I’m not sure Bill was remembering what today is, when he decided he wanted to go out for lunch. It’s Mother’s Day in Germany, just as it is in the USA. Having been a waitress in a prior life, I knew what that could mean for those who wanted to go out to eat. But Bill was gone for eight nights, and we were hankering for a date somewhere, so he decided to book us lunch at Rocco’s Italian Grill & Bar in Bad Soden.
We’ve been to this restaurant a few times, having discovered it, and the wonderful spa town it’s in, a few years ago on OpenTable.de. We love the bar in this restaurant, and when it’s nice outside, it’s pleasant to sit outdoors and people watch. Today, because of the clouds, I determined that I wanted to sit inside. I figured it would be packed… and it was very busy, but not fully booked.
Parking in Bad Soden is generally difficult. We made a few passes before Bill finally let me out so he could find a spot. He remembered where the relatively hidden parkdeck was. That was a blessing, as there were several spots open there. Lots of other people were trying to park at the same time we were and having no success. Bill said he saw a sign indicating that the parkdeck would be closed starting tomorrow through July. Guess we won’t be back to Bad Soden for awhile! 😉 We made today count, anyway…
We decided to eat indoors, mainly because I didn’t want it to rain on my new wool dress. Bill got dressed up, which meant I had to dress up, too. He wanted to see how his injured foot would do in dress shoes, since he’s going back to the office tomorrow. He seemed to do fine in his business casual attire.
As I mentioned up post, the restaurant was busy, but not totally full. Lots of families were out with their kids. A table near us was loaded with kids and a dog who protested a few times from under the table. At another table near us, I watched the young girl go to the bathroom about a half dozen times within the span of an hour. A couple of times, she took her mom with her. I won’t lie. That made me a little nervous, but it turns out there was no need. As usual, the food was top notch.
I had a 300 gram U.S. Prime Rib-Eye steak with a side of mashed potatoes. It was cooked to a perfect medium, and topped with rosemary. Bill went with veal spare ribs, which came with barbecue sauce and fries. We had a lovely Malbec and a bottle of sparkling water to help wash things down. Before we got out main courses, we had wonderful, hot, fresh olive bread with aioli and huge green olives with peppers.
If we’d wanted to, we could have had pizza or pasta, fish, burgers, or something vegan or vegetarian. But Rocco’s really seems to specialize in steaks and ribs. On prior visits, we’ve had other choices of ribs and steaks. They’re always outstanding.
I got some photos of our lunch, which culminated in delightful desserts. I had a red velvet lava cake with cream cheese frosting. Bill had an almond and cherry ice cream parfait. I normally don’t like lava cakes, but this one was different, as it wasn’t the usual chocolate.
I’d like to spend more time in Bad Soden. It’s a beautiful town, with nice restaurants and a lovely park. Parking can be quite a pain there, though, as we were reminded of again today.
I think lunch ran about 200 euros or so. We paid with a card. It was pretty noisy, mainly because of the young children who were dining. When the families near us left, the decibel level went down by about half. But everybody seemed to be having a very nice time. As usual, I can only recommend Rocco’s, although there are some other restaurants in Bad Soden I’m hoping to try.
Some time ago, I started following a Facebook group dedicated to sharing pictures of Hessen and day trip ideas. People were sharing photos that reminded me of how much fun Bill and I used to have pre-COVID, visiting different places, eating in restaurants, and enjoying our weekends. Bad Homburg, which is a spa town just north of Frankfurt, is about a half hour drive for us. People in the Hessen Facebook group often share pictures of it, making me think it was a place I wanted to see.
Today was the perfect day for a visit, as we had beautiful, sunny weather, and pleasant temperatures. So, off we went this afternoon, after Bill had confirmed there were restaurants that didn’t take a pause after lunch. As usual, we got a late start that put us at our destination after prime lunch hours. He also found a well-rated parking garage. This was important, as when he arrived at the garage, he found it pretty hard to maneuver our SUV into a spot without parking over the line! He tried several spots before he finally got the car in without encroaching. I shudder to think about the poorly rated garages in Bad Homburg!
Just outside of the garage, I could tell we were in for a treat. Just coming into the city, you pass imposing looking tower gates. I also noticed that the Christmas market stalls were already going up, and they were all over town! I bet this will be a great destination when the markets open for the holiday season! I loved the tower on the Schloss grounds, and the saying at the gate “Walk in like you mean it.” I also loved the awesome cedar tree outside the gate. This castle dates from the 12th century, although all but the keep were demolished by Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg. The castle that exists today was built in the 1680s.
First, we walked up to the Schloss, which offered beautiful views and finally, some fall foliage, which I feel like I’ve missed since summer ended. Not only did I get some pretty photos, I also got a chance to use the bathroom, and it was FREE! That was lucky! Below are some photos from around the Schloss. We could have toured it if we’d wanted to, but we were short on time and needed lunch.
After the Schloss, we visited a couple of churches– Erlöserkirche, a Protestant church that dates from 1908, and the Church of St. Mary, a Catholic church. Both were beautiful in their own rights, but I also loved the gay friendly vibe at the Catholic church. I liked how the inside of the Protestant church glittered as if it was studded with gold. The Catholic church was a little more modern looking, but still very welcoming and comfortable, with the smell of incense in the air. The town itself, especially near the churches, reminded me a lot of France.
Bill lit a candle for his father, and then we made our way to a restaurant called Pane e Vino, an Italian place with a full menu and bar, and no afternoon pause! I had grilled salmon with potatoes and spinach, while Bill had veal scallopini with potatoes and pea pods. We washed it down with Primitivo and San Pellegrino, and enjoyed the convivial mood of the place, then finished with a glass of Merlot for me, and an espresso for Bill. We also had complimentary limoncellos as digestives! Check out the cool mural on the ceiling in the restaurant! Lunch came to about 65 euros, before the tip, but we had a couple of the pricier dishes.
We walked around a bit more, stopping to tip a violin busker, who was playing Mozart and Vivaldi, enhancing the European ambiance with his talents. Then we went to the Kurpark for a short stroll, as the sun was starting to set. I got a kick out of the statue of Dostoyevsky, who looked like he was thinking real hard. I found myself wishing we had gotten going earlier in the day. Bad Homburg has a lot to see. Next time, we’ll come on a Saturday, and I’ll get a better shot of the potted tree on the way in. I want to come back just to check out that Feinkost!
We will definitely have to go back for a longer visit. This is a really lovely, elegant, classy town with a different feel. I’m glad we didn’t miss it after living here for four years. I want to see more!
Bill and I never managed to venture out yesterday, because I was waiting for a package from Amazon. I decided I wanted to get an ultrasonic cleaner for my jewelry, glasses, and dentures… Actually, I only have one implant, rather than dentures. But if I had false teeth, the ultrasonic cleaner could clean them for me. The package didn’t arrive until 2:00pm and by then, Bill was already firing up the grill for lunch. So we stayed home, listened to music, and drank beer.
Today, however, we were determined to get out for lunch. Bill made a 1:30 OpenTable reservation for lunch at Rocco’s Italian Grill & Bar in Bad Soden, a spa town near Frankfurt. We have been there before. Once, we ate inside, near their fabulous bar. The other time, Bill got takeout. Today, we sat outside, although the sky was overcast and it was a little chilly.
Before we went to the restaurant, we took a short stroll around the park, where a natural spring provides mineral water to all comers. Here are some photos from our stroll.
At about 1:30pm, we showed up at Rocco’s and were invited to take a seat by the servers, most of whom speak English. We decided to sit outside, despite the clouds and occasional raindrops. Sitting outside was not a bad decision on our part. Most people were sitting outside, since the temperature was agreeable. Bill and I both decided to have beef, which we’ve always gotten at Rocco’s. Pizzas, pastas, fish, and Italian specialties like burrata and vitello am tonnato are available, as are salads. But they seem to specialize in beef and barbecue, so that’s what we’ve always had so far. We did see someone with a pizza that looked excellent. Maybe next time.
Total damage for lunch was 133 euros. Bill paid with a card, including the “Trinkgeld” tip. It was a really nice, relaxing, leisurely lunch, with no fuss, no muss, and no stress. Bad Soden is a nice town anyway. I’d like to spend more time there, now that things are opening up more. We’ll see how long it lasts. COVID-19 infections are slightly higher this week at five infections per 100,000 as opposed to 4.9 infections per 100,000 a week ago. Since people are starting to travel, they may go up again.
I still need a vacation, though, so I’m looking for where we might go… Looks like this year, it could be Croatia, at long last. But we’ll see… it all depends. I’m definitely chomping at the bit to get out of here and enjoy a change of scenery for a week or so. For now, I’m glad we have spa towns like Bad Soden to visit, and nice restaurants that serve different food than what we usually eat at home.
Although we had wonderful weather again yesterday, Bill and I never managed to venture out anywhere. Instead, we stayed home and enjoyed our usual backyard wine and music. Bill also made a “savory cheesecake”, which was something I used to serve when I worked lunch shifts at The Trellis in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Trellis was started in 1980 and run by Marcel Desaulniers, John Curtis, and for some years, the late Tom Powers. Mr. Powers eventually divested himself of his share of the restaurant and opened a competitor, The Fat Canary, which is still running and very popular. When I worked at The Trellis, Mr. Powers was already out of the partnership.
Anyway, a savory cheesecake is a cheese based pastry… but it’s “savory”. It’s a cheesecake made with cream cheese and some other kind of cheese. In our case, we used Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese, but in Marcel’s cookbook, it calls for Dry Jack and Gruyeres cheeses and at the restaurant, they made it with cream cheese and Swiss.
While we were enjoying the cheesecake, Bill asked me if I would like to go out to lunch today. I said that would be fine, so we made reservations at Mangia, Mangia, an Italian eatery in Kronberg im Taunus, which is just on the outskirts of Frankfurt. Kronberg is right next to Koenigstein, which is where I had my birthday lunch in June, and not at all far from Bad Soden, a spa town that also has an Italian steak house and rib joint called Rocco’s Italian Grill.
Our reservation was at 1:00pm. We live about twenty-five minutes or so from Kronberg, so I had to hastily wrap up my guitar practice so we could get there on time. We needn’t have been so concerned. Although the terrace was bustling when we arrived, there were many tables available indoors. We decided to sit outside and enjoy the last days of summer before the weather turns to shit. There’s a parking garage very close to the restaurant, as well as an outdoor lot right by the restaurant itself.
Here are some photos from our visit.
Lunch was very good, although I probably wouldn’t get the Smokey Avo Burger again. I’m pretty picky about my burgers. Bill loved it, though, and ate what I didn’t want, as well as his own pasta dish. I think next time, I’ll go for a pasta dish or maybe grilled dorade or salmon. The pizzas also looked great, but they’re always too big for me. Despite appearances to the contrary, I don’t generally eat that much. I just drink too much. 😉
Service was a little slow, but basically friendly. I enjoyed watching and listening to the people around us. I noticed a lot of people who were there were Italians, which is always a good sign in an Italian restaurant. On Sundays, they offer non-stop service, though they take a pause on other days of the week. The inside of the restaurant is very modern and kind of glam. It looked a little like it was influenced somewhat by American tastes. The pizza bread burger buns are unique.
I noticed a young couple who appeared to be on a first or early date. They looked like they might be teenagers. It reminded Bill and me of when we had our first date, although we were well beyond the teen years when that happened. It’s hard to believe that this year, we’re going to celebrate our 18th anniversary.
After we ate, we decided to take a walk through the very quaint town, which reminded me a little of Ribeauville in Alsace, France. There are many beautiful half-timbered buildings and interesting architecture. I guess Kronberg was not too badly decimated during World War II. Here are some photos…
On the way back to the car, I noticed the garage had a pay toilet. Since I drank water and wine at lunch, I decided to spring for a pee before hitting the road. The WC wasn’t too dirty, but there was a lot of graffiti. Since I know I have at least one German reader who enjoys reading the public’s thoughts on things, here’s what was written on the walls. Who says Germans can’t be crass?
Kronberg begs for a return visit and further exploration. As nice as Hofheim was last weekend, I think I might like Kronberg even more. It’s a very ritzy town. Too bad we couldn’t take the Mini. It needs gas and air in the tires, which Bill will take care of tomorrow. Then, he’s off to Stuttgart to attend to business for a few days. Whoopee. Guess I’ll play Sims 4 and watch more Call the Midwife.
Recently, I read and reviewed Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, a scathing expose about the Trump family, particularly her Uncle Donald Trump. I read in Mary’s book that the Trumps originated in Kallstadt, a wine producing hamlet located about an hour’s drive from where Bill and I currently live. Because we had nothing better to do today, and we’ve spent far too many weekends at home since the pandemic struck, Bill and I decided to drive to the village of Kallstadt to check it out.
We had the best intentions of actually getting out and walking around there once we arrived. Unfortunately, parking was in short supply today. We also brought Arran with us. I did get some photos, though, and we took a drive through nearby Bad Dürkheim, a nice looking spa town that’s a bit bigger than Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. If we’d wanted to, we could have spent time trying and buying different wines produced in the area.
Kallstadt is currently in Rhineland-Palatinate (or Rheinland-Pfalz, if you prefer). When Trump’s grandparents, Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump, were living there, back in the 19th century, it was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Looking at a German map, it’s surprising to see just how far north Bavaria stretches. I guess I’m used to being down near Stuttgart, which is a couple of hours’ drive from the closest Bavarian border. Up here in Wiesbaden, we’re close to several other German states.
The weather didn’t turn out to be the best for walking around today. We’re about to reach Fall, which can be glorious in Germany, but can also be a bit “iffy” in terms of the weather. Anyway, I did get some photos, although that was pretty much all we got on today’s journey… I would definitely be up for another visit when the sun is out and maybe if we didn’t bring Arran. There are many Weinguts to try in the area, plus some tempting looking restaurants.
I truly meant to write more about this. I hoped we could walk around and see a lot more of the area. It just wasn’t the right day to explore Trump’s grandparents’ stomping grounds. We’ll have to go back and spend more time… and at least taste a few of the products of the region. I’d like to know Kallstadt for the products it can truly be proud of, rather than our current leader. Kallstadt is a really cute little town, though. I can see why people visit.
If you are a regular reader of my travel blog, you might know that Bill and I are big fans of Germany’s wonderful spa culture. We’ve gotten so into the spas here that we’ve even done a very unAmerican thing and indulged in the nude! Yes, that’s right… despite being decidedly middle aged and not having the best body images, Bill and I have both embraced being naked in front of other people. I don’t know how Bill feels about it, but personally, I think the nude spas are liberating and healthy, even though it took us years to finally take the plunge, so to speak.
So far, we have visited these spas:
Mineraltherme Böblingen (probably my favorite, because it has clothed and nude areas, was recently renovated, has a great restaurant, and has a lot to do)
Rhein-Main Therme in Hofheim (clothed everywhere but in the sauna and steam room area)
And finally, as of Sunday of last week, we visited the Vulkaneifel Therme in Bad Bertrich (clothed everywhere but the sauna and steam room). If you’re interested in my thoughts on and experiences at the other spas, you can easily find my posts about them in this blog. Just do a search or click the spa tags.
Because I love Germany’s decadent Thermes, I would have wanted to visit the Vulkaneifel Therme regardless of whether or not it was “special” in any way. But as I was researching the Eifel area, I came across ads for the Vulkaneifel Therme describing it as Germany’s only “Glauber’s salt” spa. What does that mean? Well, in English, Glauber’s salt is sodium sulfate, somewhat akin to what we call Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). I used to use Epsom salt a lot when I had a horse. Applied topically in hot water, it’s great for reducing inflammation, soreness, and stiffness in muscles in horses and humans. Both salts are also used as laxatives, although Epsom salt is supposedly a better drying agent than sodium sulfate is. In any case, both salts are useful for soothing muscle pain, and apparently, the Vulkaneifel Therme naturally has sodium sulfate in its water, making it different from the other spas we’ve visited.
Bill and I decided to set off early for Bad Bertrich, since we weren’t wanting to be there when it was especially busy. Bad Bertrich is also not that close to Meerfeld; it’s maybe 35 kilometers away. I had actually considered staying in Bad Bertrich when I was looking for accommodations and, as we found out when we visited on Sunday, there are a number of appealing hotels in the area. However, now that we’ve been to the spa, I can say that I’m kind of glad we stayed in Meerfeld, again because it’s quiet and unique. Bad Bertrich is very much a spa town and it’s a bit touristy, although it’s also pretty.
We arrived at the Therme at about 10:00am and parked in the large garage right across the street from it. Additional parking is located to the side of the spa. The spa’s front door is contactless; it opens as you approach. The first thing to do is fill out the contract tracing information. There’s a station on the first floor, near the elevator, as well as hand sanitizer. Once you fill out the forms, either take the stairs or the elevator to the top floor, where you pay your admission fee. You can purchase entry to just the Therme or the Therme and sauna. Bill and I aren’t big on saunas, so we opted for three hours in the Therme. In retrospect, that was more time than we really needed, since this Therme isn’t very large. If we had eaten at the restaurant and spent at least five euros, we would have been entitled to an extra hour, anyway. The cashier station is also where you can rent towels, robes, and shower shoes if you need them.
The cashier gave us the familiar “wristwatches” that one gets at almost every Therme in Germany. Strap it to your wrist. It’s your ticket for everything in the Therme, from entering and exiting the turnstiles, to locking and unlocking a locker, to paying for food and beverages or anything else that would ordinarily require money.
Next, go into the co-ed locker room. Not to worry… they have individual cubicles where you can get into your bathing suit in private. Once you’ve changed clothes, find an open locker and put your stuff in it. Close the locker door and use your watch to lock it. There are instructions in English on the inside of the locker doors at this spa. Take a quick shower, then you’re ready to go!
We enjoyed the Vulkaneifel Therme, probably because it wasn’t very crowded at all during our visit. It’s not a very big Therme, although it does offer a large soaking hot tub, an exercise pool with jets, and a large central pool with indoor and outdoor access and jets. I noticed that they didn’t turn on the external “waterfall” jets that are usually periodically turned on at Thermes for people wanting to stand under them. I guess that’s to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. The water in the exercise pool and main pools is kind of lukewarm; both were about the same temperature. Bill and I liked the exercise pool because we had it to ourselves for almost an hour and there are several powerful waterjets in the pool that are great for massaging sore backs, feet, and legs.
There were signs everywhere to remind people to wear masks and be socially distant from one another. Most people were respecting the social distance rules, but it’s hard to wear a mask in a pool environment. I was glad to see people were being sensible about that, too. I noticed people cleaning surfaces while we were there, which was reassuring to see.
After about three hours in the pools, we were pretty wrinkly, but relaxed. We didn’t try the wellness area, so I’m not sure if massages are being offered right now. I doubt they are. Anyway, we have yet to try a massage at a Therme, although we’ve had them at other places. Maybe someday, when the coronavirus is hopefully no longer such a threat, we’ll get an opportunity. We took another shower, used the watches to get our clothes, and since we didn’t buy anything in the Therme, had no need to pay the machine (much like the ones you find in a parking garage) before we put the watches in the turnstile and exited.
We walked around Bad Bertrich looking for a place to have lunch. The town does have several restaurants, but none were especially appealing to me. I wanted to have Italian food and the Italian places didn’t appear to be open at lunchtime. Several places also appeared to be closed, although I did notice that some shops were open, even though it was Sunday. I guess it’s because Bad Bertich is a touristy area. I did take some pictures of the town, which is really attractive and worth consideration for anyone who is looking for a base in the Eifel area.
Since we were unsuccessful in finding a place that appealed for lunch, we decided to leave Bad Bertrich. That turned out to be a good decision, even though it was after 1:00pm, and I was nervously eyeing the time. Remember, in Germany, a lot of places take an afternoon pause. If you don’t get to a restaurant before 2:00pm, you may be out of luck for lunch.
The GPS in our Volvo directed us to Christophorus, a pizzeria in a little town called Büchel, which was not too far from Bad Bertrich. We got there at about 1:30 or so, and two of the three outdoor tables were occupied. Christophorus is a roadside restaurant and, at first blush, doesn’t appear to be especially interesting. But we had a great lunch there, mainly because besides the good food offered, there was also exceptionally friendly service.
Bill decided to have a Bolognese Pizza, which came in three sizes– mini, mittel, and grande. He ordered the “mittel”, which was more than he could eat. I went with tortellini al forno. It wasn’t exactly low cal, but I was really in the mood for pasta. We each had a hefeweizen. As we were crying “uncle” at the end of the meal, a very pleasant and super friendly masked lady with extremely short hair came over to talk to us. I got the sense that she might have been the proprietor. We started out speaking German, but it turned out she spoke pretty good English, came to Büchel from Giessen (which used to host the U.S. military), and she was genuinely interested in how we were enjoying Germany and our trip. When she realized we are Americans, she shook her head sympathetically and said, “America is not so good right now.” Unfortunately, we agree… and we feel very lucky to get to be in Germany during this time.
Although it wasn’t the fanciest place we’ve ever eaten, I was really glad we stopped there instead of eating at a touristy place in Bad Bertrich or Cochem, which is where we went after lunch. Also, the inside of the restaurant is very nice. I loved the bar area, as well as the booths. It doesn’t look like a particularly special place if you’re just checking it out from the outside, but it really was a good stop. Other than Christophorus and another Italian roadside restaurant, there isn’t a lot to Büchel. But it is on the way to Cochem, which is a nice city with a beautiful castle. That’s where we headed after lunch.
It was mid afternoon by the time we were finished with lunch. I told Bill about Cochem, which I thought would be a good lunch stop if Christophorus Pizzeria didn’t pan out. Since we had nothing else to do, we headed down that way, about 10 kilometers from Büchel. Just as you approach Cochem, there is a place to pull off the road and take pictures in a very scenic spot. You can get a great view of Cochem Castle, as it’s situated by the Mosel River. We missed it on the way into town on Sunday. That was a pity, since the weather was beautiful and sunny, and a lot of people were taking advantage of it. We drove through Cochem, noticing how many people were out and about… it was a bit of a madhouse. However, if you want to take a boat cruise on the Mosel, this is a place to do it. There are also plenty of places to stay and eat, as well as visit the gorgeous castle on the hill.
Because it was so crowded and busy, Bill and I decided not to stop. However, we did make a note of it and perhaps might visit after the high season. It’s not that far from where we live, and it looks like a very nice base for exploring the Mosel area. Here are a few photos from our drive through Cochem.
The next post will be my last in this series. Sunday night was our final night in Meerfeld, and we were due to drive home to Wiesbaden on Monday morning. Stay tuned!
Here’s my obligatory list of things I learned while visiting a new place. I do this for most places I visit for the first time. It helps me stay grounded.
10. Tips are appreciated in Baden-Baden. Actually, I have found that Germans don’t mind tips at all, but they are especially happy to receive them in Baden-Baden.
9. Baden-Baden is teeming with people from other places, particularly Russia and France. These folks apparently have a lot of money. You can drop many euros in Baden-Baden if you want to shop.
8. Baden-Baden is part of the “Baden” part of Baden-Wuertemberg. Stuttgart is in the “Wuertemberg” part of Baden-Wuertemberg.
7. Baden-Baden reminds me more of Wiesbaden than Stuttgart. It has a similar vibe and appearance, although there are more mountains there. I have heard there are many great hiking opportunities in the area.
6. The Friedrichsbad is a very unusual experience. It’s old school bathing and you have to do it in the nude. It’s not for everyone, but personally, I really enjoyed it.
5. The language of massage is universal. Russian guys with big, strong hands will straighten out your knots in a heartbeat.
4. Sometimes, spending a lot of money on a hotel is totally worth it. Brenners Park is worth it, in my view.
3. Baden-Baden has museums and art galleries, none of which we got the chance to visit.
2. It pays to pre-book your spa treatments before you arrive. Appointments fill up fast. If your spa panties don’t fit, don’t be ashamed to wear your own underwear.
1. Caracalla has nothing on the Mineraltherme in Boeblingen.
Yeah… no need to try to wear this butt floss if it doesn’t work for you… The object of having a massage is to feel comfortable. These things aren’t comfortable. I doubt they would have been, even if I had a skinny ass.
Just like Hollywood? Not hardly… but there’s good eating in them there hills…
Although Bill and I usually enjoy taking day trips on Saturdays and Sundays, we decided not to go out yesterday because it looked like it was going to rain. Sure enough, it did rain… and then I got hooked on Call the Midwife on Netflix. I seem to be among the last of my friends to discover this wonderful British series set in the 1950s and based on memoirs by midwife Jennifer Worth. I started binge watching the show and, sure enough, wasted the day. On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t too wasted, since Bill watched with me.
When it was time for dinner, Bill went to our local chicken man and picked up a couple of doner kebabs. I don’t like a lot of the yogurt sauce on my doners, so Bill asked for “klein Sauce”. The Turkish guy who runs the place knows Bill isn’t German and speaks English, but is good enough to do business in German with Bill. His buddy took it a step further and gave him the right word for “little sauce”. I’m sure we’ll never forget to say “weniger Sauce” from now on.
Today, we were determined to get out and see a place we haven’t yet been. We decided to visit Baiersbronn, mainly because I had heard it was a noted place for haute cuisine. Baiersbronn is just about 45 minutes from where we live in Unterjettingen. It’s kind of a sleepy little town very close to Freudenstadt that has a lot of hotels and makes a lot of its money from tourism. I was expecting it to be bigger than what I saw today, especially since I know there are eight Michelin stars in Baiersbronn. Two restaurants have three stars and one has two stars. Here’s a link to a 2013 New York Times article about Baiersbronn, posted when there were only seven stars there. If you like gourmet food, it’s definitely a town you need to know about.
Baiersbronn was formed in the 1960s and 70s when five municipalities were formed. It’s a well known spa town and there’s even a “natural pool” nearby, perfect for youngsters, called Naturbad Mitteltal. It was a little cold for swimming today, but this does look like it could be a hit with kids who like to swim. Bear in mind that if you’re not a member of the pool, the hours for you will be different than they are for card carrying members. Check out their Facebook for more information.
We did not dine in any Michelin starred restaurants today, but now that we know how close the town of Baiersbronn is to where we live, we will definitely make some plans to visit one or all of them soon. Instead, we drove through Freudenstadt (still going through major construction right now) and took a short stroll around the main drag before we finally stopped for lunch at Cafe am Eck (Corner Cafe), a cute little Konditorei heading into town. They serve a breakfast buffet on Sundays, but we arrived too late for it. However, they did serve a variety of snacks– Wurst salads, Flammkuechens, Toasts, and even Quiche Lorraine, which is what I had. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Quiche Lorraine in Germany, although we’re close enough to France in these parts to have it.
Here are some pictures from today’s jaunt.
I never get tired of the beautiful flower arrangements in the smallest German towns.
The Murg River passes through…
It reminded me a little of the little town where I went to college, Farmville, Virginia. The Appomattox River passes through Farmville, though, and I don’t remember pretty flower arrangements there.
A couple of cool old buildings.
An incentive to visit on a weekday or a Saturday. I spotted at least one gourmet shop and a beer shop. I also saw lots of construction hats like the one above.
There’s even a red telephone booth with an actual phone in it!
We probably missed the main part of the town today, although according to the New York Times piece I linked, Baiersbronn isn’t known for being especially beautiful compared to some other Black Forest towns. It seemed like we were in the wrong part of town for tourism… although we did hear lots of English spoken by Americans, including at Cafe am Eck, a cute little establishment with decor that reminded me a little of an old style Howard Johnson’s restaurant of my youth. You younger folks have probably never had the pleasure of dining in a HoJo’s, which were known for ice cream and family friendly dishes. Cafe am Eck is definitely not a full scale restaurant, although during the work week, they do have a lunch dish of the day. The waitresses all wear Dirndls and the one who took care of us was very nice, if not slightly scatterbrained.
Another construction hat, this time hanging from the grapevines over the terrace. I have to admit, the terrace was pretty much what attracted me.
This was an okay Quiche Lorraine, priced very economically at about 3 euros. However, I could tell it had been chilled and microwaved, since parts of it were hot and parts were ice cold. I didn’t care… it tasted good. Also, instead of bacon, I could see they used shredded wurst.
Bill had Black Forest ham toast. It was made with wheat bread, slices of ham, tomato slices, and cheese. The toast wasn’t very toasty, but the top part was good…
I have a feeling most people come to this cafe for dessert anyway. They have ice cream, candy, liqueurs, cakes, and pies. Bill had a really lovely slice of cheesecake that was smooth and creamy and a little sweeter than usual.
And I had my usual Schwarzwaldtorte (Black Forest Cake). It was very good, although I’ve had better. I liked that it wasn’t too sweet or heavy.
A shot of the exterior of Cafe am Eck.
We really should have toured around a bit more, but it looked like it was going to rain and I felt like going home and drinking wine. So that’s what I’m doing now… drinking wine, listening to a live recording of Carole King, and writing this blog post. However, we will make plans to try some of Baiersbronn’s highly esteemed restaurants. It’s also a town with some very nice looking hotels, making it a good option for a staycation. Right now, just like in Freudenstadt, there is a major road project going on. Maybe that’s what all the construction hats were about.
Below are a few more pretty photos from our drive home. We feel so fortunate to live in an area right next to the Black Forest. It’s really awesome to be able to escape there on the weekends and enjoy so much of what Baden-Württemberg has to offer.
Near where we parked. There was a nice looking Freibad there, too.
Lucky stop here, as the train was passing.
Lots of sunflowers… there are a few fields of them on the way to Baiersbronn.
Now that we know the way, we will have to go back to Baiersbronn and its environs. The area is very pretty and it’s so close to Freudenstadt, which is also a nice place to visit, although it’s nicer when the main drag isn’t torn up due to construction.
Edited to add: as of January 2020, one of Baiersbronn’s three Michelin starred restaurants has burned down… The Traube Tonbach went up in flames on Saturday, January 4th. There are plans to rebuild.
This morning, Bill asked me what I wanted to do today. A German who runs one of our local Facebook groups recommended the Paracelsus-Therme in the lovely town of Bad Liebenzell. It had been ages since my last trip to the Mineraltherme in Böblingen. Right now, that spa is under massive construction and will be closed until mid July. I told Bill I wanted to check out the spa recommended by our German friend.
Bill doesn’t enjoy visiting spas. He’s bashful about being seen in a bathing suit. On the other hand, once I cajole him into going, he usually enjoys his spa time almost as much as I do. Of course, here in Germany, many spas are textile free, which means that patrons are naked. I sold Bill on the spa in Bad Liebenzell by reminding him that unlike the Mineraltherme, the Paracelsus-Therme does not have a textile free area. Everyone would be wearing bathing suits.
Although he still wasn’t too hot on the idea of hitting the spa, my dear husband finally relented and we loaded up the car and went. The drive was kind of quiet and awkward, yet absolutely stunning. If you haven’t been to the towns in the Calw area, I highly recommend just taking a Saturday or Sunday to drive through there. It’s an incredibly picturesque area.
So… we got to Bad Liebenzell, turned a corner, and ran smack dab into the middle of another unexpected fest. We didn’t stop and take a look around, but it looked like there were a bunch of classic cars on display. No matter. We were headed to the spa.
We got to the spa and the parking lot was completely full. I’m pretty sure many of the people who had parked there were headed to the fest. Despite circling around the parking lot several times, we were unable to find a spot. Bill was getting more and more irritated; I was getting hungry; and my car was running out of gas. We decided to abandon the idea of going to Paracelsus-Therme. While Bill was gassing up my car, I had a sudden brainstorm.
Back in 2015, Bill and I drove to the spa town of Bad Wildbad and took a walk at Baumwipfelpfad, otherwise known as “the treewalk”. This very cool attraction has become popular with Americans in the area and it was definitely fun to try it. On the way out of there, I noticed signs for mineral baths. Remembering that Bad Wildbad was a really nice town and has spas, I did a quick check on my iPhone to see what was available.
Bad Wildbad has two main spas. There’s Vital Therme, which is evidently a conventional spa where people wear bathing suits and there are exercise classes and such. And then there’s Palais Thermal, which allows suits in some areas and not in others. I read a few reviews on Trip Advisor and a few people complained that Palais Thermal is a spa for “nudists”. Since I’ve been wanting to go nekked for awhile now, I told Bill we should go there. And yes, I did warn him that it was “textile free”… eventually, anyway. He wasn’t thrilled. I won him over with giggling.
Bill did visit the first floor of the Mineraltherme with me once, so he had been in a textile free spa before. However, before today, neither of us had ever had the pleasure of actually being naked in front of a bunch of strangers. This was going to be FUN!
My husband was decidedly grumpy as he pulled into the parking garage. I reminded him that he had given me a gift certificate to Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden and if he planned to join me there, he’d have to get over his aversion to nudity in front of strangers. With a sigh of resignation, Bill followed me to the Palais Thermal.
In we walked… A pleasant lady was seated behind a reception desk. Bill asked in German if she spoke English. She hesitated, then pointed to her colleague, a friendly looking lady who laughed when I giggled and said we were “shy Americans”. She handed us a piece of paper with instructions on how things work at Palais Thermal and two bracelets which we would use for purchasing spa treatments and food and beverages. Cash is not used in the spa. We were used to this system. It’s pretty much the same one used at the Mineraltherme.
If you decide to pay Palais Thermal a visit, I highly recommend getting the instructions in English so you’ll know what to do. Some Trip Advisor reviewers mentioned being taken aback by the nudity and not knowing when nudity was required of them. Nudity is enforced in the rooftop pool area and you’ll see it all over the spa. Although the staff we encountered today was friendly and helpful, I did read in at least one review that staff can be rather insistent about the nudity rule. Since you’re going there to relax, you don’t want to be yelled at by a staffer for breaking the law!
The outside of the spa area.
Bill takes a deep breath…
And in we go!
For obvious reasons, I don’t have pictures of the inside of the spa. That’s too bad, since the bottom floor of the Palais Thermal is absolutely lovely. It was built in 1844 and retains a lot of old style charm. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. First, we had to get ready. We went into the changing room, which is unisex. There are stalls where you can change in privacy, but I guarantee after a couple of hours at the Palais Thermal, you won’t care who sees you in your birthday suit.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t wanting to go ugly early. I donned my newest swimsuit, which I bought last year and never had the opportunity to wear. I removed my shoes, since street shoes are not allowed in the spa. I recommend bringing a robe, shower shoes or flip flops, and at least one towel.
We went into the “quiet room”, which is right next to the “cafeteria”. This is one area where I think the Palais Thermal could improve. They had beer, wine, soft drinks, and water. They also had a limited selection of food. It wasn’t quite as nice as the restaurant at the Mineraltherme, but it was good enough to satisfy my hunger. Bill had a smoked salmon sandwich and I had a couple of wieners with a hot baguette and mustard. Actually, given all of the uncircumcised junk I saw today, that little snack was especially inspired!
The quiet room is really beautiful. The ceiling is stained glass, so the sunshine affects the lighting in the room. There are wicker chairs and loungers everywhere. People sit in there in their robes and towels and eat and drink. Most people were completely covered up.
After we ate, we took a deep breath and found our way to our first pool. The Palais Thermal has these cool little baths that are ideal for couples. You can get in one of them and soak for a bit, maybe even in privacy if you’re lucky. There’s also a larger, deeper pool on the first floor where bathing suits are allowed. It’s really pretty. There’s a statue in the middle of it and the roof is stained glass. There are a couple of shallow pools with massaging jets on the first floor. Again, they are rather small and private, which is nice. There are also a few small jacuzzi like tubs for couples. All of the baths on the first floor are marble and majestic. I ditched my swimsuit before we left the first floor and it was totally not a big deal at all.
On the second floor, you’ll see a lot more nudity. That’s where the saunas, steam rooms, and massages are. Bill and I usually don’t go for saunas, but we decided to sit in one for fifteen minutes today. The saunas at Palais Thermal are, like all saunas in Germany, textile free. This was where Bill lost his trunks! After a couple of minutes, I could tell he was getting into the groove, since everyone else was as naked as we were… and most everyone had towels and robes. If you use the sauna, you will need to sit on a towel. It’s forbidden to sweat on the wood in the sauna.
After we sat in the sauna, we cooled off in a marble plunge pool full of cold water. Then we went into a super hot aromatic steam room which neither of us could tolerate for more than a few minutes. I would think that room would be great if you needed your sinuses cleared. The air was extremely hot and full of a mentholated substance that I initially found hard to breathe. After a couple of minutes I got more used to it, but it was just way too hot for me.
On the second floor, there’s also an indoor pool and a shower area that connects to the spa hotel. This is obviously where people staying at the hotel can access the spa directly. The second floor pool allows bathing suits, although everyone we saw in there was naked.
On the third floor, there are few more saunas, including the Oriental sauna and a salt room. We’d had enough sauna time, so we skipped that and went to the fourth floor, which has a panorama sauna and a pool. In this area, which is outdoors, everyone is naked. There’s also a bar in this area, but it didn’t appear to be attended today. The outdoor pool is very nice, with warm water, massage jets, and waterfalls that massage the head and shoulders. This is also where you’ll find a smoking area, although I’m not sure where people carry their smokes!
As I enjoyed the warm water and sunshine, I couldn’t help but marvel at how unexpectedly freeing it was to be naked in front of a bunch of strangers. Seriously… I think I was born to be European. It was interesting to see who was at the spa. I saw all kinds of bodies and no one stared or acted embarrassed. I saw old people, thin people, fat people, young people… one thing I did not see was young children, which was a real blessing. The youngest people there were a couple of teenagers. They appeared to be brother and sister and were with a guardian– not egregiously sucking face like I often see at the Mineraltherme. In fact, everyone was behaving themselves. Maybe it has to do with being naked.
After a little while, Bill told me he was getting wrinkly. We got out of the water and headed back to the locker room, where we got cleaned up and dressed. On the way out, we paid 58 euros for a couple of hours in the spa and lunch, including beer. If your stay is less than three hours, you can get your parking ticket validated and it’s free. We paid with a USAA credit card, too. How convenient!
Bill’s face kind of looked like this as we exited. I have a feeling he won’t be as reluctant to go naked again.
Bad Wildbad is a beautiful town. Here’s a picture of a creek that passes through there.
I think the Mineraltherme in Böblingen is bigger and newer and has better food. But it lacks the incredible beauty of stained glass and marble tubs that the Palais Therme has… and it does get very crowded there. And one bonus to Bad Wildbad is that the drive to and from there, particularly from where we live, is very beautiful and not nearly as congested. I would say it’s probably not much further or time consuming to get there from Unterjettingen. I think we’d like to go back for a weekend and just chill, even though the drive there is less than 45 minutes from our house.
I guess going naked with a bunch of Germans is one way to celebrate our decision to stay here for at least one more year. We left the spa feeling relaxed, yet invigorated. I would not hesitate to go back to the Palais Thermal and now I know I can handle whatever weirdness Baden-Baden throws at me! Highly recommended!