It doesn't cost anything to walk Baden-Baden’s fashionable streets or browse its smart shops. For about $10, you can even nurse a beer for an hour or so in the clubby Oleander bar of the high falutin’ Brenner’s Park Hotel. It’ll taste better, of course, after you've spent a couple of hours (about $20) at the Caracalla Baths, an aquatic festival of warm pools, Jacuzzis, waterfalls and saunas; one of the world’s great public spas.
A Baden-Baden headquarters makes for easy day trips: south through the Black Forest; a day in Strasbourg with perhaps a lunch of choucroute (sauerkraut with smoked pork, an Alsatian specialty) and a glass of one the region’s most distinctive wines, gewürztraminer from the house of Trimbach; or a slow drive with stops in picturesque towns such as Riquewihr, Rebeauville and Colmar along the Alsatian wine road.
You can enjoy upscale Baden-Baden at a downscale price from the Hotel Rebenhof, about a 10-minute drive from the center of town. The Rebenhof sits on a gentle slope surrounded by rolling vineyards on the edge of the town of Neuweier. Light wood paneling and lots of windows create an open, airy atmosphere. Modern, clean-as-a-whistle guest rooms are attractively decorated and large sliding, floor-to-ceiling windows seem to bring the vineyard indoors.
In a wooded setting about three miles from the city center, the Forellenhof offers good value and rustic charm. The appealing interior of a typical Black Forest farm house overflows with such country touches as carved wooden chandeliers, massive tile stoves, and dark wood wainscoting. The restaurant, no surprise, specializes in trout.
A part of far northern Germany that attracts few Americans is the western Schleswig-Holstein, a lowland of dikes, tide flats, and marshes. In Husum, the main town, visit the North Frisian Museum to understand how the sea, and the disasters it has visited on the land, have affected life in the region. Your next stop might be the Eider Dam, built in the late ‘60s after the disastrous storm-tides of February 1962 claimed 315 lives.
Other than limitless sky and sea, and melancholy wind farms, there’s not a lot to see here, though on long, restorative walks or bike rides atop the dikes, you’ll experience the kind of solitude found on mountain-tops and lonely beaches. Highly recommended.
Hidden among beach grasses behind an imposing North Sea dike in the Wattenmeer National Park, is the dormered, thatch-roofed Hotel Lundenbergsand. This one’s way off the beaten path, so you’ll need a good map to find it near tiny Simonsberger, seven kilometers southwest of Husum.
The theme is nautical. On the walls are a ship’s wheel and pictures of ships. Oil lamps hang over each table in the dining room.
Room Number 11, reached via a stairway, is compact and spare but comfortable enough for a stay of two or three nights. There is a white wooden bed, a table and two chairs, a small TV, furrowed sisal carpeting, stripped wallpaper, a painted wood ceiling edged in white molding, pictures of boats and flowers, and a chest-high window offering a long, peaceful view of sky, hedges, waving grasses and wheeling birds.
Dinner in the Stube featured ample portions of good but not great food, mostly from the sea. Main dishes are in the €14-20 range. A four-tenths liter glass of Königpilsener was €3.
In the summer it stays light for a long time in the evening, making after dinner a perfect time for that walk on the dike.