After several months of living in Stuttgart, Germany, I've slowly been getting more comfortable with getting out to see as much of the area as I can, although I strongly prefer not to travel without a friend or my husband. A few months ago, I heard about a group trip to Baden-Baden though a Stuttgart Facebook group by a tour company called Travel With Wendy, but didn't think much of it. Then once I saw my close friend had signed up, I wanted to go too!
The first thing I did was ask if this trip was still open. Unfortunately, it was full. I stopped thinking about it until I got a notification that someone was selling two tickets. I asked if they'd be willing to sell a single ticket and luckily they did!
Even more lucky, my husband was able to take the day off work to watch our youngest (the oldest was in school). So I paid for the 60 Euro ticket right away.
The day of the tour, I caught the duty bus (the military bus that runs between barracks for free) to another post.
Generally, I'm NOT an early riser. My normal day starts around 9am. I had to catch the bus around 6:45am, which felt miserable but I woke up easy. We hit our stop around 7:50 and had to meet our group by 8:05.
We really wanted to hit Starbucks beforehand and luckily still managed to do so. I enjoyed a breakfast wrap and small burnt caramel on the bus, all before it took off.. In fact, we didn't pull out until about 8:30 despite the many written warning we received about being on time.
It's about 100km from Stuttgart to Baden Baden, and the bus ride there was pleasant. My friend and I talked most of the time, which is always nice.
She also prepped us on the highlight of the day - a Salt Cave. We were scheduled to spend a full hour enjoying a relaxing nap. One of the things she mentioned was how it's often used to treat Asthma, and has been for hundreds of years. She explained that something about the salt would help break up funk in your lungs and to expect that some people would spend the time hacking up, and hopefully you can ignore it and still enjoy your quiet time. As someone with childhood asthma and frequent bronchitis episodes, I was intrigued.
Because of our late take off and traffic on the way, we arrived about 15-20 minutes late to our appointment. We were split into two groups, half going staight to the salt cave, half exploring the city.
I was in the first group. I wasn't sure if we'd get our full hour because of the delay, but I was looking forward to it either way. No phones/cameras were allowed in the room, but I did take my inhaler as I didn't know what to expect. I was actually on the last leg of post-cold bronchitis, so I was a bit nervous.
So, we get in there and there is a large bed, that two people had quickly claimed, as well as about 20 lay down lounge chairs with cushions lining the walls. My friend Stes and I chose chairs at the far back, closest to the bed.
|Brochure photo - no photography is allowed in the salt caves.|
We are told to stay silent, and enjoy our nap! It's not entirely dark in there, but very dim light, with colored orbs in various corners. The walls all seemed covered in salt and there was a few inches of loose salt on the ground.
The first thing Stes and I realized is that the coffee on the bus here was maybe not the wisest choice. Sleep wasn't going to occur. But quiet, calm still sounded nice!
Then again, nothing about that is really my forte. Something about being told to stay quiet, for an extended amount of time makes my anxiety raise, and I notice every single noise, and overthink every potential noise.
I may have even been able to fall asleep if our stay had been longer, if, of course, my mind wasn't going a mile a minute. I was so afraid of drifting off and snoring loudly.
I even got in my head that I was going to fall asleep and accidentally fart. Which of course, now had me trying not to laugh to myself.
At one point, Stes and I made eye contact, which was a horrible idea. I pointed to a Stalactite hovering just inches above her head, so she poked it. Unexpectedly to us both, it started to rock back and forth! We both fell into a fit of silent giggled and had to refrain from looking at each other for the duration.
They opened back up the 'cave' door about 45 minutes after we began. Although it was unfortunate that we didn't get our full hour, it was certainly our tour's fault for the bus arriving too late. Also, I personally was ready to be out. I had been coughing pretty consistently for the last 20 minutes.
In fact when we exited, another member of our group asked me if I was the “cougher”. Luckily no one was annoyed, in fact, they were happy for me that the salt caves properties seem to be doing its job!
I certainly breathed much better for the rest of the afternoon. I don't know if it's something I would do again, but it was worth the experience.
After a quick glass of champagne, we headed toward our lunch stop. We were welcomed at Le Bistro with an abbreviated menu to accommodate the size of our group. I ordered the Flammkuchen which is basically a thin crust flatbread pizza with a cream sauce, ham and onions. It was very delicious! I also tasted my friend's Tortellini and it didn't disappoint either.
After our meal, we headed out for a little wandering on our own. We had about 40 minutes until the entire group was meeting up for a guided tour of the city. At this point, it was raining pretty hard, unfortunately.
We saw some beautiful buildings and had a great time exploring! We also checked out a decadent chocolataire shop and picked up a few truffles.
A while into our walk I realized that my foot felt substantially wet, and discovered my boot clearly had a hole in it somewhere. It was getting extremely uncomfortable. Furthermore, my labored breathing had begun returning and I was starting to dread the guided walking tour, due to some of the many inclined streets we had passed.
After some discussion, Stes and I decided to skip the tour and continue to wonder on our own and meet them at the bus pick up site.
Mostly we were just done with the rain!
We popped into Lowenbrau, an adorable small brewhouse. We spent the next two hours drinking a few beers and enjoying the warmth.
Someday I will definitely return to Baden-Baden and take it all in a bit better, without the rain.
All in all, I think it was a successful day, put together by a great tour company!