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Germany - Baden-Württemberg


A Karen Brown Recommendation
Baden-Baden was the playground of Europe’s rich and famous in the middle of the 19th century. Anyone who was anyone came to soak in the curative waters and gamble at the casino. Today it is an attractive town where everywhere you want to visit is located within a 15-minute walk (park your car for the duration of your stay). Promenade yourself down the famous Lichtentaler Allee, strolling along a pleasant lane through the park that runs beside the river from the casino. Baden-Baden’s nightlife centers on the Kurhaus set amidst parklike gardens beside the swiftly flowing Oosbach river. Here you find a restaurant, café, ballroom, and casino (take your passport to register: you must be over 21, must not be wearing tennis shoes, and men must wear jackets and ties). Even if you do not gamble, it is fun to tour the casino. Across the river from the casino lies the pedestrian old town full of cobbled streets lined with delightful shops. Another great draw to this cosmopolitan city is Baden-Baden’s beautiful new opera house. All of Germany takes great pride in and is quite boastful of its opera house and rightly so as it is the largest in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world. A local family, the Rademachers, who also own two of our favorite hotels, have been quite supportive of the new cultural center and have secured the best seats for every performance. Tickets are available to guests who stay at either the Romantik Hotel Der Kleine Prinz or the Belle Époque The highlight of a visit to Baden-Baden is taking the kur, partaking of the curative waters. Pluck up your courage and opt for the *Friedrichsbad (Roman-Irish Bath), a two-hour ritual involving a complex routine which is explained in the blue English instruction sheet that you pick up as you purchase your ticket (it’s well worth the extra small charge to include the soap-and-brush massage). Up the stairs (men one side, women the other), insert your ticket to gain admission, put your clothes in the basket, put your card in the locker to get a key, walk self-consciously to the showers, grab a towel, don slippers, and follow the numbers (and English explanation) on the walls. Relax in a hot room for 20 minutes, followed by an even hotter steam room (remember to lie on your towel—it’s that hot); inhale steam from the curative waters; forget your modesty as you enter the pool (station 9)—it’s men and women mixed (this came as quite a surprise); enjoy an invigorating massage; suffer a cold plunge; and finish with a relaxing rest wrapped in a warm towel beneath a blanket in a dimly lit room. (9 am–10 pm, 2–10 pm, Sunday, last entry 7 pm.) The adjacent Caracalla Therme offers a water experience with bathing suit. Pick up the English sheet as you buy your card, put the card in a locker to get a key, and set off to enjoy an indoor-outdoor water wonderland of pools, waterfalls, showers, saunas, tanning lights, cold plunges, and sunbathing. (8 am–10 pm, last entry 8 pm.) Closed to traffic, Baden-Baden’s Old Town, nestled below the collegiate church, is a wonderful place for shopping. The stores display their elegant wares artistically, competing with the smells from the nearby pastry shops that summon you to an afternoon tea break. Baden-Baden is also a sportsman’s paradise—golf, riding, tennis, fishing, and hiking are all available in the vicinity. Race week is held each year in August when Baden-Baden becomes a sophisticated meeting place for the wealthy “horsey set.” One of the town’s traditional attractions is the Merkur mountain railway. Built in 1913, it reopened after repairs in the spring of 1979, and you can now travel up the incline and enjoy sweeping vistas from the observation tower at its summit.
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