Monday, October 12, 2009

Baden-Baden – 10/11 October 2009

Baden-Baden streetscapeHaving flashed past Baden-Baden on our August, Black Forest, trip we felt it merited a weekend all to itself. A reasonably early start in London had us on the ground at Baden Airpark at 10 o'clock where, Spires of the Stadtkirchedue to slow processing at passport control, we just missed the bus to the city. Baden-Airpark is without doubt the worst serviced airport we have ever visited (well in excess of 100) in terms of public transport from the airport to the city; we had an hour to wait for the next bus and the one after that was further 90 minutes behind. Some consolation was that by the time we finally arrived at our Hotel in the centre, we were able to check in to our room immediately and rid ourselves of our backpacks.

Floral display in the town centreThe Am Makt Hotel is worthy of a mention as the location is superb, right in the heart of the city and very close to the spas, the room was fabulous, the service is personal and the delicious breakfast is served by the owner.

Outside the Caracalla ThermeThe weather forecast for the weekend was not auspicious but the indications were that there would be a little sunshine later in the afternoon so we set off to enjoy one of Baden-Baden's indoor attractions while the rain fell outside. Baden-Baden's claim to fame came from the geothermal springs and it has been a spa town since Roman times. Inside Caracalla ThermeThe spa baths are now major tourist attractions the first one we visited was Caracalla Therme. This has extensive indoor and outdoor pools and an upstairs sauna area where we happily whiled away 3 hours getting alternately hot and cold or resting on the various beds.

Along the Lichtentaler AlleeTrue to prediction the sun was out when we left the spa and so we explored the town centre and set off along the Lichtentaler Allee. This is a 1½ mile tree-lined lane that follows a stream up to the Lichtental Cloisters at the far end. The area was laid out as an “English” park back in the mid 1800s and is a most pleasant place to stroll, especially with the autumn colours beginning to show on the trees.

View across the Rose GardenPartway along the path there is a rose garden which, while past its best, still had plenty of blooms. It is an indication of Baden-Baden's mild climate that the roses were still blooming in October at the same time as the autumn colours.

Then it was time for dinner and we took the hotelier's recommendation and dined at Weinstube im Baldreit, Dahlia display along the Lichtentaler Alleehidden away in a courtyard that we would never had found had we not been told it was there. This is also a family run concern and turned out to be a real treat. The menu items were fairly standard German fare but the specials board offered wonderful choices and the flat-bread, pizza-like apple dessert was most unusual and very scrummy. Washed down with a wonderful local Riesling it was a most memorable meal.

Ivy on the wall of the Neues SchlossSunday started quite pleasant, so we attempted a walk from the town past the new castle to the old ruined castle on the hill above the town with the autumn colours making the walk very picturesque.

Sunday is the day for mixed bathing in the Friedrichsbad, the town's 130 year old spa. Unlike the Caracalla spa, there is a set route to follow, and we opted for the scrub and massage option. FriedrichsbadThe process begins with a hot room and then an even hotter room after which is the scrub and massage. Then there are a series of pools getting cooler and cooler until the last on, an 18C plunge pool. After that is the cream room, where two different cream lotions soothe the super clean skin, before we were wrapped in a sheet and blanket, cocoon-style for a 30 minute rest. On a winter's day, this was the ideal way to rest and recuperate.

Stiftskirche, just beside our hotelAlthough, now, completely toned and healthy, we felt compelled to give the locality one more chance after our August trip's failure to find a proper black forest gateau. This time we had asked our waitress on Saturday night for a recommendation, and so finally found the perfect Black Forest gateau at the Konig Cafe.

Despite the rain that evening we were lured to visit the casino by the guidebook's description of a pure gold roulette table, and fabulous décor. A different sort of golden splendourThe guidebook said a skirt or dress was essential for women, and a tie and any type of jacket for men. But when we attempted to pay our entry fee, we discovered that 'any jacket' did not include a black leather bomber style jacket. This was dismissed as too “sporty”, and an offer was made to rent a jacket. But the real problem was we were required to show our passports which were safely stored in our hotel room. The rain was even harder, so we lost enthusiasm rapidly at that point, and will just have to imagine the grandeur inside.

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