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to read more
he afternoon I arrived in
Badenweiler,the iocal
Weinstube suddenly converteditself into a theatre.
In walked a flaxen-haired
actressand while I could
not understand a word of the German she
spoke,it was clearthis was high drama.
It turned out to be the story of ancient
Romansin Badenweiler,now being used
to promote the once great spatown.
Margrita Wahrer,playing the goddess
Dianae Abnoba in the classicRoman
style,bringing togetherthe Roman god,
Diana,with the Celticone,Abnoba,acted
out the story of DianaeAbnobafalling in
lovewith a Roman as she took us round
the town. Our tour endedat the Roman
baths where the lovers bathed together
before tragedy struck.
The drama took liberties with history:
in Roman times, Dianae Abnoba and
her Roman lover would not have bathed
together,but such artistic licence is,
THEoLDtE- February
perhaps,understandable.Long eclipsed
by Baden-Baden,Badenweiler,on the
southerntip ofthe Black Forest,has tired
ofbeing hidden awayas a little-known
German secret.Having suffered nearly
halfa century ofobscurity it now feels
the need to spice up its history. Not that
its history requires much revisionism.
In many ways Badenweile/spastis
more glorious than any other German
spa.For much of the rgth and the first
halfofthe zoth centuries it attracted
many celebrities.Hermann Hessespent
a year here and Anton Chekhov and the
American writer Stephen Crane died
here. In the r93os two future prime
ministers of India, fawaharlal and his
daughter Indira, visited to carefor
Kamala Nehru, |awaharlaLsdying wife.
But this gaveBadenweileran image
as a town for the sick and dying and it is
this historical label that it is now seeking
to escapeand remodel itself on Bath.
The Romans built their baths here
around the time ofthe onesin Bath,75
AD, and the designsare simiiar. Excavated
in the r8th century it wasthe Grand Duke
Karl Friedrichof Badenwho made the
town a famous spaby choosingthis ashis
summer residence.His beautifll I(urpark,
which surroundsthe Roman ruins, is in
the styleofan Englishgarden,firll ofplants
with healingpropertiesand scents,and exotic trees,including a r7o-year-oldsequoia.
The CassiopeiaTherme, the modern
baths, are right next to the Roman ones providing a seamlesstransition from the
pastto the present.Onceyou havenegotiatedthe elaboratesystemoflockers - a
largeone for clothesand a small one for
valuables- you enter a peacefulhaven
where you could spend the whole day.
The modern bathsare a seriesof pools,
increasingin temperaturefrom 3z to
36 degreesCentigradeasyou progress
from one to the next. The culmination
is one in which the curent sweepsyou
round as if you are tied to the wheels of a
oPPosfrE: Theentrance
to the Rehabilitotionsklinik
in Badenweiler
BOTTOM:Ruinsofthe originalRomanbaths
gateau,is a speciality.And something to
look forward to after an energeticwalk.
F1-lhere are many well-marked routes
fot which Badenweileris an ideal
starting point. The walks offer a
wide choice of terrain, incline and some
breathtaking views. My wife and I took a
seven-milehike up to Ruine Neuenfels,
rrth-century lookout tower providing an
enchanting view along the much fought
over German-French border.
Badenweileris well aware ofthat
dismal history and, as part of its rediscoveryofits past, it is keen to lay to
rest some troubled EuroDeanhistorical
ghosts.The areabordersAlsace,so
often covetedby Germany,but now the
Baden and Alsacewine routes Dromote
peacefulcompetition over'wine without
borders'.We took a leisurely tour along
nert b the Romanones,
providinga seamless
transitionfrom pastto present
chariot: where the circuit meets another
pool, the propulsion seemsalmost
strong enough to keep you perpetually in
the chariot race round the pool.
fter I had tired ofthe baths, I tried
one of a variety of treatments and
therapies,the Rasul bath. This
involved my rubbing four different rFpes
of mud - from smooth white for the face
to coarseblack for feet, elbows and knees
- over my body while sitting in a warm
seat.The room then turned into a steam
bath and, as the steam cleared,gentle
rain fell from the starlit ceilins. It left me
feeling like I had a new skin.
Ifthe baths,as in Roman times, are
the centre piece of Badenweiler,the town
provides curious little nuggets ofhistory
which resonatetoday.The walk up to the
castleruins, which overlook the town,
takesyou past the delightfirl hideaway
whose name saysit all - Teaand Lust.
This is where Napoleons adopted
daughter, Stephanie,stayedand is now
a popular wedding spot. Even Margrita Wahrer would struggle to present
a modern Badenweilerplay about Tea
and Lust. But tea and cake,particularly
Schwarzwrilderkirschtorte, Black Forest
the Badenwine route, visiting vineyards,
Weinstubeand finally, in the little village
of Ballrechten-Dottingen,bought a case
of excellentGerman ros6.
Badenweilermay not succeedin its
attempt to become a 'German Bath - it
has yet to uncover a German fane Austen
- but it has no wish to be a pale copy of
Baden-Baden.No casinoshere,nothing
very much to attract WAGs -the wives
and girlfriends of English footballers
who thronged Baden-Badenduring the
zoo6 World Cup.
My experiencewas that, in Badenweiler, it was not so much *re caseof no
night life, more one of no night lights. A
meal after ropm is difficult to find and,
on my first evening there, returning to
my hotel at a quarter past twelve, I had to
negotiatethe Kurpark in pitch darkness.
It turned out that Badenweilerhas its
own version of Cinderella: the park lights
are switched off at midnight.
But if this means that Badenweiler
could athact the modern day successors
to Chekhov and passby the WAGs, then
who would have any complaintsl
2oog - THEOLDTE 55