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Moser Glass factory

The Moser glass factory is a great place to visit in Karlovy Vary. The Czech lands have a centuries-long tradition of glass and crystal making and this is the ideal place to learn about it. There are two parts to visiting the Moser glass and crystal complex. The first is a small museum and the second is a short tour through the factory itself.

Free museum

Tools and techniques displayed in the glass museumThe museum is free. As soon as you enter you’re surrounded by cabinets of historic glass and crystal produced by the Moser Company and some of it is used as a demonstration of the glass-making process. Traditionally, crystal (for the purposes of glasses, ornament, chandeliers and the like) is basically glass that has been made to a very high quality due to the addition of lead.

Lead crystal is much denser than ordinary glass, and light passes through it in a different way, causing its distinctive sparkle. Traditionally glass should contain 24% lead to qualify as crystal, and it’s the higher density that is responsible for the telltale ‘ring’ when a piece of crystal is tapped. Modern techniques however allow the creation of crystal without the use of lead and all of Moser's products are lead-free.

Along with glassmaking technique and examples of historical and prizewinning pieces of glass, the history of the firm itself is also explained, with portraits of the important members of the Moser family, and an informative 10-minute-long video (in nine different languages). To there rear of the museum is also an extensive gift shop which can arrange shipping around the world.

Glassworks tour

The second part of a visit to the Moser complex is a tour of the glassworks which costs 120Kč per person. You can only go as part of a guided group, so check the sign at the front desk of the museum for the time of the next tour. A short walk to a nearby building brings you to the glassworks themselves. The tour doesn’t visit the engraving or polishing rooms, but does peek into the packaging and quality control room, where the cooled pieces of glasswork travel along long slow conveyor belts to be either set on trolleys for packing or unceremoniously smashed into big steel bins, if they’re deemed of insufficient quality to uphold the Moser name.

Craftsmen at work

Colourful crystal glasses in the museum gift shopThe main room visited by the tour is about the size of a basketball court and has large raised work platform in the middle. The glassmakers work in teams of three, the first gathering a honeylike glob of molten glass on the end of a long metal tube and heating in the furnace until it’s hot enough to be handed to the glassblower. The glassblower puffs air through the tube and when the glass balloon is the right size, twirls it in wooden moulds to give the shape of the object being made. When this is done, another glob of molten glass is added and the whole thing is passed to the third and most experienced member of the team, who forms the stem and base. When the object is fully formed it is passed to another worker, who carries it to the cooling ovens.

Ovens for cooling, yes. The crystal objects are put on a big conveyor belt that is heated almost to the temperature of the molten glass. As the objects pass further along the belt, the temperature gets gently and gradually lower, until 90 minutes (for glasses and other small items) to 10 hours (for bigger items like vases and sculptures) later the journey ends in the quality control room at room temperature.

Getting there

Moser glss and crystal museumTo get there, take town bus #1 as far as the stop ‘Sklárska’ (the 6th stop) and follow the well-signposted path to the museum. You can catch bus #1 from the main Karlovy Vary Tržnice (market) bus station and you’ll need one single-trip ticket to get there and another one to get back. The tickets are 10Kč each from the automat at Tržnice station or you can buy them from the driver for 15Kč. Remember to time-stamp the ticket as you board the bus.

The museum is open seven days a week from 9am until 5pm and admission is 80Kč. The glassworks open at the same time but close each day at 2.30pm and admission is 120Kč. If you're going to visit both museum and glassworks the combined ticket goes for 180Kč. There's also an absurd 50Kč surcharge levied on anyone who wishes to photograph or video the experience so that they can share it with their friends at home.

This was my favourite of the things I did in Karlovy Vary and while it's no longer as inexpensive as it once was, I still highly recommend it.

Moser glass factory and museum
Kapitan Jaroše 19
Karlovy Vary
Tel. 353449455

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Outside Prague last updated June 13th, 2010. All text and images Copyright 2007-2010. Articles may be excerpted for review, or printed for use by individual travellers.
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