The Black Forest: Places to Explore

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Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden, the most famous and fashionable spa town rests in a wooded valley north of the Mummelsee on B-500. The town sits atop an extensive underground hot springs that gave the city its name. Roman legions of the emperor Caracalla discovered the springs and named the area Aquae Aureliae. The upper classes of the 19th century, seeking leisurely pursuits, rediscovered the bubbling waters, establishing Baden-Baden as the unofficial summer residence of many European royal families. The town's fortunes also rose and fell with gaming: gambling began in the mid-18th century but was banned by the Kaiser between 1872 and 1933. Palatial homes and stately villas grace the tree-lined avenues, and the spa tradition continues at the ornate casino and two thermal baths, one historic and luxurious, the other modern and well used by families. Since Baden-Baden is only two hours from Frankfurt Airport by train, the spa makes a nice last stop on the way home.

Though some Germans come here for two- to three-week doctor-prescribed treatments (German health insurance pays for a weeklong Kur [cure] once every five years), the spa concept also embraces facilities for those just looking for pampering. Shops line several pedestrian streets that eventually climb up toward the old marketplace. Two theaters present frequent ballet performances, plays, and concerts (by the excellent Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra).

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