Baden Baden, Germany: The spa who loved me

Germany’s spa town of Baden Baden is so special they named it twice.

In the Middle Ages the village was simply called Baden, meaning “bath.” It officially became Baden Baden in 1931 as a shortened version of the term “Baden in Baden.”

The mineral springs have been known since the Roman Empire. Emperor Caracalla even visited once, seeking relief from his arthritis.

Baden Baden is a cultural hub situated along the western foothills of Germany’s Black Forest. It is a thriving artistic community of refined living and elegant hospitality without being pretentious.

The main attractions: hot springs, gambling, horse racing, luxurious hotels and the Lichtentaler Allee, the municipal park on the west bank of the River Oos.

The 2-mile strolling area lined with more than 300 native and imported plants and trees peacefully meanders between the river, several museums and the theater before opening to the world famous casino. Follow Lichtentaler Allee into town and walk through town to arrive at the spas.

For contemporary luxury, Caracalla Therme (spa) features a variety of pools with a range of temperatures to accommodate any recuperative need your body requires.

Traditional spa lovers may find the Friedrichsbad more to their liking. Friedrichsbad has been known as a “temple of wellbeing” since 1877. Bathers be warned, however. The baths follow a “traditionally garment-free” regimen where both sexes participate together, except Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The casino, with crystal chandeliers, exquisite wing doors and luxurious red and gold furnishings, oozes seductiveness and style. Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s losses in the casino frequently left him drowning in debt. It is the setting for his short novel “The Gambler,” though it is identified by another name.

In 2009, Russian art collector Alexander Ivanov opened a small but elegant museum featuring nearly 700 objects, including the Rothschild Faberge egg he purchased for more than $10 million at Christie’s in London in 2007.

Once a summer residence of kaisers and kings, Baden Baden may be the grandest spot in Europe to finish a holiday. Indulge yourself in genteel sophistication where visitors are either wealthy or simply enjoy pretending they are.

Details on the town: Info on visiting Germany: