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Baden Baden without the Wags

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It must be galling for a town so steeped in history and fine architecture that is perfectly positioned in the middle of the beautiful Black Forest to be best known for the fact that the other-halves of some mediocre football players once went shopping there, but such is the case with Baden Baden these days.

However, those with a bit more knowledge of Germany – or access to a guidebook on the country- will know that here is a town that offers so much more than boutiques and high-end restaurants.

For centuries, people have flocked from across Europe through the mountains and vast swathes of forest to take in the waters here, with the American author Mark Twain among the thousands who have been convinced of their healing properties.

"I firmly believe I left my rheumatism in Baden-Baden," he wrote.

"The town is welcome to it."

Though I had no bodily complaints to speak of, three hours of relaxation and pampering in the nineteenth century Friedrichsbad spa nevertheless worked wonders, especially once I had overcome the typical English reservations regarding the no-bathing costumes – my travel insurance didn't cover embarrassment, apparently.

For the price of a cinema ticket in London's West End, I was treated to not only the mythical waters but also to the caring attention and healing hands of my very own masseuse, who was happy enough to talk about last year's World Cup between plunges in cold baths and sessions in scorching steam rooms.

However tempting it was, it also seemed a shame to travel all that way and simply lie back in a big bath.

Fortunately, heading into the Black Forest and taking in a pleasant afternoon is just as easy and relaxing, with regular buses leaving from the town's main square and dropping ramblers off at the start of a number of trails at regular intervals.

Just as relaxing is the nightlife in Baden Baden.

As you can imagine, as soon as the wives and girlfriends of the England team and their various hangers-on left, tranquillity has returned to the town and those wanting a night on the tiles should instead head to Munich for a weekend.

However, it would be nigh-on impossible to summon up any energy for a big night out after a day in the spa.

Rather, the classy, up-market restaurants offering a fresh twist on traditional German cuisine suited me just fine, while, as usual, the local beer didn't fail to let me down.

Let's just hope that there's no major sporting event near Baden Baden soon as, free from tourists and paparazzi, it's the perfect place to get away from it all.


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