Little did I expect my e-saver ticket to Frankfurt would lead to Wiesbaden. I was looking for a historic city with impressive architecture, parks, culture, good food and wine. Also, spas and some shopping would be nice. Of course, I only had three full days.
The Nassauer Hof Weisbaden hotel in evening.
Jim Johnson, the U. S. Representative for Historic Highlights of Germany, told me Wiesbaden met all my criteria and it was the same distance from the airport as Frankfurt. Based on his enthusiastic description, I knew I had to experience this city. Heinrich von Kleist described the city and its surrounding area along the Rhine River as, “A poet’s dream of a region.” It fulfilled all my fairytale dreams on a real life basis.
The Wiesbaden Congress & Tourist Service put my program together. They have wonderful options on their website that can be customized to meet a traveler’s needs. Naturally, I wanted to squeeze everything into a short visit.
Arriving early afternoon at the 5 star Hotel Radisson SAS Schwarzer Bock, the oldest hotel in German (built in 1486), the first thing I did was change and go down to its traditional “bathhouse.” The hotel’s thermal swimming pool helped me rid myself of jet lag before I started on my walking tour. Later, I would take advantage of Schwarzer Bock’s sauna, solarium, and other forms of therapy, as well as experience its famous restaurant Capricorne, and the 1846 Bar. My guide met me at 3:30 p.m. We strolled along the Wilhelmastrasse, Wiesbaden’s main boulevard. She explained that this city experienced very little bombing during WWII. As a result, its undamaged architecture transported me to a much earlier time. Walking Wilhelmstrasse reminded me of the Champs Elysees with all of its beautiful designer shops. Yet, across the boulevard history shines through in the Opera House, Casino, and many parks and government buildings (Wiesbaden is the capital city of Heese). Turning the corner took us into the lively historic district where the outside markets set up on Wednesday and Saturday, and where shopping was afordable and culinary delights abound everywhere.
The Romans discovered Wiesbaden and its 27 hot springs, so seeing part of the Roman Wall was a surprise. Before dinner at the famous Kifer’s, we visited palace-like Kurhaus (the center for national and international congresses, meetings, seminars, cultural and social events). After dinner was a lesson on roulette at Casino Wiesbaden.
The next morning started with my stroll to the market, a definite benefit for staying in the city’s central region. Meeting my guide, we went to Wiesbaden’s only mountain, Neroberg, which offered a panoramic view of the city as well as the wine region. For a wine lover, this was delightful. I learned about the annual Rheingauer Weinwoche (wine week) lasting ten days held every August and vowed that one year, my husband Norm and I will take part in that event. They feature wine from the region and have over 90 stands where you can try the wine. This is accompanied with performers, bands, and show attractions. The day was topped off with a visit to the Castle Rheinhartshausen with dinner.
As crowded as my days were, Sunday combined relaxation with new experiences. The visit to the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme, which is an Irish-Roman bath that covers 1,450 sq. meters, was spectacular. It originally opened in 1913 and was recently renovated and reopened. The therme has a tepidarium, sudatorium, samarium, Russian steam bath, Finnish sauna, and stone steam bath that offer a full gamut of sauna bathing. The Tasul room with its oriental ambience, a sand bath, soft-pack treatments, and wonderful massages provide what you need for renewed energy of mind, body and soul.
Then I moved on to Thermalbad Aukammtal, which was established in 1976 and renovated in 2002. The modern architecture of this therme is a contrast to the classic Kaiser-Friedrich. The services were almost as extensive.
For Americans not used to German Spas, I need to point out that in Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme, everyone using the facility is nude with a robe. At Thermalbad Aukammtal, clients using the first floor pools wear bathing suits. Those using the upstairs saunas and pool don’t. Wiesbaden has been known for good health since the 1800’s. Today, it is the place people flock to for treatment of orthopedic and rheumatic diseases.
After my memorable day enjoying the thermes, I went to the Hotel, Nassauer Hof, one of the few remaining grand hotels in Germany that abounds with luxurious ambience. I did a quick walk-through of its state-of-the art Estee Lauder Beauty Center. The hotel’s swimming pool is also fed from its own hot spring. This was followed by an exceptional dinner.
The only three hotels with their own springs are the Schwarzer Bock, Nassauer Hof, and Hotel Baren. All three are in the central part of the city, which is designed for walking. But, there are many fine new hotels to experience.
Norm and I returned to Wiesbaden in December to experience the annual Twinkling Star Market which runs from the last weekend in November to December 23rd. Walking the market bundled up; the glowine (mulled wine) kept us toasty. We also enjoyed an evening at the circus and topped it off watching the skaters in the park.
There are not enough words to express the charm and interests of Wiesbaden. It has been attracting tourists for over 100 years and surely will in centuries to come. But, buildings and activities alone do not make the charm. It was the people, with their warm and welcoming hospitality, even to a non-German speaker. If I had business in Frankfurt, I’d take an extra couple of days to visit Wiesbaden. It is an ideal location for a meeting or incentive program, a wonderful spot for a get-a-way and relaxation. Or, just enjoy the food and wine.