Never had the thought of being an expat ever entered my mind until I met the town of Baden-Baden. This historical German town, located near the border of France and Switzerland, is tucked into the foothills of the Black Forest. It has truly stolen this spa gal’s heart, soul and even her dreams.
Baden-Baden is so much more than a resort area. It is also a cultural capital. It boasts concerts, a world-class opera house (Europe’s second largest), hiking, Michelin-starred fine dining (such as Le Jardin de France), wineries, horse racing, golf courses, hot air balloons, tennis, casinos (the most beautiful in the world), art museums (such as Faberge Museum), and festivals. Baden-Baden is only a quick train ride away from the Stuttgart airport serviced by Air Berlin, and it is one of Europe’s best locations to combine health, culture and social life.
To spa travelers and also historians, the most important features of the town are the spas. In Baden-Baden, 800,000 liters of 68-degree Celsius hot, curative water rises daily from 12 thermal springs. This unique, mineral-rich water surges from the springs, as it has for thousands of years.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Romans appreciated the hot mineral springs in Baden-Baden. Europe’s highest royalty and aristocrats met there to maintain their wellness. Historical dignitaries, like the grandson of Catherine the Great wife’s, the Czarina Elizabeth, visited the baths every year with a very large entourage. Acclaimed writers Turgenev, Tolstoy, Gogol and Dostoyevsky also visited. In the 19th century, Baden-Baden was a gathering place for composers like Berlioz and Brahms.
Today, you can still enjoy a Roman-Irish bath experience there. Celebrities and even President Obama have visited Baden-Baden. (Obama stayed at the top hotel in all of Germany, Brenner’s Park Hotel and Spa.)
The entire region is known for wellness, including the town of Wiesbaden, which also has its share of thermal baths and spa hotels. But Friedrichsbad is like a temple to true spa lovers. It combines the ancient art of both Roman and Irish bathing. It sits exactly where the Romans built the first baths over 2,000 years ago. Visitors usually choose to spend at least one day at either the modern Caracalla Spa or historic Friedrichsbad.
I suggest visiting the original “spa day” location, Friedrichsbad. One little hitch: German trains run like clockwork, which can sometimes be an issue when your connections are tight and you are traveling with your beloved pink Delsey luggage along by your side. This mechanism landed me an honorary European badge during my visit to Friedrichsbad.
You see, certain days at the spa are co-ed and some days the sexes are divided (but are still coed in the last phases of the process). One missed train and my spa day in Baden-Baden became co-ed.
My main tip for a day at the Friedrichsbad Roman Baths for an American is to just be quiet and follow the flow to “disguise” yourself as a European. Speaking, draping your towel à la Roman style and wearing flip-flops are all dead giveaways.
After the baths start to take effect, you forget about the way you are here, and instead of focus on the why: your health. Your body relaxes, calming thoughts enter your mind and a state of Zen sets in. Famous American novelist, Mark Twain once described his experience: “Here at the Friedrichsbad, you lose track of time within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20 …”
After you let yourself become captivated by the splendor of the adorned walls around you, the mineral-rich thalasso thermal process takes wellness to a higher level. Natural wellness abounds here. My step felt brisker, my mood enhanced and the scale fell two solid pounds after only 36 hours. I left with more energy, looking more vibrant and feeling extremely relaxed.
On the Horizon
Brenner’s Park-Hotel & Spa is planning to open Villa Stephanie this summer at the Oetker Collection resort. This spa and medical center will be the first place I visit upon my return, not only for a spa day, but also for regeneration, relaxation and fitness. A team of medical experts will specialize in preventative healthcare.
Baden Baden is a must-experience for people who appreciate wellness travel experiences. Even though it is international, you can easily read the signs in both English and German. After one time through the entire process, you may find that one area has a more pleasing feel to you; so bypass some areas and spend an extended amount of time where you feel most comfortable.
Baden-Baden has been known for the finer things in life, and your body will leave finer after a visit to this town with a wealth of health.