by shari mycek
In its heyday, Baden-Baden was the place to see and be seen. Europe’s upwardly aspiring bourgeoisie would flock to the German town for month-long kurs, drink the magically curative waters and parade in finery along the promenade. While the scene has changed since the baths were opened in 1877, Baden-Baden and its historic Friedrichsbad public baths (a combination of hot-and-cold pools, thermal steam rooms and warm-to-hot air baths) are still very much in vogue.
A bit shy, I booked myself for a `women-only’ circuit (3 hours, 16 stations), which turned out to be a good idea, as the napkin-sized towel given upon entrance was taken away at station five. There, a female attendant put a scrub brush to my skin with memorable authority, cleansing and preparing my body for the next chamber, a dome-shaped, eucalyptus thermal steam room. Most unforgettable, though, was the finish: in a darkened circular room filled with communal beds, I was wrapped womblike in down-soft blankets for a restful, 30-minute slumber.