Hello and welcome to Stephen’s European Travel Blog 2.0, now on a new site, and with more pictures! After a 6-year hiatus from my study abroad in Copenhagen, which I may have mentioned briefly to one or two of you at some point, I’m back in Europe and ready to fuck shit up like its 2011. Question is, IS EUROPE READY FOR ME!??
I’m currently living in Germany in a southeastern town called Baumholder, or as the Germans call it, “Where?” I’m here until the end of June; mostly I do a bunch of office work before going back to my room to watch Netflix buffer for 80 minutes and make sure I’m up to date on the facebook posts of people I never talk to, but this past weekend I finally had the opportunity to go somewhere cool.
I decided to go to Baden-Baden, a spa town known for its thermal springs that was settled by the Romans. It was originally called Baden, which means bath, but then a bunch of other German towns with baths also called themselves Baden (not cool guys), so in order to fix it the inhabitants were just like, fuck it, we’ll call it Baden-Baden. We’ve got twice as much bath as those other singular Badens. How you like us now?
That’s 100% true, I did not make that up. Seriously, look it up. Here’s a Google image of the town:
I left early in the morning to start the 4-hour train ride to Baden-Baden. Its only a 2-hour drive, but Baumholder is so out of the way that it takes twice as long to get anywhere by train. It like barely makes the cutoff to be connected to the rail network.
I had three goals for my trip: get a bunch of dope location pictures with my new DSLR camera, check out the city and the Roman spa, and snag an irresistable new tinder pic to start racking up those right-swipes with the German Frauen.
I got to Baden-Baden around 10 and started checking out the town. Pretty much everything worth seeing is within a 15-minute walk, so I was able to grab some sweet around-the-town pics in fairly short order.
I was a little disappointed about the weather, which was overcast, unlike the beautiful blue skies that Google had led me to believe covered Baden-Baden 365 days a year.
Downtown Baden-Baden is a picteresque network of cobblestone pedestrian roads lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants; the town and its buildings are very old and it looks exactly how you would picture it. There are a couple churches; there’s ruins of a castle overlooking the city; there’s a river running through it with bridges crossing every couple blocks. It’s a charming, quaint town that feels straight out of a postcard or a novel.
And there’s one other thing I really started to notice as I walked around:
Everyone here is old as fuck.
Everywhere I looked was another geriatric. The average age was like 75. I had a longer remaining lifespan than any like 8 people chosen at random added together. I started abandoning my search for beautiful location shots in favor of documenting all the people clinging to the edge of life:
I guess a quiet old spa town surrounded by natural beauty in which everything is within a non-fatiguing 10-minute walk sounds like a pretty attractive destination for retirees. I’m sure that when I’m 80 years old and my whole body hurts, I could do worse than a city in which the main attraction is spending 3 hours wading around in a hot tub and then taking a nap.
I was joined around noon by my one fellow coworker who was also able to take the day off to come visit Germany’s hottest destination for over-60s, which was nice because I had someone to walk around with, as well as snap some excellent candid shots:
Her name is V (for Vendetta); she didn’t want me to post any of the pictures she was in (idk why, they were so candid), but she definitely, 100% exists and was there.
After walking around and grabbing lunch at a cafe (where I made a great Snap story, hope you caught it), we eventually made it up Mt. Merkur, a mountain about a 15 minute bus ride from downtown that gives an excellent view of the town and surrounding countryside. There’s a cable car up (obviously, otherwise 80% of the tourists would have a heart attack before they reached the summit), and at the top there’s a beer garden, an observation tower, a playground, and a bunch of people paragliding from a little grassy lawn. It was really cool to watch them take off and float around in the sky, really looked like the most amazing experience. The whole time I so badly wanted to see one of them to just eat it in the treetops.
Here I came the closest in my quest for dope epic landscape pictures so far, though I don’t really know how to work my camera still, so I think I could have gotten better shots had I known what I was doing. So, the quest continues.
After Mt. Merkur, the only thing left to check out was the thing the city was named for: the spa. There’s two main spas in Baden-Baden (that’s why there’s just the two Badens in the name): one modern one, and one more classic Roman one, which has been around for 140 years, called Friedrichsbad. The spas are fully nude, and 4 days of the week they mix men and women, and the other 3 days they are separated. Saturday is a seperated day, which was pretty lucky for me and Guy Fawkes because that would have taken the spa experience from pleasantly boundary-pushing to awkward as fuck.
Obviously you can’t take a camera around with you (maybe a Go Pro? I didn’t ask), so I will do my best to recreate the experience as vividly as possible using only the power of words. Warning, there’s no pictures for, like, 7 paragraphs. That’s pretty much all the pictures, actually, so you might want to just bail now.
The spa experience consists of 3.5 hours, walking through a series of 14 different stations. The water is from natural springs, and supposedly has healing mineral properties, which I might believe if my mind was really old and not working super well anymore. Its only like 30 Euro, so, really not a bad price for what I assume is one of the top spa experiences in the world.
Once you’re inside, you really feel like you’re in a different place. It feels very much like you are insulated from the outside world; it’s almost dreamlike. The staff is very professional (which is good, because nobody likes to deal with rude staff when their balls are hanging out), its all made of stone, and every room has a glass domed ceiling. The lighting is natural and you can’t really tell where its coming from. Its very quiet. It really feels like you are in an ancient Roman bathhouse.
It starts off with a couple saunas with these heated wooden lawn chair type things. There’s no instructions and there was nobody else in there, so I was like, well, I guess I’ll just lay down on one of these hot-ass wooden lawn chairs. After laying there for about 5 minutes, I started thinking, hang on, how many old naked dudes have laid on this thing before me today? Just as I thought this, another guy came in and laid his little linen towel down first, and that’s when I understood – oh I see, I’m the idiot foreigner laying his bare ass on the common heated chair like a goddamn savage. Sorry everyone.
After that comes the “soap and brush massage,” which is where you get to lay down and have some 40 year old dude brush your entire body and then lather you up with his bare fucking hands. And it’s exactly as completely uncomfortable as it sounds. I walk in and the dude gestures to lay down on the little massage table and I say (hoping against hope) “face down?” and he’s like, no, face up. So I lay on my back, my junk just chilling, while this guy gives me something that was 50% bath, 50% massage, and 100% weird as fuck.
While it was all uncomfortable, by far the most uncomfortable point was when he rubbed my stomach. Who wants a stomach rub? In any context? When was the last time you thought to yourself, gosh, my stomach muscles are so tense, I could really use a soapy rub-down, from an older male stranger. Luckily he carried on a conversation in German with his coworker the whole time, so it wasn’t like I was laying there in a deafening silence broken only my the slick sounds of his soapy, practiced hands and strangely heavy breathing. Small blessings. I kept thinkin, “I paid money for this.” It lasted about 5-10 minutes, and needless to say I was quite relieved when it was over.
The whole point of this spa is “ultimate relaxation.” This was station #3, and so far, I wasn’t really feeling it.
From there on, thankfully, there was a lot more saunas and pools of varying temperatures and a lot less man-on-man belly rubbing. They raised your body temperature through progressively hotter saunas and then cooled you down through progressively cooler (spring-fed, healing mineral-infused) pools. Little signs on the wall reminded you to stay quiet and suggested how long to spend at each station, though you were free to do whatever you wanted at your own pace. Finally at the very end, after you dry off, the last station is just a room full of beds where you go take a nap. That was my favorite station. Apparently the staff on V’s side wrapped her up in blankets – what!? I didn’t get that shit! All I got was a double-dose of soapy tummy rubs!
Baths aren’t really normally my thing, so I was out after about 2 hours rather than the alloted 3, but, I did feel pretty relaxed at the end. Even with the soap-and-brush personal space invasion, it was overall a good experience that I would recommend. When in Rome, right?
That about finished it up for Baden-Baden; we got some dinner and checked out the (MASSIVE) night life of Baden-Baden (shit was POPPING OFF), which consisted mainly of one (DOPE AS FUCK) latin-themed bar playing more Sean Paul songs than I knew existed,
before passing out for 6 hours so we could catch a train back to Baumholder that got back at a semi-reasonable time.
And that’s it for post #1! Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading! Here’s hoping I will get out of work at least one more time before I go, and this won’t be my first and only post!