You can tell a lot about our age and our general travel history by knowing we are still amazed that travel within the EU is so easy. And you can also tell we’ve been in France a while when Germany seemed awfully foreign to us when we visited today.
The road signs were configured differently, and everything we are now used to about French roads was of little use to us. But we managed – in the space of an hour – to find ourselves today in the lovely spa city of Baden-Baden. The gardens have been well-preserved, and the feeling is just like it was 100 years ago, judging from the pictures. As always, the thermal waters are very unpleasant, so must be good for you.
During the 19th century, the town became the meeting place for celebrities, who were attracted by the hot springs as well as by the famous Baden-Baden Casino, the luxury hotels, the horse races, and the gardens. Visitors included Queen Victoria, Wilhelm I, Brahms, Turgenev, Napoleon III and Dostoyevsky. Baden-Baden is a setting in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (though the city is given a different name). Baden-Baden at that time was nicknamed the European summer capital. Today, much Russian money still flows through the town, and many rubles find this a safe investment haven.
(By the way, if you have ever wondered about the name, think of it just like New York, New York – a city within a region.)
It was spared during both world wars and is quite a lovely place. There are remnants of the Roman baths and gracious belle epoque homes. We knew we weren’t in France, yet there was definitely a familiar charm to this city. Plus, they serve schnitzel and black forest cake. Among all the confections, however, there are some reminders of the past that are not so pleasant, like markers outside homes where Jews were deported. It is the combination of all these things that make Germany a bittersweet place to visit, at least for us.