Weather-wise, “Boxing Day" was one of the nicer days of the week, so we ventured back into "old town" to get some walking in. We decided to get another look at the city from the heights of the New Castle (tons of stairs got us there). We took a new way down over a pebbled path and through a park where we spotted a blue heron and enjoyed the sound of chirping birds and rushing water under a footbridge.
Live music on the shell-shaped stage created the perfect soundtrack for another stroll though the Christmas Market. This time we couldn't resist the "Grillmeisterei" stand where we had pork & cheese sausage on a freshly-baked ciabatta roll, French fries, and a crisp rosé. The added benefit was the warmth of the roaring fire as we watched the crew expertly work the spinning grill.
Two days after Christmas we visited a most unusual exhibition - Frida Kahlo - Laces & Tears. The tiny Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund was licensed by the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico to display perfectly rendered replicas of every work by this iconic Mexican artist (whose father was German and lived in Baden Baden at one point). The exhibition guide was written in the voice of the artist herself and led us through the beautifully curated galleries, letting us into her heart, her art, and the many challenges that shaped her world. We stepped into the life, loves, and artistry of this prolific painter through artifacts of her life - her clothing, jewelry, photographs, and furniture - that gave us the full context of her often complexly symbolic works.
On our first drive along the B500 (the Schwarzwaldhochstraße, or "Black Forest High Road") we passed by a small sign for a "Wasserfall". Richard especially likes to chase waterfalls, so when the weather turned sunny we headed back up into the heights of the Black Forest to track it down. After missing the sign again and having to double back we finally parked and started the hike towards Geroldsau Wasserfall on the Grobbach stream in the Northern Black Forest. The hike started out on paved roads near some farms - not really what we were hoping for - until Nancy spied a lower trail right by the side of the stream - that was more like it! As we descended, the paved road disappeared and we were in another world altogether, with the sound of the rushing stream and the dappled light through amazingly lush trees for late December. Along the way photographers gingerly placed their tripods in the water to capture the scene up close. Past a quaint covered bridge, and a few minor waterfalls along the way, we eventually reached the picturesque Geroldsau waterfall (about 20 feet), before heading back along a different trail, happy for the hour or so immersed in nature.
We continued on the B500 and stopped for delicious soft pretzels - with mustard - at Mummelsee Lake before breaking off onto a side road in search of a new way back. We drove into Sasbachwalden, a town that captured just what you would imagine a Black Forest town to look like, with "half-timber" houses, streams & bridges, vineyards & orchards. We stopped for a snack in a cozy pub that featured a huge green porcelain stove.
The next day we headed north to Heidelberg. It was a bright and crisp Sunday afternoon and we cruised past farms, grazing sheep, swaths of green and brown fields, and a Bosch factory. As we approached the city we could see the Heidelberg Castle with mountains in the distance, tucked into a blend of old and new architecture. As we drove into the city we could sense the laid-back vibe with people out walking, skating, and biking - retail stores are closed on Sunday for the most part in Germany. And like Baden Baden, there is a tunnel beneath the city center that allows for a pedestrian-only space that people really appreciate.
After a quick drive up the winding road we found a parking spot a short walk from the castle. First stop was a coffee / tea break before we started to explore - and then we noticed a funicular station. A sign told us that the ticket on the “Bernbahn” would get us round trip down to the city center AND entrance to the castle - DEAL!
The place was teeming with tourists, including several obviously American families who we found out were stationed at a nearby military base. The castle tour included the German Pharmacy Museum that had several rooms set up like apothecaries from various eras. One even featured a hanging crocodile above the mixing table - a symbol of the pharmacy trade.
We took the funicular down to the old town and strolled the very busy streets. The cathedral had a simple elegance, and another church had unique contemporary stained-glass windows. A ride back up the funicular to our car and we headed back to Baden Baden, glad we had included this side trip in our plans.
When we got back we of course hit up the Grillmeisterei stand again at the Christmas Market - this time for a “Juicy Steak” sandwich.
Our final day in Baden Baden was New Year's Eve. We had said goodbye to Ariane, Stefan, and the guys the night before - they were off to Frankfort to spend the holiday with friends and be closer to their flights home. On our own for the day, we spent a couple of hours enjoying Baden Baden's main attraction - it's natural thermal baths ("Baden" means "To Bathe").
There are two main spa options in adjoining buildings:
At midnight on New Year's Eve EVERYONE in the neighborhood had their own fireworks - and pretty spectacular ones at that. The noise outside our apartment was ferocious and went on for a good hour. These people like to party!
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Nancy McCabe &