Monthly Archives: October 2019

Baden-Baden, part 2: Relax and relish like royalty

For the audio-story, please click here

Aaaah….the warm, gentle waters caress your skin and embrace you in their all-accepting ways. You basically feel like a quietly content yet massive baby in a heated cozy blanket. You step in further, and with the healing thermal waters enveloping your body almost completely now, you notice all your relentless thoughts and questions slowly melting away. You are fully immersing yourself in this roman bath experience, and you are pretty thankful indeed that you opted for the Caracalla spa instead of the Friedrichsbad spa after all. You are just not ready for full frontal nudity from all those other spa-guests, for f* sake! And you might never be! You probably won´t.

Sanus per Aquam: The healing power of pretty darn hot thermal waters

Romans are rather awesome, though, you think to yourself. Not entirely awesome, obviously, because Gladiator-fights and stuff. And killing animals for spectator-fun – not cool! But good on the old Romans for remembering the old adage “Sanus per Aquam“, healthy through water, when they stumbled upon the curative Baden-Baden thermal waters 2000 years ago and continued to build the first thermal baths in town.

Daily, more than a whopping 800.000 liters of these waters at up to 68 degree celcius heat (154 degrees Fahrenheit) bubble upwards from twelve springs at a depth of about 2000 meters under the earth. On its adventurous journey to the earth´s surface, the water gets keen on making some housemates and so takes in minerals such as natrium, chloride, fluoride, lithium, and others. This is were the outstanding healing powers of the thermal waters originate.


Feeling dizzy? Looking rather pale? Achy joints at times? Off into the waters you go. The ones in the spa, not the 68 degree ones, that is. Otherwise, the ultimate relax factor might evaporate rather quickly…


The Caracalla Therme, a spa with a beautifully modern yet sophisticated feel, offers visitors a vast arrange of liquid-pleasure-pools, including but not limited to a rock grotto with hot and cold water, a sensual aromatic steam bath, and a salt water inhalation room. But what am I telling you, you know exactly what I´m talking about, seeing that you are the narrator of this story! Let´s get back to your experience.

Swimming through a small exit in the outer wall of the indoor spa area, a 38 degree heated marble outdoor pool is awaiting you. It boasts a magnificent whirlpool at its center, in which a few people are leisurely enjoying their bathing experience. Getting a bit coy, you take a deep breath, dive under, and are suddenly submerged in calming quit and comforting stillness. The rejuvenating power of the tranquility under the surface never ceases to amaze you somehow.


Seeing that you can´t hold your breath much longer, you reluctantly emerge from your Zen-like state only to realize that rain has begun to fall. Cooling raindrops are quickly moistening your skin, building a sensual contrast with the heated waters enveloping your body. You spot a peaceful corner of the pool underneath some lush plants and trees, swim over, and just let yourself float for a while. What a perfect moment to reminisce about your extraordinary day in Baden Baden, really!


Baden-Baden´s Black Forest: A vibrant fairytale in the making

The morning seems pretty far away now, but yeah, of course you remember, how couldn´t you: that morning excursion to the mighty Black Forest was like something straight out of a fairytale!


There were splendid waterfalls to be marveled at, forbidden paths to be explored, soft moss to be felt, and, of course, thousands upon thousands of the mightiest trees you ever laid your eyes upon to be admired.


And that air! What could you even begin to say about it…Every breath you had taken before in less-than-pristine-environments had made you long for these silkiest of all breaths with every part of your being… for these innocent, pure, invigorating inhalations. Sweet nectar of the Gods, soothing balm for your lungs, the trees´ humble gift of vitality and life-force lifting you up and filling you with a new-found zest and passion for life!


In ancient times, people knew how to honor the power of the Black Forest: they worshiped the Celtic goddess Abnoba there, and named the Black Forest after her – Abnoba mons.

One of the most vibrantly alive places you could have imagined, the Black Forest was truly brimming with life: Cheeky birds merrily chirping away; the sounds of melodiously burbling streams; the wind gently rustling through the leaves of majestic Scots pines, silver firs, and English oaks.


The Schwarzwald (Black Forest in German), with its myriad of dark colored pine trees that give it its name, is undoubtedly one of Germany´s premier oases of peace and life-affirming magic. By the way, have you ever read the brother Grimm´s fairytales when you were little? Well, according to legend, it´s indeed Germany´s largest national park, the grand forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Würtemberg, our beloved Black Forest, that inspired these writers when they wrote Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and the likes.


Black-Forest-style Culture and Food: Of Spätzle and Lederhosen

On the way back to town – you remember as as you lie in the pool and observe that the rain has stopped and a cool yet pleasant breeze is slowly picking up – you passed some picture-perfect farmhouses with their sweeping half-hipped roofs. Looking at those houses somehow made you think of Black Forest Cake, and your grumbling stomach concurred that it was time to take a break and taste some of those local delicacies you had heard so much about. Luckily, you found just the right and rustic place for it!

Shortly after entering the traditional and exquisitely designed restaurant, you were greeted by a middle-aged, friendly looking waiter, dressed in the customary Lederhosen of the region. “Could you recommend something, please?” you asked him rather shyly in your best shot at hochdeutsch (the “proper” type of German that´s taught in schools).


The slightly chubby waiter gave you his biggest smile and commenced to shout some recommendations in a pretty weird accent with rather melodious sounding bits of German at you. You didn´t understand a word this man was telling you! It had to be your secret fascination with his “typical German look”, the one you otherwise just got to see at the Oktoberfests of the world, that had kept all your attention focused. You did like the look of what ended up on your plate, though, after the waiter returned to your table bringing foodie-gifts…

After religiously savoring every bite of your culture-on-the-plate, you did feel tempted to try some delicious Apfelstrudel for desert. The waiter in his Lederhosen, formerly used as traditional attire of the working peasant-community, could probably have sold you anything with his enthusiastic demeanor, combined with your definite lack of understanding. But, you weighed up, you also did promise yourself a walk through Baden-Baden´s famous rosegardens, and time was merrily ticking away. Looking at the cuckoo-clock, another typical Swabian invention, you had a change of heart- the spa visit it was!


“Good choice, good choice”, you mumble to yourself, while slowly swimming to the nearest ladder and climbing out of the pool. “Baden Baden, you are a treasure chest of fantastic things to experience. Danke, Baden-Baden, wir sehen uns wieder (thanks, Baden-Baden, we´ll meet again)” Not Friedrichsbad, though. That will never happen.


Back to you, dear reader: What was the most impressive/ beautiful/ majestic forest you have visited so far? What did you love most about it? And did you ever try any German food? Hopefully you were lucky, and didn´t taste Labskaus! Will explain in a later post 😉 Thanks for reading, and as always, would love to hear from you 🙂



Handy information part:

Thermal baths: For nudists or people who are not freaked out by naked strangers – visit stunning Friedrichsbad, For shyer souls – head to serene Caracalla Therme, where you can keep your panties/ swimwear on.

Swabian cuisine: Head to the Geroldsauer Mühle, where you can sample and buy local produce and have a shot at understanding the waiters (no worries, they also speak English).

Helpful links: For trips to the Black Forest, check out the Black forest tourism site. For visiting Baden-Baden town, have a look at the official Baden Baden tourism site.

Grateful shout out: Thanks to David for his lovely comment on my former post on Baden Baden that inspired the title for this post. Check out his truly wonderful mindfulness blog smilecalm for increased peace of mind and vibes of loving-kindness.

Photography: All rights reserved ©A gypsy at heart

.

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , | 97 Comments

Visiting Baden-Baden: A dreamy blast from the past

For the audio-story, please click here

Was that Queen Victoria of England just having a casual giggle while meandering along the gently flowing Oos-river?  That can´t be right…or can it? You rub your eyes incredulously. Maybe that coffee wasn´t such a good idea after all if it makes one of the most influential women in history suddenly appear out of thin air. What´s more: If you peer really hard into the distance, you can spot Dostoyewsky´s silhouette just at the end of the street, heading into the majestic Casino. What the hell? You try to shake it off – what are these shenanigans, you ask yourself quietly and slightly nerve-wracked,  just to turn to your left and find Tolstoy writing away on a napkin, right at the round elegant table next to yours. The great Tolstoy! Maybe you could quickly ask him a thing or two about War and Peace, or Anna Karenina? There´s gotta be some secrets to his magic writing sauce! How else could he come up with such meaningful phrases like

“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Entschuldigen Sie bitte?” (Excuse me please?) You slowly register a gentle voice with a quietly determined undertone. “Mmh?” you reply, only gradually coming back to yourself. You must have dozed off, that must be it, you tell yourself decidedly while glancing wide-eyed at the elegantly dressed waitress. “Entschuldigen Sie, aber wir schließen jetzt!” (Excuse me, but we are closing now!) , she explains slightly apologetic. “Ok, ok, kein Problem” (No problem) is all you can muster to say, while picking up your coat and purse and leaving a few coins Trinkgeld, tipps, on the black-and-white patterned table. “Bye Tolstoy”, you whisper ever so quietly and step out onto the imposing alleys of everyone´s favorite 19th-century German spa town. Well, maybe not everyone´s, but sophisticated Baden-Baden had its fair share of admirers among the rich and famous of the nineteenth century.

A spa-town like no other: Healing baths, cultural haven

Having been settled by the Romans, Baden-Baden had to brave a lot of obstacles throughout its history-  yeah, the school of hard knocks named life, you know what I mean. People go through it, cities go through it, countries go through it. And animals. Maybe even ants? Anyway, there´s a time for everything, so at the end of the 18th century, it was finally Baden-Baden´s time to shine, and what a shine it was, ladies and gentlemen! Baden Baden was truly the stuff stories were made of back then. Elegant, rejuvenating, luxurious stories, that is!

The spa-town in south-western Germany, located only 10 kilometers from the border with la belle France, was and still is famed for its mild climate, its pristine air, and its high acclaimed thermal springs. Baden Baden, a name which translates to bathing bathing (no surprises there) takes great pride in its illustrious list of visitors. Want some gossip? Good old out-of-this-world novelist, essayist, journalist and philosopher Dostoyewsky wrote his masterpiece The Gambler here…while gambling his money away at the town´s notorious casino. Maybe he was just doing some research? A writer/journalist gotta know what he´s writing about, after all! Other famous visitors who chose to vacation in bathing bathing include German composer Johannes Brahms or French composer Hector Berlioz.

Inspired by Napoleon III and Queen Victoria: Strolling around spa-town

You can almost sense their silhouettes gliding majestically over the pavement and through the spacious alleys of Baden Baden, passing by the many imposing mansions and villas as well as the serene and lush park-landscapes. Napoleon the III must surely have had a drink or two of pure spring water from the Friedrichsquelle at the Trinkhalle (pump house) Kurhaus spa complex in his days. His ghost might be surprised to find a tourist office in the commanding building nowadays. Queen Victoria and her entourage most certainly loved paying some visits to the world-class- rose gardens dotted around town – Baden Baden is  dubbed the Rose capital of Germany, after all!

Following in Royalty´s footsteps, it won´t take you long to realize that this place really has a certain “je-ne-sais-quoi“, as the French say: a very particular something. It might be due to the laid-back pace of life, or it might be thanks to the superb quality of air that thousands of lime-trees, oaks, tulip trees, and chestnut-trees gift their visitors with. (Trees rock!) Or it might just be the mix of the alluring regal architecture, the luxurious and extra-spacious alleys, and the exquisite cuisine, that makes foodie´s mouths water…Spätzle, anyone? It´s probably all of the above and then some. And no matter whether you prefer to spend your time admiring cutting-edge contemporary art at the museum Frieder Burda or strolling along the peaceful Oos-river, there are some highlights that no visitor should miss!

And next time…

It would be my absolute pleasure to let you in on some more delights of the cultural and spa capital Baden Baden in my next post, where I´ll take you along on a visit to Friedrichsbad with its warm, bubbly, healing waters. Oh, and on a little getaway to the fairytale-like Black forest. Oh, and we might be indulging in the scents of hundreds of roses together. And, of course, tasting some fantastic, tastebud-infatuating regional cuisine. Are you up for that? I know I am!

Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever heard of Baden-Baden before? Or have you maybe been to a spa-town or some hot springs which you particularly enjoyed? As always, I would love to hear from you! Enjoy your week, wherever you may be, and thanks for reading:)

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , | 76 Comments

Bangkok part 2: Wat´s up? Of temples and treasures

Have you ever watched the movie “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster? Bangkok takes center stage in this charming film based on a true story, which tells the glorious tale of a very brave English woman in the 19th hundreds, Anna Leonowen, who takes the role of English teacher to Thai king Mongkut´s kids. In many aspects based on a true story, the movie is lovely, entertaining, and exotic – and you´ll get an idea of the real location´s magnetism when heading to Bangkok´s imposing and unbelievably majestic neighborhood Ko Ratanakosin, the former royal quarter. Some of Thailand´s oldest and holiest sights can be found here.

My first stop is the Bangkok National Museum (Th Na Phra That), truly a cultural heavyweight, and one of South East Asia´s biggest museums to date. In-between colorful masks, royal thrones and other alluring artefacts, I am getting a pretty good insight into the former Siamese kingdom´s history and culture, including intriguing insights into the history of the ancient royal cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. When you think Bangkok National Museum, think glitz and glamour with a side dish of chaos, or at least that´s how it felt to me when I had the privilege to visit.

Stepping out of this culturally inspiring place, I am embraced by Bangkok´s hot, humid air and its usual soundscape consisting of a melange of persistent honking sounds and other unidentifiable noises. I gather my strength, greatly helped by a quick and delicious Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle delight and a staple-dish of the world-famous Thai street food, and onward to the mighty Grand Palace I go!

I´ve barely got time to cover my shoulders and check that I´m wearing appropriate, respectful attire, aka long trousers/ a long skirt, when I hear the familiar sound of Spanish in its quickest pace and with its characteristic Andalusian accent. A warm, homely feeling floods my being- this is, after all, an accent I have come to know and love since I was a little kid eating delicious gambas, prawns, while sitting on my grandma´s lap! I locate the source of the roaring laughter that follows the Andalusian chatter, and decide to approach the group of kind-looking guys who are standing close by. The next hours are spent exploring the dazzling Grand palace with my new amigos. The palace is a spectacular sight to behold indeed and served as the home of the Thai king, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government for 150 years. It´s still considered the spiritual heart of the kingdom of Thailand!

The next day, it´s Wat Phra Kaew calling me. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and officially named Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, it´s regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Bangkok´s old regal splendor is truly transporting me to a different world, a world in which peaceful vibes, equanimity and benevolent smiles from golden Buddha-statue-faces reign and in which a deep silence seems to unveil itself behind Bangkok´s unceasing noise background. An other-worldy seeming place in which the eternal stillness beyond the thoughts seems to call out to busy temple-visitors, ever so gently reminding them to come home to themselves, to go beyond the visible and to the invisible place of existence, to inner peace, acceptance and yes-to-all-that-is. Was I maybe a Thai monk in a past life? Maybe. I definitely love being in their presence and feel very much at home in their temples.

Be it as it may, monks dressed in orange-colored robes are definitely a big part of Bangkok´s and Thailand´s ethereal charm – monks that I am careful not to get too close too when travelling on the same ferry on the overflooding Chao Phraya river! Why? Well, my friend, the reason is that women are not allowed to touch a monk, not even by accident on an over-crowded water taxi! If you so much as brush against a monk, the Buddhist doctrine dictates that the monks return to the temple and perform rituals to cleanse themselves of your touch. Hello, people, women are truly not that bad! Maybe it´s time to revise a few of those old patriarchal mindsets? But I am getting off-topic.

Back to Thailand, its approximately 460.000 monks, and its fantastic temples! While carefully monitoring my distance to the monks on the ferry, I take a look at my phone and realize that it´s almost too late to pay a visit to Wat Po, Bangkok´s oldest temple! What can a culturally interested woman with a thirst for peaceful vibes do? She can certainly hurry up and go for a nice, sweaty run! My determination is rewarded – I manage to snap some quick pictures in front of the 44 meters (!!) long, reclining golden Buddha. Cheese and cheers to Thai selfies! I know, selfies are not cool anymore. But it was a 44 meters (!!) long reclining buddha! What can I say…

Inspired by the statue´s utterly relaxed demeanour, I decide to take it easy and hop onto a colourful Tuk-Tuk, whose driver convinces me to pay a visit to glittery Chinatown and its phenomenal eateries. Boy, that driver surely missed his true calling as a daredevil-race-car driver! I can barely hold on to my seat while I try to answer his slightly irritated question as to why I am out on town on my own. At long last we manage to arrive in mostly one piece, and I almost get a little dizzy while taking it all in: Chinatown´s neon-coloured-explosion of lights, its unceasing hustle and bustle, myriad food stalls and inviting restaurants…

Surrounded by crowds of Thais and tourists, I stroll through the busy streets and stop by a humble stall to taste a delicious, freshly pressed pomegranate-juice on the side of the road. No trip to South-Eastern-Asia is complete without at least a string of street-food-experiences, my friend! The taste of the sweet pomegranate-drink is so good that I zone out and almost get hit by a car. Lesson learned: You better remain alert when out and about in Bangkok town! I sooth myself from this shock by joining some locals at one of the much-sought after tables lining, well, basically the middle of the road, and indulging in some more typically Thai culinary delights. Laa kawn Bangkok – I´ll be back!

What about you, dear reader, have you ever been to a Buddhist temple? What were your impressions?

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , | 30 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: