As it turned out, the apartment we stayed at in Baden-Baden over New Year's had internet access, but I decided that since I'd declared myself to be offline, I'd try to stick to it. What I couldn't fully switch off, however, was the occupational hazard of being a travel writer, particularly of the Lonely Planet guidebook-variety. Just ask me where Baden-Baden's ATMs, police station and convenience stores are. (Okay, that last isn't a standard LP map item, but since I have so many friends who smoke, I'm used to keeping an eye out for places where they can buy cigarettes.)
That said, it was also nice to be a proper tourist and a) not speak the language, b) loll in the hot-spring baths without worrying about being on a schedule, and c) romp through snow. A few days before the trip, I'd rewatched one of my favourite movies Beautiful Girls, in which the 13-year-old character Marty (played by the delightful Natalie Portman) says:
I like to mash snow. It gives me a tremendous feeling of self-satisfaction.She's right, especially when it's crisp, white snow and you're miles away from the city. Also, I only realised on our second, maybe third day in Baden-Baden how nice it was to be out of the city at last. Once the town quieted down around dinnertime and there were hardly any more vehicles on the streets, it was gloriously peaceful. Even for a tourist town, on New Year's Day and the day after (a Sunday), there were hardly any shops and cafes open.
They do know how to ring in the new year though: literally, with church bells pealing at the midnight hour, and for further emphasis, with dozens of fireworks displays --- over the casino and town, in the neighbours' backyards, and over the mountain in other towns --- ad hoc and effusive, for about 45 minutes.
And then it was 2011.
Labels: Travel babble