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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.”
“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:)