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"Baden-Baden" is a strange name for a city when you think of it. Its direct translation is "Baths-Baths", which would lead one to wonder why it wasn't simply called "Baden". Well, think of it like "New York, New York" where one reference is to the city, the other to the state or province, and it makes sense that the city of Baden-Baden is a combination of the city name of Baden along with the name of the province -- the Baden region of Germany. On the other hand, given the city's reputation as a premier spa resort town, the double name may very well have been played up as a point of emphasis.
That said, there are a lot of other things to emphasize about Baden-Baden: it is not only a beautiful resort town, it is also a rich man's playground that brings in sophisticates from all over Europe, including central and eastern Europe. While much of the downtown is basic and simple, it is surrounded by upper-class attractions: including a very ritzy shopping center and a world-class casino. Wandering about the downtown are mixes of average joes and sophisticates, often visiting the same cafés.
Baden-Baden can be described as having two halves: a lower part and an upper part. The lower part is where you will find the downtown and the aforementioned casino and fancy shopping district. The downtown extends several blocks, beginning at the Festspielhaus on the highway side all the way to the casino. The nice thing about Baden-Baden is that the parking lots are large and clearly marked -- my suggestion is to find the one marked "Casino" because that one puts you just about in the middle of everything. It also allows you to walk through the grandeur of the Casino's main foyer before walking out.
From there, you will want to find your way to the Tourist Information Bureau, which is located inside the old Trinkhalle. The Trinkhalle is shown in the second photo, and this is one of the most fantastic buildings you will ever see. This photo shows the outer patio -- a series of beautiful murals that depict various events in local history. Hard to believe that this was converted to the tourist bureau, but there you have it.
In the tourist bureau, you will learn that Baden-Baden is not only known for its baths, but also its concerts. Apart from the Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden also sports a beautifully renovated Theater (third photo) and an outdoor concert hall that you'll see as you come out of the Casino.
The downtown pedestrian zone is massive, with numerous fountains and squares offering shopping and eating at virtually every budget. The first photo shows a couple of the restaurants that you will find as you climb toward the upper half of the city.
The upper half is where all the famous spas and bathhouses are, along with the Neues Schloss and the Stifftskirche (fourth photo). The flavor of the neighborhood is definitely upper crust, as you'll find the restaurants classy and the clientele even classier. That said, the bathhouses clearly cater to everyone, and the cost of enjoying one of them is not extravagant (at least I could afford to do it once in a long while). The older bathhouses are very beautiful to look at, while the newer ones are pretty much regular dull steel and glass.
I found it particularly interesting that the city's homepage is in German, English, Japanese, and Russian. The first two are almost expected among German tourist pages nowadays, and the influx of Japanese tourists in Europe help explain the third. But the inclusion of Russian is quite unique, and indicates how attractive the baths are to eastern Europeans. Each time I walk along the main road, I make note of the license plates -- and they've often included Russian, Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and/or Ukrainian, plates I rarely see anywhere else except for trucks on the autobahns. Yes, Baden-Baden is a unique tourist locale clearly marked on maps east of Bavaria.
Trip taken 2 August 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin
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