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46km (29 miles) SW of Karlovy Vary, 160km (100 miles) W of Prague

When Thomas Alva Edison visited Mariánské Lázne in the late 1800s, he reportedly declared, "There is no more beautiful spa in all the world." Mark Twain, who also stopped by, was slightly more critical. He acknowledged the beauty of the architecture, but in typical Twain style decried what he saw as a "health factory."

Mariánské Lázne now stands in the shadow of the Czech Republic's most famous spa town, Karlovy Vary, but it wasn't always that way. First noted in 1528 by Bohemian historians, the town's mineral waters gained prominence at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Nestled among forested hills and packed with romantic and elegant pastel hotels and spa houses, the town, commonly known by its German name, Marienbad, has played host to such luminaries as Goethe (this is where his love for Ulrike von Levetzow took root), Chopin, Strauss, Wagner, Freud, and Kafka (in addition to Edison and Twain). England's Edward VII found the spa resort so enchanting that he visited several times and even commissioned the building of the country's first golf club.