This weekend we decided to take a drive to Baden Baden, a small spa town in Southern Germany's Black Forest. Baden Baden is famous for its natural hot springs and has been a spa destination since Roman times. We made the 3 hour drive Friday evening and walked around town once we arrived, checking out the famous casino, Roman bath ruins, cobblestone streets and various German beer gardens.
We woke up early Saturday morning and enjoyed a hearty German breakfast that included smoked salmon, meatballs, pretzel bread, homemade mueslix and a hotel waitress who definitely had just gotten off of her shift at the casino's strip club. From the hotel, we headed 10 minutes up into the hills of the Black Forest to Burg Hohenbaden, a castle from the middle ages that overlooks town. We got there early and it was windy and chilly, so we had the castle ruins completely to ourselves .
We walked down through the dungeon, climbed on the castle walls and explored the grounds. The wind was gusting like crazy, but we couldn't resist climbing up to the highest lookout for sprawling views of the Rhine valley and also testing the crumbling castle walls for bouldering routes.
Our appetite for castles was unsatisfied, so we drove on the Romantic Road through the Black Forest (and a snowstorm) to Burg Hohenzollern, a giant castle perched atop a mountain about 2 hours to the south. The castle is privately owned by one family who traces its lineage back to the 1100s. The castle interior includes a wall painting of the family tree showing the details of the family dynasty, which includes Prussian kings and German emperors. The castle is always passed down to the first son, and in 2013 twin sons were born to the current owner, so the first born twin will own the whole thing and pass it along to his kin while the younger twin will just be another member of the family. Although there's a shuttle to help visitors ascend the strategically stationed keep, we chose to park several kilometers away and hike through the forest.
After our steep hike up to the castle, we replenished with an authentic, hearty German lunch consisting of beef stew, dark bread, Furstenberg beer, local apple juice and, of course, hot apple strudel. The heavy lunch tired us out but we pressed on and explored the secret underground passageway under the castle, the armory, treasury and castle chapels.
From there, we headed back to Baden Baden straight to the hot springs. Although most German spas are fully nude, we selected the one with a bathing suit-required outdoor thermal pool. It was cold, gusty and drizzling, but it felt great to swim around in a huge outdoor pool surrounded by hills and forests. The hot springs included jets and waterfalls, cold plunge pools, steam rooms, saunas and even tanning beds. The water felt great after our long day of hiking, and we were amused at all of the couples engaged in heavy makeout sessions in the pools. But the copious amount of canoodling around us made us glad we chose the swimsuit area.
Castle collected! We woke up the next morning and drove back to Luxembourg through France. Next week, Brussels and London.
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