A quick drive and we’re in Germany
The ease of moving around European countries is evident again today as we make a border crossing from Strasbourg into Germany in a matter of mere minutes. The only sign that we are transitioning from one country to the next this morning is a change of language and spelling on the road signs and buildings that we pass.
There was one other significant factor that highlighted that we were now in Germany. Speed. Plenty of it. The moment you cross onto the autobahn, the speed of the cars goes off the richter. Having driven in Germany before, I know they are fast, but we’ve been mooching around France for quite a bit, so it feels even faster. Even the Italians, who are known to be a little speedy too, have nothing on the Germans.
Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes and Audis all race by our motorhome at speeds of 200km or more. You know they are going fast when the entire 3.5 tonne of the motorhome shudders as they whizz by. Even the little hatchbacks don’t let the bigger cars dominate them, zipping along at a swift pace. The slow ones are still doing 130km.
This is one country where you can’t sit out in the fast lane, going at your own pace, and not expect to have all manner of lights flashing and horns blowing. The fact is though that everyone here knows how to drive and they have grown up in a culture of respecting how the motorways work.
Arriving in Baden-Baden
My loyalties seem to be waivering a little. I hope you won’t think of me as being shallow! As I lurch from one beautiful town to the next, I find myself developing new favourites. Baden-Baden is at the top of my list today.
This was to be the only German town we visited on this particular trip, but we had chosen it quite deliberately.
As a town nestled in the Black Forest, it has a reputation for being one of the world’s greatest spa-towns. It was this feature that particularly interested me. Ever since we had been introduced to thermal spas in Hungary, I must admit to having a soft spot for them. There’s nothing quite like being in 38 degree water whilst the temperature around you hovers around ten degrees or less.
Baden-Baden sits about 40 km north-east of Strasbourg, making it an easy day trip if you were based in the French city and had a yearning to have a dip in the thermal waters. The name is derived from the word “bad” meaning bath, and had to adopt the double name as a means of setting it apart from other “Badens” found in Europe. It’s thermal baths that are open to the public are fed from the hot springs that flow underneath the town.
Whilst I had not heard of Baden-Baden before, it was clear I was behind the times. Celebrities, politicians and the rich and famous have long frequented this town, coming in search of rest and relaxation. With a fancy casino, a perfectly manicured town full of wonderful old buildings, and of course the thermal baths, there is plenty to help you relax. There’s also great shopping and apparently a good golf course. (I wouldn’t know about the quality given I am not a golf fan!)
There’s something special about German pork knuckles
Now I know many might think we are strange, but this was also one of the reasons we wanted to spend a day in Germany. Sure, we wouldn’t have travelled hours for this, but with our location so close to the German border, and a desire to visit Baden-Baden, we were able to tick this off our to-do list.
In previous trips to Germany, we have tried and tested a number of pork knuckles, which are roasted slowly over many hours. To get our pork knuckle today, we stopped by the Gasthaus Lowenbrau. It was raining and a little cool outside, so we took respite inside in the warm dining room, which still offered a view over the delightful beer garden. Today, it was quiet, but one could easily imagine it filled to the rafters with partying beer drinkers, especially during Oktoberfest.
To the great amusement of our wonderful waiter, we ordered the following :
- Ganze Schweinshaxe mit Semmelknödel and Krautsalat. Simply, a pork knuckle with bread dumpling and cabbage salad.
- Riesenfleischerfrikadelle. In their words, BIG meatballs, with bavarian cabbage and roast potatoes.
I say amusement, because I suspect he thought we were new to German cuisine and that we were unsure of what we had ordered. This was further cemented in my mind when three waiters came to deliver our meals. The pork knuckle came with it’s own entourage it seemed ! I think they wanted to see the foreigner who had ordered the huge meal.
I do have to say however that it was enormous, and by the time we washed it down with some Lowenbrau and Wiesenmass there was definitely no room for dessert.
Time to relax
By the time we finished lunch, we were so heavy we could barely move. Thank goodness all we really had planned for the rest of the day was to visit the spa.
In Baden-Baden, there is a choice of two main thermal baths. It’s very important that you don’t go to the first one you see. Why? Because the Friedrichsbad is a ‘clothes off’ type of venue. It’s the oldest baths in town, set in an historic building, which also contains the 2000 year old bath ruins underneath. That being so, it still requires visitors to de-robe, so if getting your gear off in public isn’t your thing, best to try the other one.
The other is Caracalla Spa, and what it lacks in history, it more than makes up for it with 4,000 m2 of modern spa complex. And of course, everyone has their swimming attire on.
The thermal pools here range from 18 degrees to 38 degrees. I made the mistake of going into one spa which was delightfully hot, only to realise that the only way out was in the 18 degree pool. That wasn’t a pleasant experience at all! Inside there are a variety of thermal pools, a rock grotto, saunas and steam baths. Outdoors, there are more pools of varying degrees, a water current channel, water massagers and whirlpools.
Those who use the pools, sometimes daily, do so often because they believe in the therapeutic benefits of the mineral rich waters. If I lived here, I think I would be willing to follow their lead.
I restrained myself from swimming in the pool this time. I remember in Komarom, Hungary, I swam through a pool. The looks from the locals who were peacefully lounging around the edges told me this wasn’t something that was normally done. Instead (and probably because of all the food in my body) I was happy to just move slowly and sit around the edges myself.
A 1.5 hour visit to the spa (which includes the sauna) costs €15 per person. For an additional €1, you can get an extra 30 minutes. A day ticket costs €23. We paid for the 2 hours, which allowed us some time to get changed and have showers (both before and after entering the pools), but this was more than enough time. If you’re like me and linger probably way too much in the hot pools, then your body is well and truly heated after an hour or so.
There are also other services available such as massages and beauty treatments, all of which are priced individually. For further details, visit their website Caracalla Spa.
Unfortunately I have no photos of us frolicking around this great venue as cameras are prohibited to protect everyone’s privacy.
Feeling like jelly now that we had spent our glorious time lolling about, we walked…..slowly…..throughout this beautiful town, finally coming to rest at the Amadeus Bar where we could sip on a glass of riesling. But not before we had sampled a few chocolates at some of the fancy shops along the main shopping street.
Review of Baden-Baden Aires de Service
Baden Baden Stellplatz Wohnmobilparkplatz
Baden Baden, Germany
- Room for 28 motorhomes to park. Pitches are 5m x 10m.
- Animals are permitted.
- Motorhomes only. 4 nights is the maximum stay permitted.
- Open all year round.
- Self service payment – €12 to park for 24 hours. An attendant does come around to check so ensure you have your ticket prominently displayed on your windscreen.
- Clean, safe, well lit and very well maintained.
- Hard, gravel pitches.
- A bikeway connects the site and the centre of Baden-Bade, approximately 3.5km away.
- Unlike a usual Aire de Service that has one central area for services, each pitch has access to continual electricity. Machines take €0.50 coins only. The machine charges at a rate of €.50 per kilowatt. This is the most generous supply of electricity that we have seen. We put in €1.50 which started in the late afternoon and kept going well through the night, and into the next day.
- Dumping of waste water and toilets can be conducted at the service area at the entrance to the site. Water can also be accessed here at at a rate of €1.00 per 100 litres.
- Quick walk to bus stop (Worthstrasse) Catch #201 to Leopoldsplatz which is in the city centre. Buses come regularly and take about 10 minutes to reach the centre. One way costs €2.30
- At the small shed at the entrance, up to date local information is posted on the noticeboard. Here you can also find bicycles for hire.