Our one year anniversary happened to fall on a Sunday on a three-day weekend. We both loved to travel, but by the time we got around to planning where we wanted to go, we were too close to the travel date to get a reasonable price. So we planned a trip to Porto and took an overnight trip to someplace bad, wild bad.
Bad Wildbad is a small thermal spa town nestled in a deep valley in the Black Forest, a 90 minute train ride from Stuttgart. We got up early Sunday and rode out on a mostly empty local train with big windows. The scenery was really nice, especially once we started following the small river up the misty valley. The town has a few small main streets with restaurants and black forest souvenir stores, some very nice hotels, and two large, historic thermal bath complexes.
We stayed at the Atina Hotel, a small pension with maybe 20 rooms, a short walk up from the main road. It was obviously a large old house or apartment building. The entry and much of the interior was plastered with posters of cruise ships and travel brochures. The remainder was overwrought and intensely decorated with all kinds of crap, mostly from the 60’s to 80’s. French porcelain clowns, doileys, and displays of tea varieties from India, long turned to the same gray. Our room, which turned out to be a pretty spacious suite, came with a balcony and a rotary dial telephone.
We took a delightful and recently updated funnicular up to the crest of the valley, where we found an equally delightful shed selling hot cinnamon bread. Apart from the thermae, the town is also well known for its hiking and a recently opened tree canopy walk. For a few Euros, also conveniently available packaged with the funnicular tickets, you can take a short stroll along a walkway built on tree trunks high over the forest floor. The walk terminates in a giant wooden spiral ramp, which winds up and up and up well over the high tree canopy, and affording great views of the mist moving through the forest, the valley, and the surrounding mountainous countryside. We hiked back to the funnicular (stopping for another delicious cinnamon bread) before heading back down to the thermae.
The Palais Thermae is a gem. Built wellnover a hundred years ago with the patronage of Kings, the ground floor is imagined as a arabesque or Moroccan bath, with successive pools, saunas, steam rooms, resting rooms and sun decks added over it's long history. Intricately worked tile everywhere, stained glass, arched stone doorways, bronze fittings, and marble statues. The natural light filtering in to the dim halls gives it an even more fantastic, surreal appearance.
When you arrive, you receive a chip bracelet which is used to track how long you spend, locks and unlocks lockers, and what you buy while you are there. The arabesque ground floor is bathing suit optional- the upper floors are completely au-nautural. We showered, enjoyed a lazy swim, scheduled a traditional massage for Saori, and worked our way through the labrynthine bath complex, ending up getting some sun on the modern wood terrace with a new massive tensile shade canopy. If one can overcome the American squeamishness about nudity, there is really nothing more relaxing than a few hours at a place like this. Best is to sweat in a Finnish suana and then cool off in a shower and a quick dip in the cold plunge pool, followed by a short rest in a reclining chair. Saori said the massage was one of the best she’d had, and that the masseuse was also obviously trained in theraputic massage. Actually, the town was full of people with mobility difficulties and older people who come to the bath to help them heal and gain strength and flexibility. The other big thermae complex in town is actually focused on wellness, with many clinics attached to it.
We spent nearly four hours there in total, taking a break partway for a refreshing beer at the small, marble bar. Even with the massage and drinks our total bill came to about $70.
We ate dinner at a traditional southern German wirthaus or tavern, and took an evening stroll in the summer twilight along the little creek running through the town. There are lots of really terrible geographic effects about being in northern Europe, but one upshot are these summer evenings where when you get those rare, warm sunny days, it's s t r e t c h e d out, with an incredibly late, slow sunset and a luminous twilight blue sky over the dark green fields, dusk into the 11pm darkness.