Baden-Baden spreads leisurely at the heart of the Oos Valley, along a small tributary of the Rhine. This sprezzatura is characteristic of antiquated fashionable spa-towns. Baden-Baden, however, came out well from the “thermal transition” and has always remained, ever since the Antiquity, a small, but dynamic city. Indeed, the Romans first made the most of its hot water-springs, which are now operated by two luxury thermal resorts, with numerous spa offers. Go and visit the ruins of the Roman thermal system, under the Römerplatz.
60 km away from Strasbourg and 40 km away from Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden is a quiet, soothing place; it is commonly said that, no matter where in the city you are, you can walk less than 2 km and reach the woods.
Starting from the end of the 18th century, the city was thriving and its hot-springs attracted the European jet-set. Jacques Bénazet, a French businessman and the “king of Bade”, built a casino there in the 19th century and every important European figure, ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Tolstoy, came there to try their luck. For the Russians, of course, it is an aristocratic holiday resort, on their way to the Côte d’Azur. Dostoevsky was born there, and, like Menton, its twin town, Baden-Baden has its Christian Orthodox church, built and consecrated in the middle of the 19th century, thanks to generous donations from Slavic wealth holders.
Baden-Baden is put under the spotlight of History in 1945, when it hosts the headquarters of French forces in Germany. At that time, there are about 5 000 French citizens in the western part of the city, for whom the authorities build schools and high schools, supermarkets, and so on. Baden-Baden sets its clocks on French time.
Nowadays, Baden-Baden recovered the charm and quietness that made it famous in its heyday. All you have to do is to walk on the wonderful 300-year-old Lichtentaler Allee and past the Belle Epoque luxury hotels to see it. The famous New York architect Richard Meier however added a modern touch to this green spot and built in 2004 the Frieder Burda Museum, named after a great German contemporary art collector, honorary citizen of the town. This museum, which can easily bear comparison with the most renowned ones, hosts great comprehensive surveys every year, in minimalistic setting: Chagall in 2006, Mirò in 2010, Nolde in 2013, and so on. This dynamic program is an invitation to an enriching Sunday stroll.
From the Trinkhalle to the Römerplatz, the numerous little shops downtown let you wander through the ancient small streets at a senator’s pace. Enjoy a delicious teatime at the 250-year-old Koenig café, whose cake display will make those with a sweet tooth go nuts. And the specialty, of course: the Black Forest cake, as Baden-Baden is the starting point of the famous Black Forest road.
Feeling like having a prestigious lunch? Stop at the Wintergarten, one of the restaurants of the Brenners Park Hotel & Spa, a superb five-star hotel with a view on the Lichtentaller Allee and enjoy the setting. It spreads under a glass roof, far from the flow of time, framed in verdant space. The menu is made according to the available seasonal local products, with a Mediterranean twist. In a spirit of respect for everyone’s taste and constraints, it also offers vegan dishes, lactose- and gluten-free. Sophisticated, but not intimidating, the setting of the Wintergarten is under the care of a discreet, pleasant and considerate staff. A muted and chic atmosphere, where the Belle Epoque and the present mingle and a seductive gastronomy are essential to the cultural identity of Baden-Baden.
Take advantage of the summer to see Heimat, famous German TV trilogy, produced from the end of the 70s to 2004, with a theater movie last year. Heimat is an unprecedented project that traces one family from Hunsrück, in Rhenania, from 1919 until today. The second part, Die zweite Heimat, is about a young man, Hermann, who left the country milieu of Hunsrück for the big city and becomes a famous contemporary composer. If you go to Baden-Baden, follow Hermann, who, in the 60s, was at the Brenners too, where many scenes were shot…
Find all my pics of Baden-Baden on my Instagram account, @eurofluence !