Oberstaufen-Baden Baden- Wiesbaden May 2011
We had breakfast at hotel and checked out. We left for 2 hr ride to Bavaria - small town Oberstaufen. We checked into hotel 5* Algau Sonne. Oberstaufen is located in Bavarian Alps, about 1 hr from Neuschwanstein Castle and 30 mins from Lake Constance. Nice beautiful countryside and fresh Alpine air. No wonder it is a popular location for spas and clinics and many Germans come here for cure.
On arrival, we were met by tourism board officials and went for lunch. We visited a small cheese shop where the owner showed us homemade cheeses and liquors and other delicious items. Lunch was buffet in a small restaurant, the owner was explaining dishes however not all was clear and then turned out it was a pig lard spread! Our vegetarians were not happy. Food was kind of heavy. German breads were delicious.
We walked in the town, it was pretty. We looked at some hotel which is brand new and has converted apartments, they were beautifully designed.
Afterwards we walked to our hotel and had presentation on Schrott cure program. It was developed by a doctor Schrott (you guessed) about 100 years ago who developed naturopathic treatment for different disorders and well-being. There are no natural springs in the area but there is fresh alpine air, so there are conducted combination of diet and exercise under medical supervision. The hotel has a beautiful spa with massages, pool, sauna and steam room. There are many walking trails in the forest and in the city.
However I am not sure how it fit Americans traveling in Europe since the treatment takes 21 day. It alternates dry and liquid diet, heavy on crabs. Most German insurances subsidize such treatments but ours do not. Hotel was in nice environment but did not have facilities of 5* as rated. There were no porters to help with bags. My room had only one twin bed, usually even for single person the beds are at least double size. The bath lacked shampoo and when I asked at front, desk, they gave me body soap bottle. They assured me it is OK to wash hair but I did not try. The restaurant served very nice dinner. So it is while it is advertised as 5* hotel, it is most likely very solid 4*.
In general, the area is very nice to drive around and it is popular year round. There are summer activities like toboggan, swimming pools (indoor/outdoor), golf, hiking, walking in the forest, skiing in the winter.
May 6, 2011, Baden Baden
Next morning, we had breakfast and left Oberstaufen for Baden Baden. It was long drive, 4 hrs. We finally arrived to Baden Baden and were met by representatives of their tourist board.
We checked in into our 5* hotel Dorint Maison Messmer hotel. It is nice historic hotel, next to casino. After checking in, we gathered together with hotel representatives for lunch at their restaurant. The lunch was delicious, however at this point I was already saturated with beef and potatoes :-) .
After lunch we met our guide and went for a walking tour of Baden Baden. This town proved to be delightful. It is located in the hills of Black Forrest, a lot's of greenery, beautiful parks, alleys. Casino was modeled after Versailles Palace, very beautiful. The town looked stylish and elegant, with tourist of all ages - young, older and families were abound - for those who cherish life pleasures and wish to recharge their batteries. We passed through beautiful parks and our guide pointed at museums. Museum Frieder Burda was built by NY architect Richard Meier and it looked fascinating from architectural point of view. We did not have time to visit but it has important masterpieces of Classical Modernism. There is also State Art gallery for modern contemporary art and City museum. Also we saw new museum donated by some private collector of Faberge eggs.
In the picturesque streets of Baden-Baden of the neo-baroque old town, there is world class shopping for those interested in brand names, individual antiques and jewelry.
Germany oldest and according to Marlene Dietrich, "the most beautiful casino in the world" is the perfect place to finish relaxing spa day.
Spas.... This is the town is famous for.. The two thermal baths, the modern Caracalla Spa and the historic Roman-Irish Friedrichbad plus many spa hotels, beckon travelers with various spa treatments.
For more than 350 years, the parks and Garden "Lichtentaller Allee" it was famous landmark of the town. It was beautiful with gardens, flowers, chestnut trees, fountains, together with belle époque monuments was absolutely fascinating. I think it can be compared with Monte Carlo but less pompous, and with Karlovy Vary but more upscale with international clientele.
I wish to come back and spend a week there. I want to go to Concert hall Festpielhaus. Looking at 2011 schedule, they will have performances of famous artists, The Hamburg Ballet, Juan Diego Florez, The Orpheus Chamber of New York and Mariinsky Ballet of St. Petersburg.
In winter there are Christmas markets. It's convenient location makes it easy to get from many European gateways, It is 1.5 train connection by train from Frankfurt. It is very close to French border, you can reach by car just under 1 hour. Small Baden airport has low cost flights from other destinations.
After walk, we went to the spa. We all prebooked treatments in advance, with a choice of Caracalla or Frederichsbad spa and it took about 3 hours. I chose Frederichsbad since it offers traditional Roman-Irish treatment with 17 different steps. It was a bliss. After spa, I returned to hotel for dinner. Dinner was at casino restaurant with view of the garden alleys and it was very relaxing. There was a choice of fish but the waiter could not translate it, turned out it was salmon. Anyway the chicken was good and so was desert. After dinner we walked to the casino where casino director talked to us about it and explained few games. The clientele was well dressed and international and I noticed many Russians. Also many signs in town are in Russian so it is seen to be catering to this new market.
It was long but interesting day. The hotel was very comfortable so I rate it number one - best 5* hotel on this fam trip.
May 7, 2011, Wiesbaden
After breakfast, we left Baden Baden for last leg to Cologne. Half way we stopped at Wiesbaden and were met by Wiesbaden tourist representatives. This was another surprise town.
Our enthusiastic guide tried to show us in one hour the beauty of this town so we can spread the word. And it was not hard for her to succeed. This pleasant city is often called "Nice of the North", gateway to the Reinghau region. The city has a spa reputation due to the hot springs. It has also interesting history. It is dating back to Roman times when it was called Aque Matiacorum. In 19th century, Wiesbaden became a popular gambling center. was impressed by architecture of Wilhelmian era, beautiful parks and gardens. The center of the city and main landmarks are casino, opera theater, town hall and neo-gothic Market church. We did not have time to see but the guide told us there is Baroque Palace on the Rhine and a Russian church.
It has interesting museums - laughter museum, Womens museum, Wiesbaden museum, Natural history and also looks like interesting interactive museum www.schlossfreudenberg.de
This will be definetely on my list next time when I will fly to Frankfurt. It takes the same time to get from Frankfurt airport to Wiesbaden as to the Frankfurt center. So if you already been in Frankfurt and want to get away from it's hustle and bustle, it is a perfect place to spend few days.
Interesting fact about casino and relation to famous russian writer Fedor Dostoevsky. We were shown a bust of the writer in the park near casino. The guide told us that indeed, Dostoevsky spent time here and since he was compulsive gambler, he lost a fortune. He asked money from his wife from Russia, she sent some but then stopped. Therefore the writer left owning money to the casino and they tried to collect for some time. Of course when he became famous, they forgave debt :-) .
In 1990 the former Russian president Michail Gorbachev came to Wiesbaden. A Russian journalist who accompanied Gorbachev talked to the Russian painter and sculptor Gabriel Glikam about the relation between Wiesbaden and Dostoevsky. Glikam decided to give the bust of Dostoevsky as a present the Casino Wiesbaden to its 225th anniversary. Since 1996 the bust of Dostoevsky is located in the Kurpark. The writer Dostoevsky described his personal experience in novel "The Gambler", after all, he lost his fortune while staying at a spa in Wiesbaden in 1865.
We visited beautiful casino and walked to the hotel Nassauerhof for inspection and lunch. It is a beautiful luxury hotel in the center. The draw of this hotel is a spa which has a mineral spring on site. It is an elegant classic hotel, member of the Leading Hotels of the World, in perfect location near casino in the center. For it's spa, hotel was awarded the SENSES award as the best city resort in 2011. We visited spa (products by Estee Lauder), with its thermal pool, fitness center and solarium with pool. It had beautiful views of the city and it is only hotel in Wiesbaden with its own thermal pool. Higlhy recommended for a special vacation.
Lunch was delicious. We were reluctant to leave but it was time to go to Cologne for our next 4 days of work, back to the reality. ... Next. Cologne.