Baden Baden, Germany: The spa who loved me

Baden Baden, Germany has everything going for it. It's a year-round cultural, artistic haven near the Black Forest. Best of all it is a great place for a bath. Photo: Baden Baden Tourism

BADEN BADEN, GERMANYDecember 18, 2012 – Germany’s spa town of Baden Baden (www.baden-baden.com) is so special they named it twice.

In the Middle Ages the village was simply called Baden, or “bath.” It wasn’t until 1931 that it officially became Baden Baden which is actually a shortened version of the term “Baden in Baden,” similar to the way Americans say New York, New York.

The mineral springs of Baden were known by the Romans long before the Middle Ages, however. The Roman emperor Caracalla even visited once, seeking relief from his arthritis. Apparently he made an impression, since one of the two public baths in town is now named Caracalla Spa.

Baden Baden in winter

There’s a special, unique ambience in Baden Baden. It is a tiny, peaceful, cultural hub situated along the western foothills of Germany’s Black Forest, a thriving artistic community filled with all the elements of refined living and elegant hospitality without being pretentious.

By the middle of the 19th century, after a visit by the Prussian queen, Baden Baden became a gathering spot for the rich and famous. The main attractions: hot springs, gambling, horse racing, luxurious hotels and the serenity of Lichtenthaler Allee, the municipal park on the west bank of the River Oos.

The two-mile strolling area is now lined with more than 300 native and imported plants and trees, as it peacefully meanders between the river, several museums and the theater before opening to the classical architecture of the world famous casino. Follow the Lichtenthaler Allee into town and walk through the village to arrive at the spas. Here visitors enjoy the traditions and modernity of a wellness experience in either of the two public baths.

For contemporary luxury, Caracalla Therme (Spa) features a variety of pools with a range of temperatures to accommodate any recuperative need your body may require. There are five indoor saunas and two log cabin saunas offering ultimate relaxation before treating yourself to a massage or a variety of sensory treatments.

Caracalla Spa in Baden Baden

A two-hour visit, which includes entrance to the spa and the sauna area, is about $18 per person.  A full menu of massages and wellness treatments is available throughout the baths.

Traditional spa lovers may find the Friedrichsbad more to their liking. At nearly 150 years old, the Friedrichsbad has been known as a “temple of wellbeing” since 1877. Guests follow a designated route through 17 stations that include showers, baths, massages and pure relaxation.

Single admission for one person for three hours is about $30. Information for all public spa facilities in Baden Baden can be found online at www.carasana.de

Bathers be warned, Friedrichsbad follows a “traditionally garment-free” experience where both sexes participate together, except Monday, Thursday and Saturday. It’s a human “buff-et” of sorts and the ideal place to simply hang out.

Friedrichsbad Spa, Baden Baden

There is something to be said for a place where you can be publicly naked in the morning and dressed to the nines at night.

If ever you wanted to walk into a casino, place a chip on the roulette table, and say, “Bond, James Bond,” Baden Baden is the place. With chandeliers, exquisite wing doors and luxurious red and gold furnishings, Casino Baden Baden (casino-baden-baden.de) oozes with seductiveness and style.

Admission to the classical games of roulette, black jack and poker is $7. To enter patrons must be 21 or over and present a passport or national identity card. Gentlemen are also requested to wear a jacket and tie in order to participate in the classical games.

Sophisticated Casino Baden Baden

Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t forget to order a vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred, of course.

With an obsession for gambling, Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky became fascinated with Baden Baden and his losses at the casino frequently left him drowning in debt. His short novel The Gambler takes place there, although the town is identified by another name in the book.

Even today, Baden Baden has a strong Russian influence.

In 2009, Russian art collector Alexander Ivanov opened the small but elegant Faberge Museum in the city featuring nearly 700 objects. Among the treasures is the Rothschild Faberge egg which Ivanov purchased for over ten million dollars at auction at Christie’s in London in 2007.

With a steady calendar of events, Baden Baden is a year-round destination.

Four museums, including the internationally acclaimed Frieder Burda Museum, beckon to be explored along the Lichtenthaler Allee.

The Kurhaus and theater offer a continuous array of concerts, exhibitions and recitals, and with seating for 2,500 patrons, the opera house is second only in size to the grand opera house of Paris.

Spring, summer and fall bring international horse racing events to the area. There is also golf, tennis and mile upon mile of well- maintained hiking trails.

From the end of November until just after Christmas, Baden Baden comes alive with more than 100 stalls in its Christmas market featuring local arts and crafts, live music, Christmas decorations and, of course, hot spiced wine and delicious food.

Once the summer residence of kaisers and kings, Baden Baden might just be the grandest spot  in Europe to finish a holiday. Indulge yourself in a place of genteel, sophisticated pleasures where visitors may actually be wealthy or simply enjoy pretending they are. (www.germany.travel)

To read about Christmas markets in Germany along the Danube, see Andrea Poe’s recent story at http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/donnes-world/2012/dec/17/riverboat-cruise-christmas-markets-germany/ 

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countriesSuggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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