The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

Staff Spotlight
Omar Tabet
Omar Tabet
Staff Reporter

Omar Tabet is a sophomore at Sage Creek and is a staff reporter for The Sage.  In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, soccer, surfing, and swimming.

A Tale of Two Cities: Bridging the Gap between the Czech Republic and California

Photo From Jacob Dougherty and Tom Hersant
The contrast between the center of Karlovy Vary (on the left) and Carlsbad’s downtown (on the right) is quite striking. Karlovy Vary boasts cobblestone streets designed for walking, while Carlsbad’s city center consists of asphalt roads filled with cars.

After a short 30-minute drive to the San Diego airport, a 14-hour flight to Prague and a two-hour train ride into the Doupov mountains of the Czech Republic, one will arrive in the quaint town of Karlovy Vary. While this city may be 5,919 miles from Carlsbad, California, their connection is closer than it may appear.

Karlovy Vary, Czech for “Carlsbad,” was founded in 1350 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV as a place to host his hot springs. This is the origin of the name “Carlsbad,” a term meant to connote “Charles Baths.”  Charles IV believed the water flowing from the springs had healing properties, a claim to fame that soon made the village flourish into a tourist hotspot in the coming centuries.

The rolling hills of mountainous Czech Republic (left) sit next to the flat beaches of California (right). This geographical diversity highlights the vast differences between the two regions, however, these regions are connected closer than one may think.
(Jacob Dougherty/Tom Hersant)

But as the world entered the 1900s, the stream of tourists was disrupted by the start of World War I in continental Europe. The conclusion of the war left much dispute over who should be the rightful owner of the region. Eventually, the once German-controlled town was incorporated into the country of Czechoslovakia.

This change did not last long, however, and power shifted once again as the region was consumed by war. As Nazi Germany invaded, Karlovy Vary was placed under its control. After the fall of Axis powers and the surrender of Germany, the country of Czechoslovakia and subsequently, the town of Karlovy Vary was surrendered to Soviet Russia.

After over 40 years of Soviet control, Czech citizens peacefully regained control of the country in 1989 with the conclusion of the Velvet Revolution. Soon after, in 1992, Czechoslovakia was split into the countries of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. This newfound freedom inspired a young man from the town of Karlovy Vary to reach out and connect with a city in the United States. 

This man, Jiri Slach, stumbled upon the city of Carlsbad and discovered that the two cities shared a name and that the same water that flows underneath Carlsbad was related in mineral properties to the hot springs of Karlovy Vary.

In 1991, with this newfound knowledge, Slach drafted a letter, reached out to town residents, and sent it to the previous mayor of Carlsbad, California – Bud Lewis.

In his letter, Slach wrote, “We don’t have much information about your Carlsbad. But this fact could be changed.” 

Slach believed that the best way to connect the two cities would be to establish an organization he coined “Society Carlsbad – Carlsbad” which he believed would “help to open up and to deepen friendship not only between both of our towns but also between both of our nations.”

Slach’s proposal gained much support from his fellow citizens in Karlovy Vary, amassing over 85 signatures. 

His request concluded with an assertive statement: “I know that my proposal is daring but it has support from people who are thinking like me,” Slach wrote. 

His proposal was well-received by the city of Carlsbad, and a City Council resolution was passed, solidifying a partnership between the two cities. Since then, this resolution has blossomed into the formation of a non-profit organization known as the Carlsbad Sister Cities Ambassadors (CSCA).

This group, in coordination with the city of Karlovy Vary, has facilitated visits, cultural exchanges and homestays that have been made available to all members of the Carlsbad community.

Founding director and President of the CSCA, Tom Hersant, believes that this partnership has deeply connected the two cities and fostered a sense of person-to-person diplomacy.

“Every single participant has become a much better citizen of this world,” Hersant said. “Seeing how other people live, eat, dress and behave soundly broadens one’s perspective. We learn that there are much more diverse ways to live than what we thought was ‘normal.’”

The classical European architecture found in Karlovy Vary (left) contrasts with the prevalent American architectural style in Carlsbad Village (right). This architectural distinction contributes significantly to Karlovy Vary’s “old world charm.” (Jacob Dougherty/Tom Hersant)

Hersant himself had the opportunity to visit Karlovy Vary. He describes the town with few, but impactful words.

“Historically important. Classically beautiful. Regal hospitality. Old world charm,” he stated.

In addition to the CSCA, the organization has also set up a Youth Ambassador program that operates a club at Sage Creek High School.

The President and founder of this club, junior Arianna Sharifi, has worked closely to promote diplomacy between both Carlsbad and its sister city. She hopes to motivate students to do the same.

“I so enjoyed working with the Sister Cities International Organization the local chapter leaders and myself decided to establish the Youth Ambassadors Club at Sage Creek.” She continues, “While not completely off the ground yet, this program aims to inspire students to discover the importance of diplomacy.” 

However the sister city partnership has not come without its own unique set of challenges, and the impact of the war in Ukraine has led to a difficult time in the Czech Republic. The country has recently been focused on dealing with an influx of refugees fleeing the war zone.

This, along with the recent loss of a sister city representative in Karlovy Vary when she moved away, has led to limited contact between the two cities. However, Hersant believes that the connection between the two cities will soon be restored. 

“Recently, we added a new board member to focus on reconnecting with Karlovy Vary. It’s our hope that we will be able to succeed in reconnecting next year,” Hersant said.

It is clear that work is very much underway to revitalize this important part of Carlsbad’s identity. In fact, a trip next spring to Karlovy Vary, open to all citizens of Carlsbad, as well as connecting students from both towns virtually is already in the planning stages. 

In the meantime, as the challenges that have temporarily separated the two towns are navigated, the spirit of friendship and cultural exchange forged by Jiri Slach and carried forward by the Carlsbad Sister Cities Ambassadors remains steadfast. Despite the many miles that separate Carlsbad and Karlovy Vary, their shared namesake and history will continue to connect the towns for generations to come.

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  • N

    Nadia RizzaqSep 25, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    What a magical story to share and so artfully. Looking forward to more pieces from Jacob. Fantastic work young man!

  • A

    Arianna SharifiSep 25, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful explanation of Sister Cities International and of our local chapter. Excited to be a small part of the global project!!

  • C

    Cindy FletcherSep 25, 2023 at 10:19 am

    Hi Jacob,
    Well done. Small world, our son Jacob Fletcher who was part of the Sage for the last three years in studying in the Czech Republic. I will share your article with him and make sure he visits Karlovy Vary. Perhaps he can share back information.

  • T

    Tommy HersantSep 25, 2023 at 9:12 am The Sage Pick

    Thank you Jacob for so accurately, reflecting our city’s name origin. I find it poetic that Jiri’s thirst for international cultural connection was slaked by a beach city (excuse the pun). Carlsbad’s other sister city, Futtsu, grew out of a hero’s love of this city on a beach; something common to all of us.

  • A

    Austin JewSep 25, 2023 at 8:43 am

    I didn’t even know there were 2 Carlsbads!

    • T

      Tommy HersantSep 25, 2023 at 8:58 am

      The USA alone has at least three: Carlsbad New Mexico and Carlsbad Texas.

  • H

    Holden KSep 25, 2023 at 8:41 am

    Very professional and well-written article and I really enjoyed how you mentioned the rocky history that the sister city has faced. The opening and close of the article were also a great hook and close-off. Great job Jacob!