…so with my lunch money of €10 and my radio kit in tow, I ventured through the crowds of Swiss, Italian and French tourists to meet a colleague from Southwest German Radio.
Eager Germans created their own ice rink…couldn’t wait for a real freeze.
The town itself is relatively small, though beautifully entwined with nature. A 2km green-space stretches through the center of Baden-Baden, following a river and prime real estate. Museums, villas, hotels, and posh shops are visible and forgettable in this beautiful wood. In summers, a rose garden blooms with rose bushes brought from many locales over many years. One planted inside the gate was from 1954.
The signs of President Obama’s visit still linger. A NATO conference was held there a while back, so manholes were sealed, lamp-posts secured (any maintenance panels were welded shut), etc, etc. But this place is used to accommodating VIPs…it was where many Roman emperors came to relieve pains; the Prussian Queen came to return to health; and Russian writer Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler while compulsively gambling in the local casino. (Russians are still a big part of the tourist culture…some signs are even written in Russian.)
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Some may call Baden-Baden multi-cultural while others may say schizophrenic. Does one really need 2-Badens to make the point it is a bath/spa town? The state of Baden-Württemberg (of which Baden-Baden is a part) was a union of two distinct cultures after all. And with its Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) the town has taken a Bavarian name…Christkindlsmarkt. Maybe it is more charming to mimic Bavarians.
The whole reason for my trip, though, was to meet with Holger Schmidt, a correspondent and terrorism expert for the public radio system in Germany. He graciously gave me a tour of the town, and brought me to the studio for a visit…bringing my total of “visited-German-media-outlets” to a respectable 6. (4 public media, 1 private TV, and 1 magazine.)
With this trip to Baden-Baden coming on the heels of a good visit to Munich, I am looking forward to living for a time in Germany’s south. It is certainly different, and has its own tastes, but it will also add to my greater understanding of the German identity. Which, too, seems a bit schizophrenic.
Maybe a schizophrenic Baden-Baden gave me a preview of what a closer look at Germany may show. Padded rooms not included.