Aussichtsturm Merkur

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    • Day 44

      Baden Baden

      October 4, 2022 in Germany ⋅ 🌧 61 °F

      What a difference a day makes. We arrived in pouring rain to our apartment across the street from the spas. There wasn't anything to do EXCEPT go to a spa on a day like this. But the lines were over an hour long at 4:00 on a Sunday, so we decided to chill a bit and try later. We went back at 5, and the lines were now an hour and a half long and the negative reviews on Google Maps and Facebook were rolling in. Uh Oh. But we did arrive on the night before German Unity Day, a national holiday. And it was raining all day. I checked in at 6 and the lines were still too long at Caracalla spa, the new one. The reviews for the traditional spa, Friedrichsbad, were so horrible we decided against going there. They jacked up the price and took away the included brush and soap massage that has been standard for decades "because of Covid." But they didn't mind putting people in small saunas and steam rooms while charging 20 percent more.

      So, we had dinner and drank some wine and decided to go early the next morning. And what a difference a day makes. The Caracalla spa opens at 8 and we made it in by 8:15. Hardly anyone was there until 11, and even then it didn't get too crowded. We paid extra to get into the sauna area, which like most spas in Germany is a clothes verboten area. No biggie. We're veterans now. We spent 7 hours there and moved between pools and saunas of varying temperatures and even cooled off outside naked as the sun came out. Lunch at the cafe in our suits was pretty reasonable and delicious. I had trout in a brown butter lemon sauce for the same price or cheaper as in town.

      Next to, and behind the spa is a grade school on a hill. From their upper floors, they can see into the spa area. But given the average age here, why would they? I looked out and could see them playing ping pong, totally oblivious to us naked old people.

      Since the sun was out for the first time in a week, we enjoyed a long stroll through town afterwards. And yes, we had our clothes on. Lots of rich people have vacationed here and many built mansions in the late 1800's. The heyday here was probably 1880. At that time, there were twice as many hotel rooms in town, and right now, there are a LOT. There are lots of Russians and Cyrillic signage also. Many Russians have settled here since a Russian Czar married a woman from Baden Baden 120 or so years ago. And so lots of businesses are now run by Russians, including the owner of our apartment. It doesn't hurt that this is the warmest spot in Germany.

      Next door to our apartment is the Fabrege Egg museum. These exquisitely crafted jewels are pretty amazing to look at, but we opted out when we saw the price of the museum was about $27. Most museums in Germany are in the $10 range. We both ran for the door as I yelled "Last one out is a Russian egg!" Many people wonder how we can afford to travel so much. The big secret is to not pay for any bullshit.

      So we strolled some more past the casino for the rich and famous and admired the gardens on the Lichtentaller Allee, and drank some mineral water from the source at the Trinkhalle, a fresco lined arcade.

      Today, we went back to the same spa for the morning only and there were even fewer people. What a great feeling to go from a super hot wood-fired sauna to the 'ole bucket of cold water on the head. They have one rigged up that auto fills with water and has a handle on the side to tip it. Then it's off to the cold pool and the next thing you know, you're blissed out.

      And we finally took part in one of the Aufguss ceremonies. There are signs posted in spas with starting times for certain saunas that will have particular aroma ceremonies. It's a bit of a deal. The Aufguss master opens the doors to a sauna 15 or so minutes early to cool it off and then at the exact hour, he closes the doors and adds the water scented with the aformentioned oil to the sauna in a great display. Then he waves a huge fan around the room and in front of each person a few times to reallly stir up the new heat. It's exhilarating. I started counting bodies when we were doing this. It was me, Deanne, and 10 old dudes! They must have loved it. At the end, everyone claps and jumps in cold water.

      It got even warmer outside today, so we walked through a residential area to a small mountain/ large hill just outside of town. We walked to the funicular and paid our 6 Euros each for the round trip ticket that saved us a few hours of hiking. After getting off, we went up to the top of an observation tower and had amazing views. To the west was a flat plain, the Rhine River valley and beyond it, France. To the south was the start of the fabled Black Forest, a protected hilly area covered in trees. That's a rarity in Europe. North Woods Wisconsinites would say "meh" but from this vantage point, it's pretty impressive.

      Tomorrow, we head south to Freiburg, one of Madison's sister cities.

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