Not Relaxing in Baden-Baden

  • Of course, on my first trip to Baden-Baden we shivered all week because of what turned out to be record cold temperatures. The only flowers blooming were in a mall.
  • It's weird. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but every morning at Aqua Aurelia I had a latte and a few times I even had straight-up coffee—the high-test kind. Must have been the arctic weather.
  • Baden-Baden has some of the loveliest ironwork—found everywhere, including a family's home (above), storefronts, churches—that I've seen in a long time.
  • Some people have pictures of their beloved on beaches, in front of sunsets, on the Eiffel Tower. I have hundreds of pictures of my beloved—eating. Here it's bratwurst.
  • The One gave me his tour of Baden-Baden, which started at the gorgeous Pump Room, called Trinkhalle, where visitors can sip the water that has been burbling for more than 17,000 years.
  • We spent quite a lot of time huddled against the cold, watching people as they went in and out of the Pump Room. Sadly, the fountains weren't working, so no health-giving drinks.
  • The One and I went hunting for lunch, but made a quick detour when these ravishing bites whispered our names. How can you decide? Really? How? We didn't. One of each.
  • It seems anyone will do anything for a sweet German treat. This little guy was working the crowd in a small street behind the impressive Champs-Élysées-esque Sophienstrasse.
  • Apple strudel, which is everywhere in Baden-Baden, is The One's kryptonite. This strudel was as big as a lumberjack's arm. The One ate his slice all by himself.
  • At the food store Markthalle, in the Wagener Galerie, we watched as slice after slice of salmon loveliness was shaved off. Sadly, no amount of whimpering could snag us a sample.
  • Naturally, stuffing our faces with sweets meant that at some point we had to eat some sort of veggies. We were served these perky and potent radishes with griebenschmalz, or rendered pork fat.
  • Even though The One and I don't like beer, we adored this fräulein so much, we couldn't stop snapping photos. (I think it's the gap in her teeth that makes it so charming.)
  • The One and I spent many a day looking at, lusting after, splurging on, and inhaling all kinds of marvelous Bavarian sausages. Every single one a winner.
  • Chef Jean-Luc Braun-Ohlmann of Restaurant Rebstock in Oppenau is a man with an exceptional passion for locally sourced foods. The lunch he served was splendiferous.
  • On his day off, our concierge, Michael Lettner, took me on a Black Forest romp. We had lunch at Chef Jean-Luc's restaurant. This cream of white asparagus soup was my sublime first course.
  • Michael insisted I have this dish. "It's what Germany tastes like," he said. Well, if this wild boar ragú was any indication, I now have a huge appetite for the Germanic countryside.
  • Smoked trout was Michael's starter. It was simple, light, and oh-so-well-dressed, with onion, perfectly boiled egg, tomato, Gruyère, and caper berries.
  • It was just after Easter, so lamb was on every menu. Here it was braised in a veal demi-glace sauce and accompanied by the very first white asparagus of the season.
  • I've long been suspicious of spaetzle because it can be like eating lead pellets. But Chef Jean-Luc showed me how he mixes the dough and hand cranks the noodles. I'm a convert.
  • We passed by the delightful Café Koenig and pastry shop every day, and every day I stood there, nose against the window, deciding on my daily treat.
  • Café Koenig also had a window filled with these little delightful ladybugs. It's an Easter tradition and the town was simply crawling with bugs—chocolate ones.
  • The siren call of the coconut couldn't be resisted. These remarkably lifelike chocolate-coconut chestnuts were a Confiserie Rumpelmayer special.
  • These blushing beauties, also from Confiserie Rumpelmayer, were being replaced in the glass case as quickly as customers were buying them. Read: Very quickly.

“You can’t work,” pronounced The One as he leaned on his suitcase to close it. “Plain and simple.”

That was the directive delivered to me from on high a couple weeks ago on the very eve of our trip to the legendary spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany—and it wasn’t an unreasonable one. The last time The One and I were scheduled to vacation there with our friends Matty and Janet, I had to cancel the night before. While they winged it to Germany in business class, I was mired in work at home. Besides, how many times have I left the poor guy sitting at the table, alone with his dinner, while I hunched over my computer, every once in a while shouting, “Just a few more seconds, Mon Cher! Promise…”

While I couldn’t give up work entirely cold turkey—I had to do something—I did push away from the computer far more that week than I have in years. Lest you think it was for the baths–those ancient springs that purportedly have healing and life-giving properties–think again. How could I–someone as overcranked and ADD as I–sit in those pools for hours on end, like Matty, and not go stir-crazy? (He clocked an average of six hours a day in the baths. His overly tanned, 71-year-old skin looks like Gucci crocodile loafers when he finally deigns to exit the waters.) During my first dunk, I was so fidgety, so preoccupied with mentally playing out how I could bitch slap Mark Zuckerberg right out of Facebook and make it my own, that I could have created a tsunami.

It took only one more aqua descent before I realized that the water cure just isn’t for me. What calms me is work. What clears my mind is work. What causes huge fights at home is work. What compels me to go on vacation where all I do is work is work. (Jesus. I guess it’s time to go back to therapy.)

But for the sake of interpersonal vacation détente—translation: I was too scared to risk provoking the ire of The One—I left camera, tape recorder, reporter pad, pens, and business cards at the hotel. Instead I resorted to guerrilla reporting tactics, relying on my iPhone’s camera and GPS to chronicle our stay. So here it is: a just-for-the-hell-of-it slideshow devoted to Baden-Baden and the foods of the Black Forest and German state of Baden-Württemberg. Well, as much as I could manage to cram into my overaddled, waterlogged brain before The One suspected me of working.

Since my video camera was in lockdown, I included this movie to give you a sense of the place.

Take a gander at my Baden-Baden gastro-adventure in a larger map.

Hungry for more? Chow down on these: