May, June and July 2018

“Your lean process should be a lean process.”

Unknown

After reflecting on the delays between the last couple of posts, I have realised that batching them together should be an approach experimented with. By batching them together quarterly the process potentially becomes a little more streamlined, a little more substantial and just a little less intrusive.

As such, the last three months, May, June and July, are covered here.

May 2018

Copenhagen

IMG-20180520-WA0010

One of the elements of #Project20nine that I had been most excited about was taking part in Nordic Run in Copenhagen. The race would be the first time that I’d ventured to another country specifically for this kind of competition. It also had the added bonus of doing so with a friend. Yet, what transpired over the course of a few days was far more than just doing the run and hanging out with great people. From start to finish it was a trip that was a non-stop joy ride of all things awesome. Here are the major beats of this symphony of adrenaline and experience.

10am, Thursday – Coffee training session with Exmouth Coffee Roasters, London

Before leaving for Demark, there was coffee to be enjoyed. Let me begin by saying friends or not, the folks over at Exmouth Coffee Roasters are wonderful and, in my opinion, make some of the best coffee in the city.

Today I’d arranged to spend a few hours with Martin, the chief roaster, coffee expert extraordinaire and all-round Jedi with a coffee bean, to learn the basics of being a barista. That is, I was going to learn how to brew, and pour, the perfect coffee-base.

So, over the course of a morning, I learnt:

  • How many grams of ground beans make the ideal coffee and at what temperature and for how long;
  • how much pressure to tamp the grounds with;
  • how to begin to determine a good coffee from a bad one;
  • how to froth the milk and then pour it for Flat Whites and Cappuccinos.

The answers, forever etched into my brain, are there for the taking but it’s not here that you’ll find them. No sir. The answers are to be found during a lesson or two with Martin – the finest way of learning them.

9pm, Thursday – Land in Copenhagen; briefly catch up over chicken soup; bed

From coffee-making to luggage-packing, we headed home and left almost immediately for the airport and boarded a flight bound for Copenhagen where, upon arrival, we were quite literally jumped upon by Lina. Welcome back to Denmark!

7.30am, Friday – Quick grocery shop then First-day-of-holiday Breakfast followed by 4 hours of mountain boarding

Having turned up late on Thursday night we Four Musketeers hung out for an hour or so over Stefan’s tasty chicken soup before we turned in for the night. It was a school night and our hosts still had work on Friday. So we got up, hydrated and headed straight out for some groceries. The walk to the supermarket is about 20 minutes away so it was approaching 10am by the time we whipped up breakfast.

After breakfast it was back outside to make the most of the good weather and our time. We’d been left as the temporary custodians of a couple of electric mountain boards and there was no way we were going to flounder such a generous offering.

IMG_1442

What followed was more than 4 hours of zipping along the quiet backstreets, country paths and coastal walkways.

IMG_1466

4pm, Friday – Head down to the docklands for a bungee jump and a bite to eat

As a way of kicking the weekend off we’d planned on doing a bungee jump down at the docklands. Up until about a week before I’d always considered bungee jumping a no go – jumping from the Death Zone with nothing but a little string around my ankles to keep me safe? Hmm, that doesn’t seem quite sensible. But, when such opportunities to experience new things unexpectedly present themselves then there can be only one response: ‘when are we doing this?’.

IMG_1896

You might have caught the great little speech Will Smith gave about the life lesson he learned after jumping out of a plane.

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.” Will Smith

It’s true. Sure, bungee jumping isn’t skydiving (that’s for a future post) but skydiving is not the point: confronting fears and doubts and uncertainties is. There’s a moment, the space between holding on to the platform and falling towards the earth, that feels like a vacuum. In that moment there is a total clarity and a total awareness that washes over you: suddenly the crispness of the air is so much crisper, the peace of such a height is so much richer, the weight off one’s body so much more present and the focus of one’s mind so much sharper. In that moment fear falls away and even jumping out after it won’t bring it all back.

10am, Saturday – Nordic Run. Game on.

IMG_1511

This is what we came for. The Nordic Run first appealed to me, I confess, because the medal is so damn cool. Have you seen it??

IMG_1547

Doing the run also meant doing so with a buddy, getting a bit of exercise and, generally, having a blast doing something so physical. The majority of the course was set out along the beach, itself an undeclared obstacle (ever tried running a high intensity 5K on soft sand?), and was filled with around 30 different things to climb over, lift, climb under, climb through or generally traverse successfully in order to save oneself from time penalties and forfeits.

IMG_1515

The crowd was super focused and there was a sense that this kind of event is second nature to much of the population. Unlike Tough Mudder there’s a real sense of independence and zero emphasis on teamwork – seldom did I see anyone looking for help or support from anyone else and on the one occasion I offered a hand, it took a moment for the person to relent and accept it.

MVI_1519-ANIMATION

Despite remaining invested in our own progress, Stefan and I crossed the line with respectable times as a team. This is race I’d love to do again and again.

_MG_6219.jpg

1pm, Saturday – Viking re-enactment camp

This one was a little bit of a ‘will we, won’t we’ visit given that we’d run the race in the morning and didn’t know whether we’d all be in a fit enough shape to make it. But of course we were! Never doubted it for a second.

IMG-20180520-WA0001

The camp was exactly what it says on the tin: a Viking re-enactment camp filled to bursting with authentic camp sites, market stalls and food venders, people dressed in period-specific clothing and, the reason we came, Viking battles.

Stefan’s team had a number of matches that afternoon and so we dropped by to watch and cheer them on. I’d not fully anticipated such viciousness but having become familiar with the armour and equipment and rules and etiquette throughout the last few visits to Copenhagen, finally seeing the combat brought all of the pieces of the puzzle into place. Yes, it’s violent and people clearly do get hurt but pound for pound this doesn’t seem all that more dangerous that rugby or American Football. Or maybe it is… those swords, axes and maces do look a little bit scary.

IMG_1951IMG_1932

5pm, Saturday – Collect the rabbit, make a new best bud.

I’ll come right out and say it: I want a rabbit now. I mean, look at him…

IMG-20180519-WA0004

He did get a bit rough one time though and somehow managed to take me down and stand atop of me like the champ he is.

IMG-20180520-WA0002

By the way, if anyone knows the breed of this little guy I’d love to know. Hands down the coolest little rabbit I’ve ever seen!

10am, Sunday – Spend the day exploring Faxe

Wow. This place, in this weather, is startlingly beautiful for an old chalk pit. After the excitement of the last couple of days walking around Faxe offered something of a change in pace and a more laid back time to spend all together.

IMG_1577 (1)

9am, Monday – Wakeboarding

‘Hey guys, we’ve got, like, 2 whole hours before we need to jump back on the plane. I think we’ve got time to do something. Who’s up for wakeboarding?’

Boy, if there’s been a trip this year that has defined ‘fun’, it was this one. Rounding off a weekend packed full of adventure was a morning session down at the cable park. I’d never wakeboarded before and was excited to finally give it a go. The four of us turned up nice and early, so keen were we to make the most of our time that we had to wait 20 minutes for the crew to open up. Once we’d lugged the gear on site and paid for entry we changed into our suits and headed down to the water ready to rock and roll. Having been briefed by our resident wakeboarding pro I felt confident that I knew what I was doing. Only, knowledge does not equal experience, as I found out the hard way…

Stepping up to the edge of the platform, cable in hand and wearing a Big Boy board that was nicely strapped to my feet, I waited for the snap of the line to hoist me towards the water and a virgin’s glory. I’d glide around the course with the grace of a swan coming in to land on a calm boating lake and arrive back at the start to the wild cheers and applause of my friends and fellow boarders. And so it all happened in slow motion. The sudden tautening of the line, the micro bounce into the air, the hoist towards the water, the heart-skipping realisation that ‘yes, I’m doing it!’. But then, as if time itself realised there was some catching up to do, I raced from slow motion to super fast forward and slammed, face first into the water. I’d made it about a meter before faceplanting the frigid Danish waters and catching a mouthful of the seaweed reaching up for me.

I would have gotten right back to it if it hadn’t have been for the fact I’d almost dislocated a shoulder and would spend the next month waiting for full mobility to return to it. Should have worn the beginner board…

1pm, Monday – Flight home.

With that, and after the rest of the gang had officially shown me how the pros do it, it was back home for a quick shower and some dry clothes before hurtling off to the airport to catch the plane before it left without us.

Hero of the Month: Mark Cousins

Mark Cousins (1965 – present) is a celebrated film producer and director. His works include the incredible The Story of Film: An Odyssey and The Story of Children and Film. His books include The Story of Film: A concise history of film and an odyssey of international cinema (upon which ...An Odyssey is based) and The Story of Looking. Mark’s perception of, and passion for, cinema is second to none and inspiring for its range and depth. I first watched ..An Odyssey upon release in 2011 but had owned the book since first publication way back in 2004 – I would have been 15 years old at the time and this book made a particular impression on me and it remains an essential read for all cineastes.

His most recent film, The Eyes of Orson Welles, was released earlier this year.

Books

  1. Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology
  2. Tim Ferris – Tribe of Mentors

June 2018

The Folks Got Remarried

About a year ago, on their 29th anniversary as husband and wife, my parents decided it was high time to do it all over again. To celebrate the 30th year together as a married couple, they chose to do so with their family and closest friends and invited us all to witness the renewal of their vows. For them it was about saying thank you for a life together and for the community of friends and family that has built up around them. The day was beautiful and really reminded me that love, actual, real love, is time immortal. I was even asked to give a little speech…

IMG_20180814_080918-01.jpg

Nida

This was a wonderful little 3-4 day adventure in Nida, an idyllic resort town nestled towards the southern-most part of Lithuania’s half of the Curonian Spit, which lies between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea (the other half is a Russian territory). For half a week we visited the dunes, saw dolphins, explored historic sites, ate tasty food, splashed about in the sea (hey, if it’s only painful for a moment before your legs go numb then it’s good for a swim….right?), played ‘stupid’ (I’ll never be smart enough for this game), road bikes, went for runs and did typical, holiday things. I’d never been this far east of Lithuania before (it’s not possible to get any further east) and had never been away with the in-laws before either and both were a real treat and a highlight of the month.

PANO_20180612_185447PANO_20180612_155713PANO_20180612_155625PANO_20180612_155505PANO_20180612_154021PANO_20180612_152930PANO_20180612_095605-01PANO_20180612_094709-01PANO_20180611_174845PANO_20180611_124824PANO_20180611_120038PANO_20180610_220000

Completion of The Portfolio

Over the last couple of months I’d been piling time into this in the hopes of using it to secure a little bit of part-time writing work. Most evenings and a fair bit of time squeezed into the weekends resulted in the below 40 pages. The idea was that it would be a CV and portfolio rolled into a package just like an actual magazine. The reason it took the best part of 2 months was that alongside producing the content I was also getting to grips with learning how to properly use Adobe InDesign – a software that I’d never used before but have since built a substantial knowledge of and affinity for.

IMG_20180814_080849-01

That’s how it started out, a few doodles in a note book. Here’s the finished thing:

http://online.anyflip.com/hjgo/qvaj/

Building this from scratch, educating myself about the basics of magazine layout and construction and how to use a completely new piece of software was a fun learning journey and one which I’d like to continue developing into the future.

Hero of the Month: Anna Biller, Film Director

Anna Biller (?? – present), is the director of the unexpectedly charming film, The Love Witch. The film, which Biller has gone on record for stating how some of her crew had deliberately tried to sabotage it, currently holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As a point of comparison, Oscar-winner The Shape of Water holds 92%

For those interested, here’s a trailer.

Fun fact: Biller’s partner is Robert Greene.

Books

  1. Christopher Ross – Mishima’s Sword
  2. A Geek In Japan – Hector Garcia

July

The Color Run

IMG-20180708-WA0013.jpg

Ah, The Color Run, you are not what you appear to be, my friend! Your name (officially spelt the American way, no matter which country you’re in) is misleading as only half of it is correct.

Whilst I cannot contest the amount of fun everyone seemed to have here I can’t help but feel a bit let down by it. First, the sheer volume of people, coupled with the number of them deciding not to run, resulted in a <25% run rate. The course, running through streets and pedestrianised areas, was inevitably tight, which only compounded the difficulty in finding space to run. For this reason I believe the run should be considered the ‘Most Laid Back 5k on the Planet’… In fact, whilst ‘The Color Run’ might be a snappy, marketing ploy, ‘The Happy Color Walk’ would be far more accurate. It’s lovely to do, once, with friends, for the experience of getting caked in colourful dust but for anyone expecting a nice little run should look elsewhere…

Spartan Race

Ok, now we’re talking. This is how we do social running and obstacle dodging. Vita and I had signed up to do this one together: our first one together! Nothing about this race was a disappointment: the weather was fantastic, the course was rewardingly challenging, the volume of people was just right and the overall atmosphere was lovely. Oh, and the medal was very cool too!

FB_IMG_1532595265538

The thing that made this course particularly tasty was that a lot of it was built on the side of a steep hill, and the starting line was positioned right at the foot of it. However, we quickly found a rhythm and hustled our muscles to push and pull us along the path. Along the way we climbed the obligatory cargo nets, traversed balance beams, climbed ropes, dragged sledges, threw javelins, hauled sandbags and generally beat ourselves up all in the name of personal growth and discovery.

By the time we got to the finish line, after jumping over flaming chunks of tree, we were buzzing for the next one…

5b4d5c19f39b875f10be47e6.jpg

Skydive Training

This has been part of #project20nine since before it even became official and the experience was gifted to me by Vita. So finally, after making it to the glory of summer and finding a free weekend to book in, I headed down to Redlands Airfield in Swindon for 6 hours of pre-jump training and, hopefully, good enough weather to complete the experience – after all, this year the UK had been subjected to one of the hottest, driest summers on record, was it really going to start storming now?

The answer, unfortunately, was yes. But the afternoon was a lot of fun and has set me up for a future jump when the weather is kind enough to allow us to do so!

IMG-20180730-WA0008-01

Hero of the Month: Tony Robbins, the ‘why guy’

Tony Robbins (1960 – present), life coach and philanthropist (among many, many other things) has proven to be a hugely enlightening individual for me over the last 18-24 months. Yes, he has a huge following and has been at the top of his game for the last 4 decades, but the way he explains his approach to life, the values he holds and how others can shift the perspective on their problems is nonetheless incredibly motivating.

Books

  1. The Legends of Luke Skywalker – Ken Liu
  2. The Food and Cooking of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – Silvena Johan Lauta

And with that, we’re here in August for the final Quarter of being a 20-something. The next 3 months have some pretty significant things lined up and I’m very much looking forward to experiencing them all…


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

36 Hours in Baden-Baden

Germany is a beautiful country and Baden Baden is no exception.

In fact, it’s so good they named it twice.


Perched on the edge of the Black Forest, straddling the River Oos and just a stone’s throw from the Rhine, the historic spa town has been a favourite of the rich and famous for centuries. Now, it’s a favourite of mine too.

Once named Aurelia Aquensis, Latin for ‘Aurelius of the Waters’ (after the last emperor of the Severan dynasty, Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Augustus), the town has officially gone by the more humble Baden-Baden since 1931. ‘Baden’ , of course, meaning ‘bathing’ in German although technically here the name is a derivative of an earlier form of the plural of ‘bad’ (bath), hence ‘baden’ (baths).

However, spa towns built around hot springs are not uncommon throughout Europe and, not unlike the UK’s Bath, there are other towns with the same name: Baden in Vienna, Baden near Zurich… The doubling up for Baden Baden was an attempt to distinguish it (although for fact-fans, prior to ‘Baden-Baden’ it had been known as ‘Baden in Baden’… I’ll leave it down to you to find out why). 

And worth distinguishing it is.


Doing

Given as the town has almost exclusively developed around the 50-68°C hot springs, it would be unreasonable to expect the town to have a great deal of activities on offer. Besides shopping, the majority of interesting things in Baden-Baden are there to be seen (it is necessary to venture a little further outside of the town to find activities such as paragliding, mountain biking etc.). However, the 3 most defining attractions of the town do involve interaction…

Caracalla Therme

IMG_20180421_114212.jpg

The first of the 2 high profile spas in the town, Caracalla is without a doubt a relaxed way to spend a few hours. In fact, a visit to Baden-Baden positively requires it and if using spa facilities in Germany is a new experience for you, then Caracalla is a great start.

Split over two levels: a pool complex on the lower, a sauna one on the upper, the spa is a mini-paradise of relaxation. The pool waters go up to a very warm 38C and offer a variety of features, including mini-waterfalls, to enjoy. Down here is also a large steam room, a cold plunge pool, several outdoor pools and a large sun lawn. Upstairs is the unclothed section that is filled with a variety of saunas, plunge pools and sun decks. 

You’ll find you have a variety of entrance options and my advice is to pay for the full day ticket so that you wont have to worry about overstaying and paying the extra 70cents every 10 minutes – it’s more economical to pay the extra few Euros for an unlimited day stay.

You can read a more in-depth post about Caracalla Therme here.  

Top Tip: take a towel unless you want to rent one.

Friedrichsbad

IMG_20180421_114025.jpg

The other notable spa in the town is Friedrichsbad, the Roman-Irish bath containing precisely 17 stages of mind-body relaxation. This is the far more unique experience of the two, although not for the reasons one may assume. However, the thing that seems to interest everyone most about this spa is that it is to be experienced entirely naked. 

For the uninitiated this might come as a shock, or a thrill, but once those British/American reservations about nudity are shaken off along with the clothes, being in such environments with clingy swimming shorts or bikinis will soon seem unnatural. Frankly, you’ll get a lot more attention if you turn up in anything other than your birthday suit. So, for about 3 hours you roam around the spa, experiencing the steam rooms and pools fully unclothed.

Towards the end, of course, the process slows a little and you’re wrapped in a blanket, made all snug like some bug in a fluffy rug and can doze or meditate for a little while in the Reading and Relaxation rooms.

The other thing about Friedrichsbad that is somewhat curious is just how regimented it is. The 17 stages are timed and are practically policed in order to ensure your experience is optimal. You even get a watch to keep you aware of time spent here and there. Go over the time you paid for and you’ll incur additional costs.

Yet, the thing that really makes the place unique is the building itself. The 17th century (built 1877) building is majestic from the outside but experiencing it from the spa itself makes for a wonderful environment. Particularly the central, domed hall, beneath which is their largest pool.

Between the architecture, lack of pretension and just shuttling through the remarkable variety of water temperatures, rooms and procedures it was a thorough adventure and I loved it.

But you can read a more in-depth post about Friedrichsbad here.  

Top Tip: That thing you’re worrying about? Don’t worry about it. No one else is.

Kurhaus

Baden_baden_2016_0010.jpg

The third of Baden Baden’s Big Three Attractions is the charming Casino at the heart of the town.

Whilst the building was original designed in 1824, the casino element only came into its own about a decade later when gambling was prohibited in France. 

Fun Facts:

  1. Between 23rd and 28th September, 1981, the 11th Olympic Congress was convened in the Kurhaus. 
  2. The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, was inspired by his visit to the Kurhaus casino.
  3. Marlene Dietrich once declared the Kurhaus to be “the most beautiful casino in the world.

Seeing

Romische Badruinen: The Roman Bath Ruins

The town has been a go-to destination for relaxation for centuries thanks to the Romans who really put it on the map. They loved the waters so much that they developed the area to really make the most of them, evidence of which can still be seen today.

Right by Friedrichsbad Spa, two particular areas to look for are:

  1. The Soldier’s Bath beneath Friedrichsbad spa where you can see the ancient heating system
  2. The Roman Wall that still reaches 2m high.

The ruins are preserved behind a glass case after an excavation unearthed them in the mid-1800s. Of course, you can have a guided tour but a little self-exploration is usually much more satisfying.

The Old Town

IMG_20180422_095820.jpg

Baden Baden is a treasure trove of cobbled streets, little nooks hiding a peaceful home/cosey coffee shop/winery, and historical sites. There’s a lot to appreciate in terms of architecture but there are also a lot of artisan shops, jewellers, cafés, bakeries, restaurants and ice-cream parlours. Sure, the the population is not big (50,000 approx.) but it is well served. 

A wander around the Old Town might also reveal other little treats like: 

  • The Stiftkirche (housing the tomb of Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm, Chief Commander of the Imperial Army, who died in 1707)
  • The Convent of the Holy Sepulchre

Florentinerberg

IMG_20180421_113715.jpg

A favourite place for the Romans to bath back in the day, you can check out the ruins of those baths within a rather charming little garden. 

The Kurgarten 

IMG_20180421_175327.jpg

This is the garden in front of the Kurhaus and is immediately accessible from the centre of the town, and even more so should you have arrived via public transport as this is the heart of town. It’s tucked in amongst a handful of the town’s biggest draws, like:

  1. Kunsthalle
  2. Theater Baden Baden
  3. Mamutbaume
  4. Museum LA8
  5. Stadtmuseum Baden Baden

Catch it at sunset on a warm summer day and you’ll have found another wonderful slice of tranquility although bear in mind that this is a popular area. In fact, the Kurgarten is frequently host to a number of events, including the New Pop Festival, the Oldtimer Meeting and the Christmas Market. 

Trinkhalle

IMG_20180421_175800.jpgPerched at the bottom of the pleasant hillside walkway up to Mamutbaume, and just a stone’s throw from the Kurhaus, the Trinkhalle was actually built as an 1839 addition to it. Step into the portico for a stroll by several 19th century frescos of some of the famous locals or take a pew on one of the several benches that line it. 
 
Inside, to quench your thirst, take a sip from the mineral water. It’s free and, legend has it, Baden Baden’s Elixir of Youth. 

Neues Schloss

In the Florentine mountains on the edge of the Black Forest, Baden-Baden’s historic New Castle (Neues Schloss) was built by Margrave Christoph I in 1479 and was occasionally used as a residence by the former grand-ducal family. Purchased by a private group in 2010, it’s currently under development as a luxury hotel under the Hyatt name. Once it’s reopened, it will certainly be worth a visit for its interesting architecture and fine views.

Russische Kirche

The pretty Byzantine-style Russian Church was completed in 1882 and is probably most recognisable from it’s impressive golden dome and fresco decoration. 

Kloster Lichtenthal

This abbey, founded in 1245, lies at the end of the Lichtentaler Allee. The Cistercian abbey also houses a church where several generations of the town’s margraves are buried.

Paradies am Annaberg

WasserkunstanlageParadiesUndStiftskirche.jpg

Perhaps the place for a picnic, or certainly a moment or two of quiet contemplation, these Italian gardens are filled with water features and provide wonderful views over the Aldstadt and the surrounding hillsides.  

Mt. Merkur

The perfect place for a little additional adventure, the mountain is a great spot for hiking, picnics and, yes, paragliding. A short bus ride from the centre of town will drop you at the funicular, which will take you to the very top. If not for the activities, head up for the stunning views of Baden Baden and the Murg Valley.

Museum Frieder Burda

Baden-Baden-Frieder-Burda-Museum-14-gje.jpg

The museum’s striking architecture will let you know you’ve found the place long before the signs do and the quality of the art inside (including Picasso, Gerhard Richter and Jackson Pollock originals) will let you know it’s the real deal. 
 
German art collection, Frieder Burda had originally planned to open a museum closer to his home in France but ultimately settled on Baden Baden. The €20 million building designed by architect Richard Meier houses temporary collections as well as permanent. 

Lichtentaler Allee

IMG_20180421_102650.jpg

There’s no other way to really describe this as perhaps one of the most rewarding walks I’ve ever enjoyed in the middle of an urban space. To call it picturesque is verging on disingenuous given how beautiful it was on a spring morning. 

Stretching 2.3km along the River Oos, from Goetheplatz to Kloster Lichtenthal, the impossibly lush walk is literally peppered with sculptures amidst a carpet of flowers and tapestry of bridges criss-crossing the cobbled river bed.

The Fabergé Museum

A new addition to the town’s portfolio of attractions, the museum worships all things Fabergé. Home to over 700 pieces, the museum’s centrepiece is the Rothschild Fabergé Egg – built in 1902 and worth more than 11 million Euros. You’ll also find the last egg Fabergé made as well as the diamond, gold and birch wood Karelian Birch Egg.

Brahm’s House

Tucked away inside Brahm’s House, the building Johannes Brahms spent his summers for the best part of a decade [1865 – 1874], is the Blue Room. Frozen in time just as he might have left it, the room is a pleasing insight into the environment he wrote many of his most famous pieces. 

Festspielhaus

xl_avatar.jpg

Built inside the 1904 building that was originally Baden Baden’s central train station, the Festspielhaus is a colossal concert hall (currently the second biggest in Europe) that seats 2,500 guests and is home to a huge, eclectic variety of performances every year.  

Stiftskirche

Taking centre stage in the middle of Marktplatz is the Stiftskirche – an unmissable, pink church standing proud and like a mish-mash of Gothic, baroque and Romanesque architecture. 
 
In the tombs of the Princely House lie the remains of 13 margraves, whilst several other officials lie in the various other tombs. For history buffs, the Collegiate Church has undergone several renovations over the last 150 years. 
 
If you happen to pass it by one afternoon, check out the stained-glass windows.

Paradies Cascade

An area of fountains and cascades, the Paradies was built in 1925. Look out for the ornamental garden which stretches along 3 streets of of the town’s bigger homes and mansions. Interestingly, the water comes from an underground spring and its waters fall a cool 40 meters. 

Altes Schloss, Hohenbaden

Built in 1102, the Altes Schloss or Hohenbaden Castle, was home to the Margraves from the 11th to the 15th centuries. Whilst it is mostly ruins now, you can head up to the Old Castle for outstanding views of the town and surrounding countryside. It’s a little out of the way though so bear that in mind if you planned on walking everywhere.  

The Baden-Baden Museum

Should you have the time, a visit to the museum will provide an insightful education about the town’s rich and eclectic past. You’ll find a generous number of displays regarding it’s Roman heritage, various stone monuments, more typical artworks and a collection of interesting antiquities and paraphernalia. Not essential viewing, but worth it if you have a spare hour.


Eating

I had a bit of a rule for this trip and, in hindsight it sounds odd, but it was instigated for a reason. The rule was this: 

  • no eating in restaurants.

Ok, so even now it sounds odd (especially as I, like the rest of us, enjoy a meal out) but hear me out. The reason I imposed this was so that I could maximise my time spent doing other things and, moreover, to force myself into situations where I had to be creative and rely more on my German language skills. Sure, it would be easy to wander into a restaurant and be served in a very quick, and clinical way, but I wanted to work a little harder, glutton for punishment I am. 

So, I thought that by bypassing restaurants I could get up and out, maybe explore further afield for, say, a grocery store where English was a genuinely limited option or hunt the streets for a food stall or somewhere a little more rustic and authentic of the local experience. And you know what? It worked pretty well! 

Breakfasts

My hotel did not come with an included breakfast option so I opted to hit the road, both mornings, and find something, somewhere, that would be a good start to the day. 

On the Saturday morning, I wandered the town in the beautiful rising sun, already in my t-shirt, and picked up a coffee to go from a cafe that had just opened and dropped into a bakery for a nutty pastry and pretzel. Ensuring I got also my fibre and protein intake in, I spotted a supermarket and grabbed an apple, a handful of cucumbers and a carton of quark. 

Sunday morning I repeated the walk as I enjoyed it so much and loved being out in the brilliant morning sun but this time settled for another coffee to go and a cream cheese pretzel. On the way to the airport I snacked on a few banana chips. 

Lunches

Fresh wholemeal baton with low-fat cream cheese, tomatoes, ham and a smoothie on Saturday.

Sunday is not applicable as I was already at the airport.

Dinners

Friday night dinner, immediately post Friedrichsbad was a margarita pizza from a small pizzeria as at 10pm this was literally the only available option. 

Saturday night dinner was a homemade salad with cured meats, fresh bread, almond milk and a banana. 

**Altogether it is clear that the trip was not built around food. I’d used the weekend as a physical and mental detox and so ate a lot less than is typical for me.  


Coffee

Coffee is such an integral part of any city break it’s pretty much a prerequisite to stake out some strong candidates. Here’s a handful of highlights:

Trinkhalle

Literally, ‘the drink hall’, this building contains a water pump tapped into the 17,000 yea-old Friedrichsbad spring. Completely accessible, the town has long been hailed for its healing waters and this is Ground Zero for tasting it straight from the source.

The building itself is also rather charming and makes for an ideal spot for a few photos en route to take a coffee, which you’ll find at the Trinkhalle’s cafe and bar.

The other useful thing about the site is that thanks to its tourist appeal, a tourist desk is tucked away on site.

Café König

Over 250 years and showing no signs of slowing down, Tolstoy is one of several notable patrons of the cafe and it’s no wonder the rich and/or famous have dropped in. Head over for a coffee, stay for the delicious Kuchen (cakes).
 
See here.

Kaffeehaus Baden-Baden

Despite lacking originality in its name, Kaffeehaus Baden-Baden amply makes up for in quality and ambience thanks to the alluring aroma of freshly ground beans and the gentle whiff of baked goods.
 
See here.

Kaffeesack

Another pleasant little artisan coffee joint, you’ll find this one up a cobbled street in relative privacy. 
 
See here.

Sleeping

A town like Baden-Baden has high standards, so depending on budget, preference and approach, one could opt to pay £100’s per night or £10’s.

In general I believe that travel is not defined by the opulence of one’s accommodation simply because I don’t plan on spending much time inside a hotel when there’s a whole new world to be exploring. Yes, expensive hotels are fun and lovely and comfortable, but unless you’re looking to impress someone or thoroughly treat yourself then I’d suggest using that excess budget for more interesting, culturally specific things.

In my case, I opted to shoot for an available room at Hotel Magnetberg. Certainly towards to the lower end of the budget, Magnetberg is nonetheless somewhere I can happily recommend. Clean, fantastically located and incredibly peaceful, it’s a 10 minute stroll into the centre of town and perched on the hill as it is provides excellent views of the surrounding area.

IMG_20180422_063448.jpg

Interestingly, my original booking was £140 although after cancelling that booking and making a new one, I paid £113. They also have an on site sauna should the options in town not be to your liking (not likely, but possible) or you simply can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet steam. 

In fact, the reason for booking here was, as always, entirely practical. Having hunted through the AirBnB ads I found that staying in the hotel was a cheaper option than 95% of the available options. And, moreover, the location was second to none in terms of convenience. 


Keeping Active

As we all know, travel is never an excuse to get lazy. In fact, travel is quite the opposite: it’s the perfect opportunity to get a little creative with your workouts as well as to take in a host of new environments to be active in. Here’s a couple of ideas to help make sure you don’t lose any of those hard earned gains…

T’s Workout Game Plan

So, you’ve got 36 hours in the town and, as luck would have it, you forgot to schedule your rest day to coincide with the trip so it’s business as usual. I chose to do only one ‘workout’ during the stay, as the town is a place to be explored on foot and so I anticipated covering a healthy number of miles just by walking. 

Option 1

Hire a bike and take to the roads before your morning coffee. The roads will be even more quiet during the magic hour, you’ll get to see the sunrise as you glide around the town and will work up a nice pre-Pretzel-and-cream-cheese sweat. 

Option 2

There are a lot of open spaces in Baden Baden. Find your own and try the following bodyweight circuit, with each exercise done for 30 seconds and no rest until a circuit has been completed. Once you complete it once, rest for 60 seconds, and start all over again. Aim for 5 times round: 

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Mountain climbers
  3. Plank press
  4. Burpees

Once complete you’ll find your heart rate elevated nicely. Take a 2 minute break, but keep moving. A slow walk around your area dynamically stretching will keep the blood flowing. Now, try the following: 

  1. Pushups – 50 reps at whatever level you choose (dive bomber, full, half etc.)
  2. Jumping Squats – 100 reps, achieved through any combination of reps
  3. Lying leg/knee raises – 3 x failure

And to cool back down:

  1. Walking lunges – 20 steps one way, 20 steps back. Do this 3 times and you’ll be set. 

Job done, you’re on holiday remember…


Sample Itinerary for a 36 Hour Stay/ Weekend Break

Friday

5pm: Arrive at airport. Take bus to centre, find hotel and check in.

7pm: Head down to Friedrichsbad – it’ll be super quiet by this time so you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself. 

10pm: Dinner at the hotel as most restaurants will close by 9pm.

Saturday

7am: Lay-in followed by an early morning run and bodyweight circuit

8.30am: Back to the hotel for a quick shower

9am: Head into town for breakfast of a coffee and a pastry (because, hey, you’re in Germany and the bakers know what they’re doing)

10am: Take a walk through the town and see:

  • Kurhaus
  • Trinkhalle
  • Festpielhaus
  • Lichtentaler Allee

11.30am: Jump on a bike and try looking at the world from a new perspective. Find a nice spot for a lunch-picnic.

1pm: Head to Caracalla Therme

6pm: Leave the spa and take an early evening stroll around the town. 

8pm: Find a restaurant around the centre of town for Bavarian cuisine and some of the famed local wine.

10.30pm: Back to the hotel, pack, bed.

Sunday

8am: Final packing, checkout

9am: Final stroll through the neighbourhood – aim for no place in particular so as to get [mildly] lost for the last time. Pick up breakfast en route to the bus stop.

10.30am: Begin journey to airport 


What To Pack

I travel light. Lunking huge backpacks around, the stress and tedium of waiting for stowed luggage…it’s not for me. So over the years I’ve refined my packing to the bare minimum and find the following itinerary for a weekend/short trip ideal:

  1. Change of underwear [socks, boxers] per day of travel (if less than 10 days – any more and provision to do some laundry or buy cheap, fresh undies out there)
  2. 1 t-shirt per day of travel 
  3. Pair of jeans
  4. 1 pair of functional footwear (trainers/walking shoes = perfect if you don’t plan on a fancy restaurant or business meeting)
  5. Water bottle
  6. Laptop, charger, adapter
  7. Notebook and pen
  8. Various high protein snacks
  9. Sunglasses (if sunshine is expected…)
  10. Yoga strap
  11. Multivits
  12. Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb/brush, anti-bac gel, cleansing face wipes, grooming kit [although all consumables could be bought out there too]
  13. Compressible jacket (in case of rain or drops in temperature), or the jacket you wear to the airport
  14. Book
  15. Passport, tickets

…you’ll find that you will wear a good percentage of the above and can comfortable keep the rest in a small backpack or holdall. 


Cost Breakdown

For a weekend break, whether as a solo-retreat or some romance, Baden Baden is not too different from the UK, unless you decide to stick to the many high-end boutiques that line the streets…

Travel is particularly cheap and convenient and in general you could get by on a very modest budget. 

  • Flights: £33
  • Hotel: £113
  • Stansted Express: £25 [return]
  • Transfer to hotel: EUR40 [Taxi]
  • Transfer back to the Airport: EUR3.50
  • Caracalla Therme: £23 + EUR6 towel rental
  • Freidrichsbad: £32
  • Coffee and pastry budget: <EUR10
  • Food budget: EUR25
  • Additional spending money: sky’s the limit…
  • TOTAL: £226 + EUR88.50

Travel Essentials

Getting there

Daily flights from London Stansted to Karlsruhe-Baden Baden airport [aka. FKB] are served by Ryanair

General information can be found here

 


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 


Image sources:

All other images are the author’s own.