A Trip-Trip to Baden-Baden

From Köln it takes about 2.5 hours to make it to Baden-Baden, with a short stop-over in Karlsruhe. The French influence is still present here, as this was French-controlled territory after WWII, and France itself is only 10 Kilometers away. Baden-Baden would probably be a different experience, I told my wife, if one were rich.  I window-shopped and saw a wristwatch on sale for €27,000.  There was a cheaper one for a respectable €5000. Rumor has it Egyptian president Muhammad Mubarak comes once a year to stay in a €300/night 5-Star hotel…

…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.

Thin ice
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.)

Send one up
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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.

River
Baden-Baden

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.

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