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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).
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