Friday, August 19, 2005

Germany, still


Yesterday I took a bus from Baden-Baden station to the city centre. A woman got onto the bus with nine (NINE!) children. All were perfecty behaved. Three little girls went to the back of the bus, where they sat and teased each other. One boy, about eight or nine, carried his little brother to the seat beside me and heaved him up. The wee boy relaxed into the seat and sighed, then became perfectly still and contemplative. His older brother took a seat opposite.

After a while I remembered my manners and offered to swap seats so they could sit together. The older boy thanked me politely, and as we were changing places I noticed that he had a cigarette tucked behind his ear. It went with his image, really. He was a very mature little boy.

The mother stood by the door with a pram with two babies in it and two more children. I'm SURE they couldn't have all been hers, could they? I mean, the oldest was only about twelve. But the girls at the back all called her 'Mama'...

When they got off, I noticed that the little girls also had cigarettes. One of them had hers sticking out of her mouth. That was when I realized that the cigarettes were sweets, not the real thing. I haven't seen those for a VERY long time. I thought those sweets had disappeared when all the anti-smoking hysteria took off.

Germany is very relaxed about smoking. It's no big deal. I hadn't expected that, and it is very comfortable. It goes with the friendly, tolerant feeling I have noticed, at least here in this relatively small city.


In Baden-Baden I got off the bus and wandered around trying to get my bearings. It didn't seem like a very big town, and I found a sign pointing to the tourist information office. Following the signs through a rather beautiful park, I came across a very large chess game in process, and got distracted for... oh, an hour, I suppose. I didn't mean to spend so much time, but I haven't played chess for a very long time and it took me a while to catch up. The game was between a old man and a young man, and the old man was winning, and was being rather smug about it. Watching the spectators was almost as fun as watching the game.

The only reason I didn't stay to the end of the game was that I needed to pee. (Peeing in foreign countries is often problematic, I've found, but so far I am happy to report that peeing in Germany has been congenial.)

Tourist Information

They were helpful at Tourist Information, and provided me with a map. The map wasn't a good one, but it was good enough and had a lot of information in it. It just didn't have all the streets, being one of those maps that have pictures and look pretty. It did help me to orient myself, though.

There was a toilet in the building. That was a relief.


By now I was hungry, but decided to see the sights a little before stopping to eat. At a bookstore I found a little tourist book about Baden-Baden to supplement the map, and walking in the cobbled old streets my resolve to sightsee was quickly shattered by a cafe selling crepes. I sat down to eat. (Mushroom & cream crepes.) While I was eating I spread out the map and studied it. I asked the waiter to tell me where I was.


I was about 20 meters from a famous bathing establishment where, my guidebook informed me, swimsuits were not permitted. That sounded ideal to me since I hadn't brought a swimsuit with me. Also, The Man had told me in an email that if I was in Baden-Baden I should have a bath. That is what it is famous for.

After I finished eating I walked up the road to the bathing establishment and picked up a pamphlet. I could, the pamphlet informed me, have just the bath, or I could go the whole hog and have a brush and soap massage as well. Why not? I thought, and bought a ticket. Then I noticed that it would take three and a half hours. Whoops! There goes my sight-seeing, I thought, and went for it anyway. After all, what better way to see Baden-Baden than from the inside of one of the bathing establishments for which it is famous?

It was lovely. It was a 16-step bathing course, starting with a shower, moving on to dry saunas, hot baths, wet saunas, variously heated pools, and the massage (not as good as The Man's) and ending with a cold plunge (eek!) and then being wrapped in warm towels to sit and relax as you dried. At most of the stages men and women were separated, but then you got to the big middle pool and there it was mixed. I got there, and it was, in fact, empty. (I still haven't decided whether that was a relief or a disappointment.) At the end you got to smother yourself in lotion and were taken to a quiet room to rest.

This half hour rest period at the end was wonderful. A beautiful young woman led me into the room, which was large and circular with big arched windows and a bed under each window pointing in towards the middle. The curtains were drawn. The young woman spread a huge sheet over a bed, patted it, and I lay down. She folded the sheet around me, then folded a blanket over me as well. I lay in the stillness and drifted off, thinking that the seven or so women lying wrapped up in the room looked like presents waiting to be opened.

I drifted off.

When I finally emerged from the bathing establishment I could not believe that three and a half hours had passed, but they had. I was weak with relaxation, and the rest of my wanderings were severely curtailed by the lack of will to do anything. I walked for a while, very, very slowly, feeling limp, and finally decided that perhaps it was time to sit down again. Let everybody else do the walking, I thought. I'll just sit down and watch.

I thought I might be able to overcome my lethargy if I had an espresso, so sat down at a sidewalk cafe, which I then discovered sold icecream. The espresso never did happen.


On the bus back to the station, three highly scented Frenchmen sat near me and looked me up and down rather more frankly than I am used to. Are they all like that? I wondered.

I will find out, soon. France is next. I'm not sure exactly when. Maybe Sunday.


fallensnow said...

whoo! How many more destinations do you have exactly? Lol.

Looking forward to your next post! =)

Lisa said...

im so glad peeing in germany is

Ms Mac said...

I would never have recognised Baden-Baden as a place of bathing fame but now, of course, it all makes sense!

Cheryl said...

I am very confused - why didnt you go from the UK to France, then to Germany?
Mind you I think it must ne much more fun, hopping about all over the place!
If France is awful, hop on the Newhaven ferry and slip back for chips in the UK for a day!

Anonymous said...

Being the coolest guy on the planet, when I say you have a knack for writing, it's not to be taken lightly! Keep up the great work. Other planetary "cool guys" like myself do actually read these things!

Kind regards,
Sam Freedom
The Coolest Guy on the Planet

wiccachicky said...

Wow! I would LOVE that kind of spa sort of experience - what with my stress level lately, I probably NEED it! lol.

Lippy said...

I'm amazed you could move at all after that spa treatment. How loooovely! Can't wait to hear what happens in France. The big questions are: just how smelly/silly/scented are Frenchmen? Are the French truly horrible to people who don't speak fluent French? Are escargot a delicacy or a totally banal food choice in France?

Robert said...

a 3.5-hour bath? now THAT's my idea of a day well spent.

Sorry to see you've been hit by the comment spam bastards.

Pkchukiss said...

Hi, reading your blog from a secluded location near Japan :-)

I think you already know where it is...

Anyway, I am away from home now, like you...