Baden Baden – A German Spa Holiday

30 Jul

Another Ryanair special and another opportunity to fly into a place I’d never heard of before.  This time the destination was Baden Baden – as Clinton said, so good it had to be named twice.

This was our last trip away before the baby arrives but given how expensive babies are and the fact that I was 7 months pregnant, we had to give up on our idea of visiting our nephews in Denver and go for somewhere closer to home.

Germany isn’t a destination which tends to inspire people.  As a smug holiday maker, I will tell every man and his dog when I’m going away somewhere.  From the staff at my GP surgery to work colleagues to friends to family, no-one was blown away when I said we were going to Germany.

If I’m completely honest, it was never top of my list of holiday destinations either.  Until I did an online search for Baden Baden and found a spa and cultural city in the heart of the Black Forest region.  Pampering, sightseeing and beautiful surroundings – what more could you want?

Baden-Baden-Germany-New-Castle-main-1

Baden Baden

It was the Romans who discovered the thermal springs of Baden Baden and built the first baths here.  Now there are two main spas and numerous hotel spas which have harnessed the healing properties of the water into beautifully laid out thermal baths.

We visited Caracalla Spa which had a mix of indoor and outdoor pools with a large communal pool area, smaller pools of varying temperatures and the obligatory ice cold plunge pools.  There were also saunas and steam rooms which being pregnant, I couldn’t use and my husband refused to use on the grounds that no bathing suits were allowed.

The main indoor pool at Caracalla Spa
The main indoor pool at Caracalla Spa

Baden Baden has a lot more to offer than the thermal waters though, with historic and cultural sights dotted around the city.  Within easy walking distance you’ll find the Roman Bath ruins, churches and castles, and beautiful parks and gardens.  Then of course there’s the imposing Kurhaus which hosts various theatre performances and houses Baden Baden’s famous casino which Marlene Dietrich described as “the most beautiful casino in the world”.

The famous casino

The famous casino

It is hard to explain just how picturesque this part of Germany is.  The Black Forest is spectacular and if you’re here for a short trip, I highly recommend two outings.

The first is the funicular to the top of Merkur Mountain.  We took a bus trip to the foot of the mountain from the centre with a group of very raucous, elderly German tourists.  Germans may be known for queuing but this group were not a good example of that.  But they spent the whole day howling with laughter and clearly having such a good time that their good mood was infectious.

At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a typically German beer garden, stunning views and paragliders gently hovering above and enjoying a real bird’s eye view.

At the top of Merkur mountain

At the top of Merkur mountain

The second recommendation is a train trip to Triberg.  As well as offering a scenic route into the heart of the Black Forest, Triberg claims to be the birthplace of the cuckoo clock.  I would not suggest joking about cuckoo clocks being Swiss.  My husband tried this and got some very stern looks.  But I would recommend you spend a bit of time wandering around the clock shops, setting the time to just before the hour and seeing what happens.  Triberg is also home to Germany’s highest waterfall which is well worth a visit.

20130608_140651

Triberg

Selection of cuckoo clocks

Selection of cuckoo clocks

 

German waterfall

German waterfall

A few words of warning.  Baden Baden is all about the good life and this is reflected in the expensive prices.  It may be cheap to get to but once there, the prices are easily comparable to London.

It is also not very commercial and in spite of the tourists who inundate the city throughout the year, it has very much retained its small city lifestyle.  Shops close early and do not open at all on Sunday, as we discovered after being in dire need of a chemist.

Finally, the locals can come across as quite abrupt but they are always willing to help and as I learnt from the rowdy group of pensioners on our funicular ride, they can have a wicked sense of humour too.

From the Romans to Hollywood royalty to the WAGs who were here for the World Cup in 2006, many have discovered what Baden Baden has to offer.  It might not be the most obvious holiday destination, but isn’t that the kind of place which is most exciting to discover?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: