The Hotel U Sladka, owned and operated by the Chodovar brewery, is part of the Chodovar beer spa experience. The three star hotel is basic, but very economical.
My husband and I booked a double at the Hotel U Sladka. Our room was small, but very clean. It had a direct dial phone, television with about ten Czech channels and the hotel's own brewery channel, and free Internet access. Be sure to bring your own cable. The bed was the typical European type, two twin beds pushed together. It wasn't the best bed I've ever slept on, but it was comfortable enough. There was also a very cheap minibar stocked with Chodovar products (beer and mineral water).
The bathroom had a nice shower with great water pressure and a knobby floor that massaged my feet. There was also a towel warmer and two soap dispensers full of Chodovar's own shower gel.
Breakfast is included in the price of the room. It consists of a variety of excellent sausages and salamis, cheeses, hard boiled and scrambled eggs, breads and pastries. You can get a thermos full of coffee or use the coffee machine, which makes espresso drinks and hot chocolate. Tea and juice are also available.
There is free unsecured parking in front of the hotel or you can park in the secure lot behind the hotel. The secured lot costs 70 Czech crowns a night (about $3.50), but the lot is locked and presumably very safe.
The Beer Spa
The beer spa is very popular! Make sure you book it in advance. The Chodovar Brewery has a revamped Web site that will allow you to book online. My advice is to skip the Web site and call the hotel directly. We decided to visit Chodovar a bit on a whim and requested a reservation ten days in advance. We tried to use the Web site, but got nervous when we didn't get an immediate confirmation. We called the reception about an hour after we tried to book online and were told that they hadn't yet received our request through their Web site. We ended up booking our room and beer bath over the phone.
I didn't actually get a confirmation from the online service until the next day. The receptionist didn't realize we had already booked over the phone and wrote that the beer baths were fully booked through the weekend. She explained that they recommended booking the beer baths up to four months in advance. I don't know if that's really necessary, but I will say that there were no free appointments for the baths the whole time we were there. If we had just shown up at the hotel without having reserved, we probably would not have gotten into the spa. We got the last available appointment on Saturday. It didn't appear to me that treatments were offered on Sundays.
There are several single tubs available and one double sized tub for couples. Those who want to use the double tub may want to bear that in mind when planning a trip to Chodovar and book early.
Our Beer Bath experience
Since the double sized tub was booked, we arranged for two single baths. The smell of fresh beer wafted through the air in the foyer as we rang the doorbell by the spa. We were welcomed by a very friendly spa worker who asked us to remove our shoes. She showed us to dressing rooms and asked us to completely disrobe and wrap up in a sheet. The dressing rooms have lockers and showers in them.
Another spa worker showed us to our individual tubs, which had already been prepared for us. She drew a curtain around us, leaving the one between the tubs open so we could share the experience!
Our large tubs were full of a warm, foamy, mixture of the spa's own dark bath beer and mineral water. I found the bath very pleasant and relaxing. While we soaked in our baths for 20 minutes, we each sipped a .03 liter glass of non-pasteurized Chodovar beer.
After 20 minutes, a spa worker pulled the plug on our tubs. We wrapped up in our sheets again and she led us to a dark, quiet room where there were a number of lounges separated by soothing lamps. We laid down on the lounges and the spa worker swaddled us in a fleece quilt, where we were supposed to rest for another twenty minutes. The spa workers served us another glass of beer.
My impressions of the Beer Baths
I'd definitely do the beer baths again. It was very relaxing and fun. And ladies, I recommend letting your hair get wet. After my hair dried, it was incredibly soft and shiny. My skin also felt soft and smooth.
Massages and other spa stuff
We both got massages, which also should be booked in advance because they're very much in demand. At first, the receptionist told me that because they were booked, we could each only get so-called "simple" massages, which last for 20 minutes. But then she told me that a time slot for a 50 minute "complex" massage was also available. My husband had never had a massage before and was nervous about it, so I took the complex massage while he had a simple one. In addition to simple and complex massages, there are also lava stone and foot massages available.
Massages at Chodovar involve almost completely disrobing. My husband got his massage from a woman, while mine was given by a young man. Neither spoke much English, though the woman did speak a little German. The man who gave me my massage saw me in nothing but a pair of underwear, which frankly made me feel a little bashful. However, he was very professional and gave me a very thorough massage. He was also pleased when I gave him a tip.
In addition to massages, Chodovar also offers what they call "remedial packs", which basically involves being wrapped up in malt draff. We did not try this treatment, though it sounded interesting.
The Chodovar Brewery is pretty much the only game going in Chodov Plana. We also noticed that the management seemed very big on marketing and looked like they'd taken a few corporate cues from Anheuser-Busch. There are two restaurants run by the resort. There's Stará Sladovna (Old Malt House), which is in a brick house located right across the secured parking lot, and Ve Skále, which is about 250 meters from the hotel and housed in an 800 year old cave-like rock labyrinth that used to serve as a beer cellar. Ve Skále also houses a very small museum and gift shop, where patrons can buy Chodovar's beer cosmetics, apparel, and other paraphernalia.
Both restaurants serve traditonal hearty Czech food, which means lots of meat, poultry, potatoes, and gravy! And there's also plenty of beer on draft, as well as mineral waters and bottled non-alcoholic brews. Ve Skále is definitely the more unique option, but it's a little bit of a hike from the hotel that I didn't find very pleasant in the frigid cold. If the weather had been warmer, it would have been a nice walk.
Smoking is allowed in both restaurants and seating is such that you might find yourself sharing a table with people you don't know. Both restaurants feature long tables with benches and chairs.
Food is very reasonably priced. For example, our first night, we ate at Stará Sladovna and had two good sized entrees and four beers between us. We left the restaurant very satisfied and only spent about $25. But as it's a brewery, the servers really push the beer!
Things to do around Chodova Plana
At this writing there's not that much to do in the town of Chodova Plana, though I've heard the management has big plans for expanding Chodovar's facilities. Brewery tours are available every day at 2:00pm, but we decided to skip it since we figured it would either be conducted in German or Czech.
Chodova Plana is within driving distance to several decent Czech cities. After our beer spa treatments, we drove to Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad), which is about an hour away from Chodova Plana. Karlsbad is a well known spa city and we saw lots of people using little ceramic pitchers to capture and drink spring water from fountains scattered around the downtown area. Shopping also appeared to be great there.
We also went to Pilzen, which is also roughly an hour's drive from Chodova Plana. Pilzen is not as beautiful as Karlsbad is, but it is a good place to go if you're into beer. We toured the Pilsner Urquell beer museum and ate lunch at the museum's restaurant, where we got free samples of Pilsner Urquell beer. Prague is also within a reasonable driving distance.
The area also offers excellent opportunities for hiking and viewing wildlife. We spotted birds of prey, herds of deer, a couple of foxes, and, on the way into Pilzen, two rather discreet prostitutes. If you like castles, old churches, and museums, you're also in luck.
We had an awesome time in Chodova Plana at the Chodovar Brewery-- Beer Wellness Land. Our trip was very affordable. For three nights of lodging, parking, two beer baths, two massages, an array of beer cosmetics, and two beers and two mineral waters from the mini bar, we spent the Czech crown equivalent $309! Factoring in food, beer, and the painting we bought, we spent a grand total of $570 on our three day weekend.
That said, there are a few caveats I will issue to American travelers. First, it helps to speak a little German if you don't speak Czech. We only ran into one employee who spoke English, although English menus are available in the restaurants and some of the promotional materials are written in English. Second, the closest ATM is located about 3 kilometers from the hotel. The hotel does accept credit cards. Third, it's best to have a car. The town is a bit off the beaten track and I didn't spot any public transportation facilities nearby. And finally, while Chodovar's Web site offers online booking, it's probably best to call them for reservations. We found their online booking system to be a bit glitchy.
We had a great time and would recommend Chodovar to anyone who loves beer, spas, or both.
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