Even if you have never been to Brenner’s Park Hotel and Spa in Baden-Baden, Germany, you may have seen this famous photo of their pool, which overlooks a glorious park. We were lucky enough to be there on a crisp sunny fall day where the leaves were turning, and I had to wear a scarf for the first time this season. Staying at Brenner’s is what I imagine life would have been like decades ago if one was European royalty. A stately mansion with talented and friendly servants, outstanding food, a “great room” for tea and conversation, and all of this overlooking the park, where “fuzgenger” (people who are walking) spend their afternoons. And should one ever want to venture out, there is a delightful cobblestoned area of Baden-Baden for world-class shopping.
For spa lovers, there is the spa at Brenner’s. The hotel even has a spa suite with a butler where a couple (or group) can enjoy treatments as well as their own sauna, steam, and whirlpool. Every kind of spa and beauty treatment is available as well as fitness (which is still a bit rare in Europe, although thankfully I am seeing better gyms in hotels nowadays). A short walk away is the famous, 120-year-old Friedrichsbad, where you go through a circuit of water/heat treatments – and yes, totally naked in a mixed-gender crowd. Or for a more modern water bathing experience, the Caracalla Therme has myriad indoor and outdoor pools, and only the sauna area is “no clothing” (not optional).
The greatest treat for me, however, was not all of these luxuries (although we did enjoy them immensely!) but spending some time with Herr Richard Schmitz, who was kind enough to make time for us during our visit. Herr Schmitz is the well-known former managing director of Brenner’s who shepherded this grand hotel for the past 30 years. He reminisced about the genesis of the word “spa” in Europe – since he is the one who decided to add it to the name Brenner’s Park many years ago. His was, in fact, the first European hotel to use the term spa. And notably, he is now working with a small group of dedicated spa-industry enthusiasts to launch the Harvard of spa education in Baden-Baden: a “Spa Academy” that will train management and practitioners from around the world.
Spa past, present, and future. My favorite conversation.
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