Not Relaxing in Baden-Baden

“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.

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  1. Wow really David? no Sole water and thermal water for you? I feel the Badehaus causes a whole in my stomach and I like to munch on some goodies afterwards.Luckily the food is l ooking good there otherwise you would have had to go to Straßburg. ^.^

    1. Helene, I “liked” the waters but didn’t “love” them. I could see going back and spending an hour or so each day in the baths. Not these marathon session Matty loves. And we did go to Strasbourg. We adored it and are going back soon.

  2. Your trip looks heavenly and delicious! We once spent 5 days in Budapest right down the street from the famous baths and spent almost all of our time in the market – with side trips to museums and tea salons. Wonderful! The images of your trip remind me of that. I must get to Germany, the food looks fabulous! And you know what I think? About vacations? Whatever makes us happy! We each have our own way to relax and destress. And if the baths don’t do it for us and food and recording our voyage do, then that’s what we should do. It looks like you had a great time despite not being able to work.

    1. Jamie, hear, hear. I did have a lovely time, but The One isn’t convinced. But I’m not a relaxer, what can I say?! My way of de-stressing is to sleep. Sometimes in the middle of a horrid day, I flip the computer the bird, go upstairs, put on my pjs, and take a long nap. Life always seem better when I awake.

  3. A simple observation…you are a chef. A person who spends time in a kitchen, but your description of ‘work’ is time spent in front of a computer.

    While I am aware of the story of the carpenter who loves to work with wood…becomes a general contractor…who spends more time studying to pass..who has to now hire people, do payroll, schedule jobs, figure out health benefits, learn promotion and advertising…but no longer works with wood. He makes more money, he has more stress, but he is successful. Seen this a hundred times. Happened to me…sorta.

    Food for thought.

    1. dontcallmeachef, thanks for this. But I’m not a chef. Never was, never will be. To me, chefs are specially trained people with a distinct skill set. I’m but a food writer, so my rightful place is in front of the computer. But…your carpenter story hits home. THAT is indeed happening to me. So much so that I can’t write nearly as much as I’d like.

  4. I keep reaffirming the rule that we unplug at 9pm to have Couple Time, but I am pretty terrible about it. Makes me feel terrible. It’s one reason that I have an Idiot Phone. If my phone was smart, that would be Very Bad.

    I have, however, perfected the Sitting-on-the-divan-watching-Netflix-on-autoplay-and-eating-bon-bons style of relaxing. I can totally teach you how to do that!

  5. Baden Baden is such a peaceful town. A stroll around is just as refreshing as the baths (for me) Next time you should go the the horse race. It’s a huge scene!

  6. Thanks for sharing such great pictures. I agree, you shouldn’t have to choose your chocolates. One of everything is the way to go!

    1. Howdy, Laura in Texas. You’re more than welcome. And, yes, I’m quite democratic when it comes to chocolate. The One even more so. (Yet he tends to be rather parsimonious when it comes to sharing.)

      1. I often give special chocolates to dear friends that specifically instruct the recipient that sharing is optional, but not encouraged if the person they are considering will not enjoy it as much or more than themselves. Of course, my husband knows there is no sharing when chocolate is on the line and we should order two if he wants to taste. :-) much less angst that way!

  7. Thank you so very much. I really enjoyed the movie. I don’t expect to ever get to Europe so I appreciate being able to live vicariously through friends and kindred souls.

  8. I could gain 10 lbs. in Baden-Baden (a town so good they named it twice). I’m glad you had a good vacation & “behaved” as much as possible for you. What did M.Z. do to you? lol

      1. It’s short for “Baden in Baden,” or rather, the town of Baden in the state of Baden. Not unlike New York, New York. And yes, it means “baths-baths” or “hot springs-hot springs.”

  9. What a lovely slideshow, David. The work we do is tricky because we can do it whenever we want, for as long as we want. I usually try to shut it off when my husband comes home but sometimes I just can’t help myself when I’m working on something interesting. At least we know we are doing something we love =)

  10. Attempting to relax can be superfluous when work beckons. In your case, work is your spa. I found relaxation gawking at the carousel of revolving photos at the top of the post. Please tell me you sampled those glorious pastries, chocolates and confections.

    1. Brooks, I thought of you while I was in Baden-Baden. Yes, my face was cream- and chocolate-smudged for most of the trip. I ate just about anything that wasn’t nailed down. Most of it was quite, quite good.

  11. LOL Just like my father, you are a workaholic! You were in a place like that, and you couldn’t relax?! Wow! Well, I am drooling to see all the wonderful food showed in the video, and I am getting jealous. I think I’ll have to spend a vacation in Baden-Baden pretty soon…

    1. But, Denise, is that a bad thing?! I’m not sure because I get so much pleasure out of being busy. I would suggest Baden-Baden, but in the warmer weather. #freezing

  12. Oh my gawd. A dessert vacation!!!! I know where I am going next year–who cares about the waters–just leave me at the pastry.

  13. Oh, how charming! I’ve never had much interest in going to Germany. Until now. You can get a(nother) job as Baden-Baden’s director of tourism.

    1. Beth, to be honest, I didn’t either. But I found the people to be very friendly and that they love feeding you. Also the area is beautiful, even though it was like Siberia.

  14. Well, I’m glad you defied orders and snuck a photo-journal of your trip. (Damn good for being done on a phone cam!) How could you not? It was a first time in that particular candy store…and you, a writer! What a lovely place Baden-Baden appears to be. What food! I get your annoyance about lollygagging around a pool while on vacation. Snore! Plus, pools, like beer, are for cooling off on a hot day; a quick dip or a quick sip, are all that are needed to revive. (I don’t like beer either, but an icy cold sip on a hot day does taste good for that second it hits the lips! Then, I’m done.)

    1. Susan, you make me laugh. I was, indeed, a kid in a new candy store–figuratively and literally. And, I’m with you 100% when it comes to pools. These are heated mineral pools, to augment the therapeutic benefits, but I never felt anything. (Well, that’s not true. I did enjoy what Matty calls the “head bangers”: water that cascades down with tremendous force. It’s like an intense shoulder and neck massage.) He says I didn’t feel anything because I wasn’t in the water for very long. I say I wasn’t in the water for very long because I didn’t feel anything. Tomato, tomahto, I guess.

  15. David I am jealous. Like you I would want to work when I went to Baden Baden however my idea of work is taking classes in pastry making so that I could reproduce those lovely small tarts you show. I also would enjoy learning more about German cooking. The baths look inviting but not until I’d finished a long day in cooking class and a good supper.

    1. See, you think like me, Barbara Ann. Work first and let the baths be a reward for a long, hard day. I’m not sure where to find any pastry-making classes, but if I do, I’ll leave the info here. I think it could benefit many readers.

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