Although it was difficult to drag ourselves away from the spa (just kidding ... kind of), we did manage to do a couple of things besides relax when we were in Baden-Baden. This post shows just how much there is to do in this region (and this is just a tiny fraction of what is available), but we only managed to get to two of them - taking a Bergbahn up to the top of Merkur Mountain, and visiting the castle ruins of the Altes Schloß Hohenbaden.
Saturday afternoon, we took a bus to the base of Merkur Mountain. If you're thinking of going yourself, here are a couple of tips:
- Take either the 204 or 205 bus. It only leaves once an hour, so check the timetables ahead of time
- Buy a CombiTicket from the bus driver (at the time of this writing, it was 5,50 Euro/person) which ends up being just a little bit cheaper than buying the bus ticket and Bergbahn ticket separately
A bergbahn, translated literally, is a mountain train. It is basically a train that goes directly UP the side of a mountain, kind of like a chairlift, but it rides on rails instead of being suspended from a cable. Sometimes they are called Funicular railways. This particular bergbahn navigates inclines from 23 - 54%, climbs just over 1200 vertical feet, and is the steepest in Europe. The ride is pretty short and the views from the top are amazing! At the top of Merkur Mountain (so named after the Roman god Mercury, Merkur in German, the god of trade and of which a relief was found on the mountain in the 1700s), there is a small cafe, lawns for sunbathing, hiking/walking paths, a tower that you can climb, and rocks that have been chiseled to resemble dice. During our visit, there were a number of people hang gliding from the top. It was awesome to watch them "take off" and made me want to try it (which we later found out you can do). The view was amazing, despite the haze that lingered, and I've come to terms with the fact that sometimes, those views are just better left to memory since a camera can't do them justice.
On Sunday morning, we woke up early and headed to the Altes Schloß Hohenbaden ruins. The upper portion of the castle was originally built in 12th century, on a cliff. The lower portion of the castle was then added on in the 14th century. Honestly, the places these people built castles is amazing. I understand the strategic importance of having them high up, but these things must have been nearly impossible to build! Imagine hauling the building materials up a mountain without modern equipment. Insane! Unfortunately, this castle was abandoned sometime in the 15th century and fell into ruins after a fire in the 16th century.
Today, the castle is a playground for adults! They have added railings and shored up some of the staircases allowing one to climb all the way to the top of the tower in relative safety. Entrance to the ruins is free, and it feels a little bit like it should be verboten (forbidden) to be there (no worries, it's completely legal). In fact, not only is there a cafe, there is also a portion of the castle that has been renovated to house hotel rooms and it can even be rented out for private events. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to have a wedding reception in a 900 year old castle?!
Walking through the old castle, and climbing the steps to the different levels, one can almost imagine what it would have been like in its prime. You can practically hear the steps and gossip floating up the stairs and around the trees that now grow in the castle. It's easy to imagine its various inhabitants rustling around, stoking fires to keep the drafty castle warm, or sitting in the window seats looking out over the Black Forest. No doubt Europe's largest wind-harp, which stands in one of the upper windows in the courtyard. adds to the haunted feeling of the place.
All in all, it ended up being a very relaxing weekend. We are already planning when we can go back to the Friederichsbad for another bath :)
Next week, Aaron is in Washington state for work, so posting might be slow. And then next Friday, I head back to the states for a long weekend to watch one of my good friends from college, and a sorority sister, get married to the love of her life. I can't wait!!
- Meghan -