing industry in products ranging from lollipops to skin ointments.

Movements to fully legalize marijuana are growing across Europe and in the United States, which is also generating more interest in spin-off products. Hemp is growing into the center of a lifestyle, as its advocates say it can be used for almost anything and is eco-friendly. It is also gaining acceptance among people interested in organic food and nature-based medicine. Some hemp product vendors still have a 1960s-style counterculture vibe, with marijuana-leaf designs prominently featured, while others are much more serious and businesslike. All


vendors emphasize that their products are legal, and most claim that there are health benefits from using hemp.

The lack of THC doesn’t deter customers. “THC is just one out of 150 good things in hemp. It is full of stuff that is really good for your health,” said Vítězslav, who declined to give his last name. He was selling products for České Budějovice–based Hemp Point (, at Festival Evolution, a recent fair for organic food, alternative medicine and similar products. “It is a good source of protein,” he said, indicating food products and snacks that his company sold. “Seeds sell the best,” he added. People use them for cooking, such as making cookies and cakes, or roasting them with honey. They are also for growing, and these hemp seeds also result in plants that have less than 0.3 percent THC, the legal limit in the Czech Republic. People can grow the plants in limited quanti-

ties, he said. The law is a bit complicated. Farmers who grow hemp as a crop on more that 100 square meters are required to file some additional paperwork that is not required for other crops. Even if you are under that limit, it is a good idea to keep records concerning the source of the seeds, advocates warn.

The firm does use the phrase “medical cannabis” in its English-language brochure and website,, but this shouldn’t be confused with the American term “medical marijuana.” Like all legal hemp products, it contains virtually no THC.

Hemp Point had the widest array of products, including lollipops, energy bars, herb-flavored salt, pasta, cookies, oil and flour, as well as hemp-flavored liquor, cosmetics and textile products from both local and imported sources.

A cream for joint pain is the most popular item, Janů said, followed by a skin cream and lip balm. It was too early to judge the popularity of the shampoos, he added. The firm’s literature touted many of the claims that the other vendors had made about essential oils and proteins, and added hemp cultivation had a relatively low impact in the environment compared to other plants. The products often blend hemp with other natural oils to make them useful for specific problems, according to Janů.

Another vendor, Zelená země ( concentrated more on food and cosmetics. Hemp beer was one of their most popular items. “It is better than regular beer; you get a more relaxed feeling,” their salesperson Kateřina Hanačiková said. “Hemp tea also sells well,” she said, adding that seeds were also popular. Arabian coffee flavored with hemp seeds was a new product and had not been catching on yet. “It’s new. People have just seen it,” she added. Cannabissimo Coffee, imported from Italy, may be a tough sell, as most true coffee aficionados seldom go for added flavors. Tea drinkers, however, seem more willing to embrace new herbal blends. She touted the benefits of hemp oil, which is high in Omega 3, an essential fatty acid, and has a good balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Some nutritionists claim that a 3:1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is most beneficial for human health, and hemp comes very close to this. Supporters of the idea of using hemp oil in place of olive oil for cooking and salads also point out that hemp is lower in saturated fat. While both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are necessary in a balanced diet, many of the health claims surrounding them remain unproven.

A similar line of products is offered by Cannaderm (, a Czech firm that also exports throughout the EU. Its products are certified as either bio (organic) or natural, and each product lists the amount of hemp in the product. The firm also claims the products free of mineral oils such as Vaseline, and synthetic dyes and fragrances. The products are also not tested on animals. In addition to skin ointments, lotions and shampoos, they offer sun block and soap. Having started operations in 2002, they claim to be the first firm in the Czech Republic to offer hemp-based skin care products. They also point out that hemp oil was included in the Czech list of pharmaceutical ingredients in 2010. According to Cannaderm, studies concluded that hemp oil had a measurable moisturizing effect on skin, and when combined with other oils it had a soothing effect.

A Czech firm that takes the medical power of hemp very seriously is Olomouc-based Annabis (, which has a laboratory in Prague. Unlike the other companies, the image of the hemp leaf is rather small in advertisements. The logo uses a medical-style cross on a green background. They try to avoid the hippy-era appeal and instead adopt a highly professional look.

Most firms that carry hemp products seem to do so exclusively, with few if any non-hemp items in their array. But that is also changing. Aromatherapy and natural cosmetics firm Saloos ( recently introduced a handful of hemp products including bath oil, shower oil and balm among their wide range of herbal products that otherwise includes products with oils from jasmine, clove, bergamot, lavender and eucalyptus, among other popular fragrances. Sales clerks said that more people had been asking about the hemp products than buying them, since they were new. So far, there have been no negative reactions to the idea of hemp side-by-side with jasmine.

“Our clients are interested in nature-based lifestyle,” salesman Libor Janů said. Annabis uses only organic hemp sourced from the Czech Republic for its range of ointments, lotions and new line shampoos. The company has been around for six years and exports to much of the EU, Switzerland and Japan.

Most vendors note that the food and healthcare products shouldn’t interfere with passing a drug test for people who are subject to random testing. Many of the health benefits do remain unproven, so as always, one should consult with a doctor or healthcare professional before starting any treatment. g

She also said that the cosmetics were popular, especially for people with sensitive skin, as the oils were beneficial.

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LOVING HUT Prague 1, Truhlářská 20 Prague 2, Londýnská 35 Prague 2, Neklanova 30 Prague 5, Radlická 117 (OC Butovice) Prague 5, Zborovská 19 Prague 7, Dukelských hrdinů 18 Loving Hut is an international chain of restaurants that offers purely plant-based dishes with an Asian touch. With six locations in town, it’s really easy to find a spot near you. At lunchtime from Monday to Friday you can enjoy their delicious self-service buffet, the perfect solution for a quick lunch and good value for your money as you pay by weight. In the evening and on weekends you can pick from their menu. LOVEG Prague 1, Nerudova 36 While on the rise to the castle you should stop in this cozy vegan restaurant. After three flights of wooden staircase, you will reach the pleasant attic of LoVeg. The atmosphere is indeed one of the greatest assets of this restaurant: relaxing music in the background, beautiful decorations and a friendly staff. Moreover, you can’t miss the view over the Malá Strana rooftops. For a special occasion, you can also book a table on a small open terrace overlooking Prague Castle. Our recommendation: Try their organic beer.

VEGETARIAN: f you are vegetarian or vegan, at first sight Prague may not seem to be the best place for you. As the Czech Republic is a country famous for its meat-based typical dishes, you may wonder how you could keep up your cruelty-free lifestyle when you are surrounded by pork and beef in every possible sauce and combination. At a closer look, however, you may discover that enjoying your vegetarian diet is not only possible but also very accessible.


Following a worldwide trend, in the last few years even Prague has developed its own vegetarian scene. Luckily, the city is now filled with tasty options for your lunch break or your evening dinner. So the next time you are searching for a great place to eat, look no further than our guide to vegetarian and vegan restaurants in town.

BEAS VEGETARIAN DHABA Prague 1, Týnská 19 (courtyard) Prague 1, Vladislavova 24 Prague 1, Na Poříčí 26 (in the arcade behind Archa theater) Prague 4, Na Pankráci 1683/127 Prague 8, Sokolovská 93 This chain offers northern Indian-style vegetarian cuisine in a buffet.You can help yourself from the daily options that usually include rice, multiple vegetable items, spring rolls, samosas, pickles, raita, bread and sweets: all dishes are vegetarian without eggs and it is clearly labeled if they contain gluten and diary or not. As everything is made beforehand, Beas Vegetarian Dhaba is the right choice for a quick but tasty lunch keeping an eye on H E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m






includes a soup, a salad, rice, a vegetable dish (subji) and chutney. They close at 5 pm, so make sure to be there on time. LEHKÁ HLAVA (CLEAR HEAD) Prague 1, Borsov 2/280

the price as well: you are charged by the weight (approximately 20 Kč per 100 gr.), meaning that you can have a stomachfull of delicious food for a very convenient price, especially if you decide to drink table water, which is provided for free. Moreover, they even have a happy hour right before closing: everything on the menu is at a discount. Be careful, however, because the restaurants get crowded around lunch time and in some locations only Czech is spoken. MAITREA Prague 1, Týnská ulička 6/1064 Have you ever tried a meat-free goulash? If not, Maitrea is the perfect place to give it a go. This classy and lovely vegetarian restaurant will surprise even carnivores. The dishes on the menu, ranging from Mexican to Italian to Czech cuisine, are all reinvented in a vegetarian way. If you can’t eat gluten or have allergies, you don’t need to worry either: every allergen contained in the dishes is clearly indicated on the menu. Don’t forget to reserve your table, or you may end up waiting for a long time. Only cash accepted. GOVINDA Prague 1, Soukenická 27 Govinda is a cheap yet nourishing Hare Krishna-owned restaurant a few steps from Náměstí Republiky. It is a bit of an institution as it was founded in 1995 and was one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Prague. They offer a set menu that changes every day: you can choose between the small plate for 96 Kc or the large plate for 108 Kc. The menu usually

Lehká Hlava is a bit of a hidden gem: a gorgeous little place on a tiny street right near the river. At first you may have some troubles in finding it, but they will make it up to you with their tasteful vegetarian dishes, the quirky atmosphere and the bohemian setting: every room offers a different theme and style. They offer contemporary vegetarian cuisine, and vegan items are marked on the menu. As the place is really small, reservations are recommended.

RAW FOOD: THE SECRET OF RAW Prague 3, Seifertova 13 If you are willing to try something unusual, then you should head to the Secret of Raw. Everything on the menu is raw yet delicious. They use only fresh ingredients combined to form meals that taste rich and unique, re-creating traditional dishes such as pizza and spaghetti. They are not completely vegan – honey is being used – and the food is prepared on the spot, so if you are in a rush you should save it for another day, when you can sit down, relax and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere. RAWCHA Prague 1, Na Poříčí 8 RawCha celebrates its first birthday in May: as a newcomer, it has been doing pretty well. Not only a raw food restaurant but also a teahouse, RawCha is right in the city center, yet in a quiet location. Reservations are recommended as the place is small – only three tables are available, but that gives you plenty of space to enjoy the calm ambience without the crowd. Fresh raw, tasty and gluten-free food prepared at the moment by the very friendly owners: you may need to be patient, but it’s worth the waiting. Don’t forget to try their homemade raw chocolate for dessert. g H E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m






How much

fruit and vegetables are YOU eating?

Latest research suggests people should aim for more than five a day – although most Czech children lag behind even this


o how many portions of fruit and vegetables should you eat a day to help safeguard health? Is it three, five, seven or even 10?

Anyone researching the subject would be forgiven for becoming confused because the advice given across Europe varies considerably. As recent reports have noted, in Hungary the authorities suggest people eat three portions a day, while in the Netherlands the advice is to have two portions, twice a day. Five-a-day is the message in the United Kingdom and Germany, in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, while in Denmark it is higher still, at six portions. Meanwhile, looking further afield, Australians are told two portions of fruit and five portions of vegetables is ideal. The issue has come to the forefront following the publication of research suggesting that people eating seven or more portions a day have lower mortality than those eating less. Reports noted that researchers at University College London (UCL) ana-

lyzed data collected on 65,000 people in England between 2001 and 2013 and found that the risk of early death from causes such as stroke, heart disease and cancer were all lower among those who ate more fruit and vegetables. People who ate seven or more portions a day were 25 percent less likely to die of cancer and 31 percent less likely to die from heart disease.

countries. Whether public health officials will up their recommendations is another matter, as media have highlighted the concern that by setting targets that are seen as unreasonably high, the healthy eating message could be lost. In the Czech Republic most people are falling short of the five-a-day target, let alone seven-a-day, at least as far as children are concerned.

“Compared to eating less than one portion of fruit and vegetables, the risk of death by any cause is reduced by 14 percent REPORTS NOTED THAT RESEARCHERS AT UNIVERSITY by eating one to three COLLEGE LONDON (UCL) ANALYZED portions, 29 percent for DATA COLLECTED ON 65,000 PEOPLE three to five portions, IN ENGLAND BETWEEN 2001 AND 36 percent for five to 2013 AND FOUND THAT THE RISK seven portions and 42 OF EARLY DEATH FROM CAUSES percent for seven or SUCH AS STROKE, HEART DISEASE more,” UCL said in a AND CANCER WERE ALL LOWER statement. AMONG THOSE WHO ATE MORE

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES. In their statistical analysis, the researchers controlled for factors such as gender, social class, physical activity and whether the person smoked or not. Crucially, these results suggest that people should try to consume more than the five a day that are advised in many

Research published in 2011 in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that fruit and vegetable consumption by Czech children in all age categories surveyed was “under recommended levels” and that there was a “low” diversity in terms of fruit and vegetable intake.

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The study, “Fruit and vegetable intake in the Czech child population,” found that just 22 percent of the 602 children aged 4 to 11 years surveyed were eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and there was higher consumption of fruits, which confer more modest health benefits, than of vegetables. Overall fruit and vegetable consumption in the country is roughly in line with the EU average, although across the bloc there are wide variations. According to an OECD report, Health at a Glance: Europe 2012, 75 percent of women in the Czech Republic and 57 percent of men eat fruit daily, while the averages for the 19 EU countries surveyed are 69 percent for women and 57 percent for men. In terms of vegetables, in the Czech Republic, 66 percent of women and 53 percent of men are daily consumers, compared to 67 percent of women and 59 percent of men in the EU19. With almost half of Czech men not eating vegetables



every day, the country clearly is falling well short of recommended levels. People here might be advised to consider the overall message of the latest research which, according to Oyinlola Oyebode of UCL’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and a lead author of the recent study, is that for individuals of any age, the more fruit and vegetables that are eaten, the less likely the person is to die. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good,” he said in a statement. The research indicated that canned or frozen fruits actually increased mortality rates, with the use of sugary syrups with the former probably negating health benefits from the fruit itself. Fruit juice was found not to offer health benefits. g

Poll: Czechs

have poor diets People pay little attention to foods' nutritional values crushing majority of Czechs, over 80 percent, believe that they know how to choose foods compatible with healthy lifestyle, but only 17 percent of them regularly follow nutritional values of foods, according to a fresh poll conducted by the I Know What I Eat and Drink association.


Over 60 percent of Czechs consider their diet unbalanced, which they blame on their lack of money (28.4 percent), time (21.9 percent) and will (17.3 percent), the poll showed.

Czechs also tend to use salt excessively. Fifty-six percent of those polled said they intentionally restrict the use of salt, but in fact Czechs use it three times than what is appropriate. With 14 grams of salt a day, they are its second biggest consumers in Europe, after Hungarians. A half of Czechs have no clue about the recommended daily consumption of salt, which should not exceed six grams for an adult person, the poll showed.

At variance with recommendations, over 60 percent of It showed that people know well the general principles of Czechs either consume more animal fats than vegetable fats healthy nourishment. Forty-six percent of A TYPICAL SERVING OF CZECH GOULASH, OR GULÁŠ IMAGE WIKIPEDIA them said they prefer less fat meat and less sweet beverages. About 35 percent of them, however, were unable to say which fats are harmful to human health. A number of foodrelated myths prevail among Czechs. According to 24.5 percent of them, one should not eat after 5 p.m., while 29.2 percent believe that margarines contain harmful acids and 39.2 percent believe that sunflower seed oil is healthier than canola oil. “People assess nourishment recommendations selectively. They often fear food additives and non-quality foods, in better case they consider the food's energy value. However, only few follow its overall nutritional composition,” said dietitian Karolina Hlavatá.

or they do not think about what type of fat they eat, and 44.5 percent do not know that hardened fats, in cookies and cheap sweets, for example, are the most harmful of all. The poll was conducted in February on 8,082 people aged between 20-60 who are in charge of buying foods for their family. g - Czech News Agency H E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m



Organic food: Sales are modest, but growing Interest from consumers is increasing but analyst cites need for better organic agriculture productivity


ever, according to Jiří Urban, head of the organic unit at the Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture (ÚKZÚZ) . “I have many friends from the biggest suppliers and they have growth every year. Growth is a minimum of 10 percent a year,” he told the Prague Post. “Maybe the media are not so happy about organic — we have had in the last two or three years public relations against organic farming from the media — but in reality the sales are growing in the supermarkets and on local markets,” he added. The scientific evidence of the possible health benefits of



Photos: European Commission

or health-conscious consumers, organic fruits and vegetables are often seen as a better choice. Yet in the Czech Republic, sales of organic food remain relatively low, accounting for a modest 0.8 percent or so of the total market, while in some Denmark the figure is 5 percent and in Switzerland as high as 6 percent. High prices — organic vegetables can cost several times as much as their non-organic equivalents and tend to be more expensive than in some neighboring countries — and a lower priority given to environmental issues by the public have been cited as factors curbing sales. They are increasing how-


organic food has been conflicting and this has perhaps acted to drag sales down. Recent reports citing a study of women by Oxford University indicated that eating organic food did little or nothing to affect the chances of developing 16 types of cancer. The study monitored 600,000 women aged 50 or more over nine years and according to a report in the Daily Mail, there was no difference in the risk of cancer among the 45,000 women who usually or always ate organic, and the 180,000 who said they never did. There was actually a slightly elevated risk of breast cancer among women who ate organic food, although the chances of developing a blood cancer called non-Hodgkin Lymphoma were reduced. Also, an analysis of a number of research projects by the UK’s Food Standards Agency found there were no nutritional benefits associated with eating organic food. However, a separate study by Newcastle University in England found organic food contained higher levels of nutrients such as iron or zinc, and of antioxidants, which can help protect the body against cancer. Urban said research carried out in the Czech Republic indicated there were health benefits linked to organic food. “The evidence is that organic food is very good and mostly better quality. We have these results,” he said.

Whatever the benefits or otherwise of organic produce, the country does have a significant amount of its land dedicated to organic agriculture, about 12 percent of the total according to Urban. That, he said, is the fifth-highest figure in the EU. Partly as a result of subsidies, about four-fifths of this is grassland used to graze cattle that produce organic milk, a significant amount of which is exported. Previously, the Czech government has indicated it would like to increase to 15 percent the proportion of agricultural land that is farmed organically. The authorities would also like to see organic food make up 3 percent of the total amount of food sold in the country. Lower prices could help sales to expand, although currently the limited size of the supply chain has been said to inflate prices. Urban said it was also important to improve the productivity of the country’s organic farms. “We have not enough really good organic farms. Organic agriculture can be sustainable and efficient [but] we don’t have such model farms. It’s mostly oriented to subsidies and not production,” he said. He said it was “very important” that such model farms existed to demonstrate the benefits of organic agriculture. “[We have to show] the farmers that organic agriculture can be productive. We have to do more on this,” he said. g H E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m




Getting some exercise while enjoying the sights

Running and cycling tours are popular with more energetic holidaymakers PHOTO WIKIPEDIA



the Old Town Square are usually avoided when they are very busy with tourists. “It’s not a group, you don’t have to wait for anyone else. You just decide your pace. You can ask to slow down or turn left or end at your hotel. It’s really personal,” said Prahl. He said many participants take a running tour to familiarize themselves with the geography of the city, before going back a day or two later at a more leisurely pace.

or many people, holidays are a time to relax, to enjoy some slow-paced sightseeing mixed in with lazy cups of coffee at cafés and a few nice meals in expensive restaurants. Plenty of tourists visiting Prague are however keen to exercise their bodies at the same time as they take in the highlights of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Whether running or cycling, visitors can learn about subjects such as history, politics and art while giving their cardiovascular systems a welcome workout.

Prahl himself is a keen runner who has completed nine marathons as well as some much longer ultra-marathon events of up to 120 km. On the runs, he sometimes comes across groups of visitors touring the city in a quite different way, by Segway. These small motorized vehicles allow a faster trip than is possible by walking, although without any exercise.

Radim Prahl, 40, who operates Running Tours Prague (, has been offering running tours in the city for the past year. He came up with the idea after seeing similar tours being offered in Barcelona.

“These people don’t want to sweat during their trips. These are people who just want something alternative, but at the same time no real physical energy invested. … Sometimes I am envious, they move so smoothly.”

“It’s a mix from beginners to people really keen on running or getting ready for a half-marathon or whatever,” he told the Prague Post. “I think this is a really good option for people who [don’t want to be] passive participants, but want to be involved with something on their own.”

Like the Segways, also using two wheels, but expending slightly more energy, are those on cycling tours of Prague. Several companies offer these, among them City Bike (, which has been running them for more than a decade.

Taking a run through the city can be a more pleasant experience for travelers, he said, than working up a sweat in the hotel gym. Typically, tours are for individuals or small groups of friends, and participants include both holidaymakers and people visiting the city for business.

Alex, who works for the company, said when it came to what customers were looking for, they typically wanted “a bit of both” exercise and sightseeing. “We get a lot of people who are cyclists who miss being on their bike [while they are on holiday],” he said.


Prahl, who runs the tours on a part-time basis with two other guides, offers shorter trips of about seven to 10 km taking about one hour and visiting the main sights such as Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square and Prague Castle. Longer runs lasting up to about two hours are also available, either through the city center or going further out to some of the city’s green spaces such as Petřín Hill. Places such as Charles Bridge and

“We meet them often and we cheer each other. At the same time, it’s a completely different type of customer,” he said.

As well as giving tours in the city, the company also offers self-guided cycling trips out to the castle at Karlstejn. And age is no barrier to taking part. “We’ve had 80 year olds on the tour. Every year we have old people, right down to children with their parents, and everything in between,” added Alex. g

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Feeling good The world’s best-known health guru presents a lecture in Prague for the very first time he man who has the global reach, with a powerful spiritual (but nonreligious) influence over tens of millions of people, all of whom swear by his focus on holistic healing, is coming to the Czech Republic for the very first time.


The 66-year-old Deepak Chopra, an inspirational speaker whose name has become synonymous with the well-being of body, mind and spirit, will deliver his “The Future of Well-Being” lecture at the Lucerna Grand Hall in downtown Prague on May 15, as part of his 2014 European Tour that also includes stops in London, Sofia, Basel and Paris. An endocrinologist by training, Time magazine voted him one of its 100 Icons back in 1999, giving him the label of “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine,” but he has had his share of critics over the years, with many fellow scientists decrying his repurposed use of scientific terms for his own ends, and flowery language that produces statements like “We are the eyes of the universe looking at itself.”


But he is a prolific and highly profitable author who has written around 70 books and sold more than 20 million copies. His focus on a healthy lifestyle and personal development have enthralled his readers and the tens of thousands of people who flock to his appearances, and he has been promoted by some of the biggest names in the industry, including the talk show queen whose name rhymes with his, Oprah. Chopra’s brand of healing accentuates the connection between body and mind, and the importance of balancing the two. In this way, Chopra suggests, one can enjoy the benefits of physical healing, emotional freedom and a higher state of consciousness. A follower of Ayurveda — a system of natural healing that is many millennia old and is related to other, equally well-known alternative medicine methods, such as traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Tibetan medicine — Chopra, along with his center, promotes the idea that wellness results from a multi-

pronged approach to health and well-being, and he is by far the most popular and influential figure of the New Age movement. Since the 1980s, Chopra’s name has also been connected with quantum physics, and his 1988 book Quantum Healing examined the phenomenon of patients suddenly recovering from serious and even terminal illnesses. The book utilized concepts until then mostly limited to the fields of science, like “energy field,” and said, “Our bodies ultimately are fields of information, intelligence and energy.” For his application of quantum physics to the development of consciousness, and for his “unique interpretation of quantum mechanics as it applies to life, liberty and the pursuit of economic happiness,” Chopra was awarded the coveted Ig Nobel Prize in 1998, which is given out every year to individuals whose achievements, according to the committee, “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology.” Chopra is worth an estimated $80 million, thanks to astro-

nomical book sales, appearances like the one at Lucerna (tickets cost 990–1,950 Kč) and the income generated by his Chopra Center, which coincidentally is located in the prosperous Californian city of Carlsbad (named after Karlsbad, the German equivalent of Karlovy Vary). DEEPAK CHOPRA WHEN: MAY 15, AT 7:30 P.M. WHERE: LUCERNA GRAND HALL TICKETS: 990–1,950 KČ

The Prague lecture will focus on new holistic approaches toward health that will seek to take into account people’s physical, psychological and spiritual needs. The integration of body and spirit, a key component of Chopra’s teaching, will be front and center in this approach, too, and he will guide listeners toward striking the balance and attaining a stable duality. The ultimate goal will be emotional freedom, higher consciousness and perfect physical health, which are the ingredients, according to Chopra, of a fulfilling life. g - André Crous can be reached at






Tourists from all over the world have been traveling to Czech spa towns to experience what they hope will be their healing waters, since at least the 1800s. 30

with vast numbers of new centers opening across the region. Economic growth that has given residents higher disposable incomes has fuelled the growth of the sector and led to increases in the numbers of everything from small day spas to vast realestate spa resorts. Where once spas in Asia often catered mostly to visitors from outside the region, much of today’s expansion in the region is being driven by domestic tourists and visitors from other parts of Asia. As an example of the growth that has been seen, in Malaysia the number of spas has tripled over the past decade or so, according to the consultancy Intelligent Spas. In its study titled Regional Spa Industry Report Asia Pacific 2011, Intelligent Spas said there were more than 3,500 spas across Asia-Pacific at the time, and collectively they generated over $2 billion a year and employed more than 50,000 people. But that is just a snapshot of what the situation was like in the early 2010s; with the majority of countries in Asia being classed as emerging markets, huge expansion is happening. For example, India’s spa industry, which already boasts over 2,300 venues, is growing by 15 to 18 percent per year, according to figures released by Samantha Foster from the Thai-based consultancy Destination Spa Management. That will translate into more than 700 new spas opening in India in the next two to five years.

n the other side of the world, Asia has a long history of healing cultures, whether Chinese, Tibetan or Indian, to name but a few. It is appropriate then that Asia is one of the fastest-growing spa markets in the world,


The types of spas being developed in Asia vary considerably, according to Destination Spa Management. At one end of the scale there are the smaller “day spas” that have been set up with smaller amounts of investment and typH E A LT H & W E L L N E S S 0 4 / 2 0 1 4 w w w. p r a g u e p o s t . c o m




ically are locally owned and branded. Moving up the value scale, there are hotel and resort spas, which are spas created in developments that also serve other functions. In her presentation, Foster said in Asia there were relatively few of the next category of venue, namely destination spas. These are resorts developed for the purpose of offering spa treatments and therapies. They involve the largest investments by developers, but offer the potential for the greatest financial paybacks, albeit on an extended timescale. There is, Foster said, a “strong interest” in developing these centers, which tend to focus on traditional therapies. At the absolute top end in terms of investments are spa real estate projects, where the sale of homes funds the building of spas within the developments. One difficulty in the business model behind these schemes however is that many of the apartments are second homes, so occupancy levels are low and the spas built to cater to residents may struggle to generate business. While not all projects, ranging from day spas to real-estate schemes, will prove successful, it is clear that analysts believe Asia’s spa sector is likely to keep on growing. Potentially that could benefit European spas in countries such as the Czech Republic, as the wealthy Asian tourists, especially from countries such as China, could develop a taste for spa treatments at home that they will want to indulge when they go on their foreign holidays. g - Daniel Bardsley can be reached at




Sales of male grooming products

are growing fast in China Moisturizers, anti-aging creams and skin brighteners – for men nter a supermarket or drugstore in China, and you are likely to be greeted by a row of moisturizers selling for high-end prices, while on the subway there are billboards advertising the latest skincare products. There might seem nothing unusual about this, it is tempting to think, except these products are not aimed at women who want to stay looking young and beautiful.


Instead, in modern-day China, as wealth increases and consumers become ever more demanding, it is just as likely that men will be the target audience. Sales of male grooming products are growing fast in the world’s most populous nation, and analysts believe interest is likely to continue to grow as more of the country’s residents are drawn into the middle class and the aspirational buying patterns this brings with it. According to a survey by Euromonitor, the male grooming market in China could be worth as much as 10 billion yuan (32 billion Kč) this year. Also, figures published earlier this year by the consumer research organization Kantar Worldpanel indicated that there was 7 percent sales growth in the male grooming category in China in 2013, compared to only 5 percent growth for personal care products as a whole in the country. Among the most popular products in China are those from the Nivea “Men’s Expert” range, while other international brands such as Gillette and Adidas are also big in the market. These ranges are typically sold prominently in many supermarkets, but local neighborhood stores also sell products aimed at men. Major stars from the region, including the popular South Korean pop singer Rain, have been hired to promote MENtholatum, one of the biggest ranges of male skincare products in the country. “As men in Japan, China and South Korea are more accustomed to using grooming products, these countries have become male skincare hotspots,” said a 2012 report by the consultancy Spire, titled “Men’s Grooming Industry: Time for Emerging Markets to Steal the Show.” Jason Yu, general manager China for Kantar Worldpanel (CTR) said in a statement that the potential consumer base for male grooming products in China was “huge,” but as yet was


not close to reaching its potential, with “penetration still low.” “As people become wealthier they are increasingly interested in their health and wellbeing, and are more able to afford ‘specialist’ products that provide specific benefits,” he said. Spire noted that marketers were “fast introducing varied male grooming products to cater to the segment in Asia and Latin America, where the growth potential is the highest.” Products that deal with an array of issues, ranging from the ageing of skin to skin brightening, are available, while some individual products are designed to deal with multiple issues. However, Yu said there was still scope for more types of products. He suggest companies focus on “innovative” ways of meeting the desires of consumers, such as by developing toothpaste for smokers or facial wipes that can prevent acne. “There is plenty of room to launch new variants specially designed for male users, particularly in the shampoo, oral care and personal wash categories,” he said. One area where western grooming habits have not caught on in a major way in China is in the sale of deodorants, which remain a niche sector in the country. Scientific research reported last year indicated that East Asians are much less likely to carry a form of the ABCC11 gene that determines whether a person produces sweat that can lead to body odor. As a result, Chinese men, and women, can usually forego the use of deodorants while still avoiding body odor. g - Daniel Bardsley can be reached at

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Health & Wellness - Spring 2014 by  

The Spring 2014 edition of our special Health & Wellness eSupplement