Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bathing in Baden-Baden

The town of Baden-Baden just sounds like an enticing place, doesn't it?!? Meaning literally "Bath Bath" it is nestled in the western foothills of Germany's Black Forest. We went for Halloween. Black Forest ghosts and goblins seemed a natural match. But Baden-Baden was anything but spooky! It is a high class resort town known for its baths and spas. Not like American spas though. There was no facial or pedicure involved (much to my dismay). These were natural thermal spas - you know, the healing kind from the ground.
Baden-Baden was the playground of Europe's high-rolling elite 150 years ago. Royalty and aristocracy would come from all corners to gamble in the world's top casino and to take the Kur - a sauna, massage, and utter restfulness...
Bet it is easy to lose a few buckaroos at this posh casino! Not too shabby!Our Baden-Baden trip was a little more down to earth; no betting for us. Lots of walking, strolling and exploring. Cause that's how we roll!We were immediately taken with the majestic yellow, orange and red trees. It was difficult to focus on the town itself with vibrant AUTUMN screaming at us. The place was adorned with all of the beauty and crispness you can imagine and hope for.
Along the main shopping street this slapstick band - a motley crew for sure - was playing a comedy routine of music. Pretty corny, but you can bet my two year old ate it all up.
Baden-Baden was known way back in Roman times as the place to be and bathe. To see and be seen...ha! There were Roman relics and statements everywhere. Note the Roman statue in the left foreground with this thrilling tree and the outdoor bath in the background.
After a good ole' German lunch with sour kraut and sausages in a restaurant where the waiters dress in lederhosen, we set out for a promenade along Lichtentaler Allee.
I smiled, breathed and soaked it all in. It was great to be relaxed and in nature with our little family. I was struck at how fortunate we were to be right there in this place and to feel these seasons change. The depth in change between Summer, Fall and Winter is much more pronounced in Europe than in Atlanta. An incredible gift we are making the most of. Before the stark cold takes over.
And never fear. Connor found a playground in Baden-Baden. The German kids were a little bigger and older than her, but she hung pretty well. What can I say, the girl loves to play! Connor's play radar and eagle eye can spot a playground a mile away. By the time this abroad stint is over she will have truly seen the playgrounds and carousels of the world!
That evening - Halloween night - Connor hit the hay early. I left her with Dad while I went alone to check out these bath spas I had heard so much about. No photos inside so here are some internet images to give you an idea...There are two main bath complexes: Friedrichsbad (the Roman-Irish Bath) and the Baths of Caracalla. Friedrichsbad opened 120 years ago and is definitely the more traditional and elegant complex. But is also an all nude dress code throughout. I was too shy to go there. Part of me wishes I could just embrace this European comfort and confidence. But it was just too intimidating and too much for me to bare. Smile.So instead I went to the Caracalla baths. Bathing suits are required except in their upper level floor. It is all very organized - the way you buy your time ticket, find a locker and off you go to a mecca of baths, pools, jets, and steam.
The baths are an indoor and outdoor wonderland of steamy pools, waterfalls, neck showers, Jacuzzis, hot springs, cold pools, lounge chairs, and saunas.At Caracalla there was a spiral staircase leading from the main floor up to the smaller unclothed part. After splashing solo it felt a little lonely and more like Saturday Family Pool Night than the relaxing spa experience I was hankering for. I decided I would just tiptoe up to see if it was less crowded upstairs. The curiosity would have killed me if I hadn't at least peeked. I figured I could go and leave my towel around me the entire time. So that is what I did - I stayed completely covered. It wasn't as R-rated as I feared, but quite dignified, quiet, and relatively private. I lounged with my towel tucked tightly around me on the blue light chaises and tried out the log cabin sauna. It wasn't long til my muscles felt like mush and it was time to leave the Baden-Baden Baths to return to Kirk and Connor and real life.
Rick Steves writes of Baden-Baden, "You've dipped into Germany's greatest 19th-century mineral spa and ducked into the most romantic of German forests. Hedonism meets Edenism. Enjoy!"

1 comment:

Sues said...

I went to Friedrichsbad!!!!!!! Me & 2 of my girlfriends when we lived in W├╝rzburg!!! Seriously - after about 20 seconds, we didn't think about being naked at all!