Feeling beautiful in baden baden
S p a S e S S i o n S , p i c t u r e - p e r f e c t S e t t i n g S a n d t h e b l a c k f o r e S t l u l l a v i S i t o r i n t o a m a g i c a l l a n d w h e r e e v e r y t h i n g i S p r e t t y a n d l e i S u r e ly
Tiptoeing into the low- ceilinged room, lowering myself into a lounger, I get down to the business of relaxing. There are a few other people in the room, each on their own lounger; one person is apparently asleep on a small bed on one side. The only sounds in the room are of soft breathing and very low decibel nature melodies like birdsong and flowing water coming from hidden speakers.
This is Salina Sea Salt Grotto in Baden Baden, the stylish spa town at the edge of the famed Schwarzwald ( Black Forest) in Germany. The day spa is one of the many in the town, whose name translates to ‘ baths / to bathe’ — and since they said it twice, it’s not hard to see how people here love getting into the thermal spring waters.
It had been so even in the times of the 3rd century Roman emperor Caracalla. He and his soldiers came here to ease the aches and pains of their exhausting military campaigns. For the 19th century European nobility, this town was a centre of healing and exclusive socialising.
Those traditions continue in modern Baden Baden. The Caracalla Spa is magnificent, a massive glass- enclosed complex of outdoor and indoor pools. Standing under the ‘ waterfall’, a vertical stream falling with great force, takes a bit of courage at first, but the massaging effect on knotted muscles soon feels like heaven. The circular outdoor pool has colder water that invigorates the body after wallowing in the warmth inside; pumps around the pool edge create localised currents that soothe bathers’ legs.
Another major spa is the Friedrichsbad, whose architecture and wall frescoes are reminiscent of Roman times. This is also the place
for shedding the last bit of inhibition and go au naturel to fully experience everything this spa has to offer. The tradition of bathing without clothes is an ancient one in Europe, and the German Freikörperkultur ( free body culture) movement is a part of it. Getting comfortable with our own bodies is an integral part of a spa visit; few places offer a better setting for it than Baden Baden. There’s no particular statement or erotica about nudity in Germany; the people are just happy with being who they are.
The town itself is wealthy and lovely. At the centre is the Lichtentaler Allee, the mini promenade along the slender river Oos. The path runs through stunning parklands — on one side is the stately Brenners Park Hotel & Spa, some of its restaurants giving guests sweeping views of the greenery outside. Nearby — well, everything here is nearby — is the Fabergé Museum, where astoundingly beautiful creations by Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé are displayed. Though a small museum, the collection is solid, going well beyond the world- famous Fabergé eggs. Everything here is intricately detailed and perfect, a bit like the town itself.
One of the most spectacular buildings in Baden Baden is its casino. Its extravagantly ornate interiors qualify as ‘ jawdropping’, even if the regulars at the gambling tables appear to have got used to the sight. Gambling here is a restrained affair, shorn of the Hollywood razzmatazz, an interesting way to pass the time rather than a desperate lurch at making a quick fortune. The Russian great Fyodor Dostoyevsky lived in this town and frequented the casino; he may have simply been ‘ researching’ his novel The Gambler.