Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Black Forest: Baden Baden

There are three very important things one must do in Baden Baden. The first is to take a dip in their thermal spas. Baden actually means 'to bathe'. The repetitious title means 'go bathe immediately'! Ok that bit's not true but what is true is that back-packers really should take any opportunity they can to wash themselves. So shortly after checking in to our hostel, we headed for Caracalla Spa. It was a thermal paradise! Bubbling whirlpools, counter-current pools, massaging water jets and a sauna complex for the ultimate schvitzing experience.

Many a famous person has come here to find relief for their ailments. However, neither of us really had any ailments requiring treatment...except one maybe. Unlike Jez who has no problem stripping off in public, TZ is somewhat more modest. Now you wouldn't have thought that modesty is an ailment but in some parts of Caracalla it most certainly was.

The Roman Sauna-scape was located in the penthouse and required guests to leave their clothes at the door or take their clothes and get out. So we decided that when in a Roman Sauna-scape... Well we obliged and stripped off, TZ clinging for dear life to her towel. We hopped into the first available sauna which was empty. Towels were quickly whipped off and we lay on the hot wooden benches. After about 30 seconds we decided it was too hot and put our towels back on and left.

We headed to the bar where we could celebrate TZ's brave initiation into nudism. There was only one problem. When the bar tender asked us to pay, Jez politely asked; "and where am I supposed to keep my credit card?"

The second important thing that one needs to do in Baden Baden is eat Black Forest cake. Here Jez samples the cake with a twist - white icing! TZ went for another local favourite - Kirsch cake. The lesson here is that it's best to eat cake after parading around like jaybirds.

According to the Frau at our hostel, the Black Forest is "savage". Well we all knew that. Hansel and Gretal were nearly baked to death in a witch's oven!
We were feeling brave though. We had come all the way down here to explore the forest and no Frau was going to stop us. So we took a bus to a place called Mumelsee.

On arrival, we were greeted by a billy goat - a sign we were definitely on the right track.

A quick photoshoot with a green neptune (which by the way we didn't have to pay for!) and we were ready to go.

On entering the forest something strange happened. It began to get rather cold and the visibility wasn't so flash either. We started to wonder if we should be throwing pebbles along the way to help us find our way back...

Hand in hand we made our way up into the depths of the forest unsure what we were looking for or where we were going. We felt relief when finally a sign post appeared before us pointing us to a place called Hornisgrinde. The highest mountain in the northern Black Forest. When we arrived at the summit though, we discovered the true meaning of Hornisgrinde: Boggy, Barren Peak. nothing to see here.

Not only was there absolutely NOTHING to see but a thick veil of fog, it rained heavily. Did no one think to tell us that this was Germany's wettest area and that MAYBE an umbrella would have been a handy item to take? Hmmm maybe when Frau said "savage" she was referring to the weather?

So we left and returned to much better weather in Baden Baden to indulge in the final important item on our to do list: visiting their casino. Now, this is no ordinary casino. Fashioned on the French Royal palace and historically a meeting point for nobles, Germany's oldest casino was definitely a draw card for the JeTZ.

We treated ourselves to a Japanese dinner followed by dessert in an outdoor fare.

On entering the casino we had to show our passports - which we forgot. On take two we arrived with our passports in hand. Once we had made it past the interrogation counter, Jez had a bit of sprucing up to do. He hired a suit jacket with a broken button and a black and white striped tie. There, now he looked like French Royalty!

Before rolling any dice, we decided to have a drink at the bar. In an ironic twist, Jez ordered TZ a glass of Moet. If you are not sure why that is ironic, go back and read the last two blogs.

Jez played a few rounds of Black Jack but got a bit fed up when a crazy Chinese woman standing behind him kept trying to tell him how to play his cards. The JeTZ' back pockets were 60 Euros lighter, so TZ gallantly tried win it all back at the Roulette table. Several minutes later and another 44 Euros down, she left with a miserly 6 Euros. The JeTZ lamented their losses over more drinks at the bar and left feeling a little less noble than when they had walked in.

Coming up, TZ finally discovers her long lost heritage - the birth place of cuckoo clocks and presumably cuckoo people...

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