Germany off the beaten track

Marienberg fortress high above the Main river in Würzburg. © CTW/ Andreas Bestle

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Wiesbaden

"A poet's dream of a region..."

is how Heinrich von Kleist once described Wiesbaden and its charming environs along the Rhine River. The city received its descriptive name, literally "bathing in the fields" from the Franks in 829.

Long before this group, though, the thermal waters were discovered by the Romans. They found these steaming pools had healing effects on them, and the ancient attraction still remains. It began to develop as a resort town in the early nineteenth century, and the European aristocracy came in droves.

The presence, prestige and influence of the cultural elite helped develop an extensive calendar of cultural events (many surviving to this day) and the magnificent structures built to house them. Casinos became popular in Wiesbaden to entertain the royalty, nobility and intellectual elite between dips in the baths and it quickly became one of the leading spa destinations in Europe.

The Heidenmauer (Heathens' Wall) is the city’s oldest structure from Roman times and is found next to the Römertor (Roman Gate). It was part of a Roman stronghold dating back to 240 - 260 A.D. built to ward off attacks from the Germanic tribes. The "Römertor" was built in 1902 with a covered wooden bridge. In the Römisches Freilichtmuseum (Roman Open-Air Museum), next to the "Römertor", there are copies of stone tablets found in Wiesbaden from the Roman era. In the Museum Wiesbaden (Wiesbaden Museum), an extensively renovated art collection and exhibit focuses on the “Roman Era and the Early Middle Ages.”

The Old Town, once encircled by a city wall, lends itself to strolls through its narrow, twisting alleys lined with houses dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Perhaps the most impressive area is the district around the “new” Kurhaus, the massive and magnificent Wilhelminian structure that opened in 1907. The neoclassical structure is awe-inspiring with its massive dome and rich adornments, also housing the ornate Casino. Try your luck at the famed casino, where roulette, blackjack and poker are the primary games of choice and visitors can tour or even take lessons.

And, of course, you can’t leave Wiesbaden without experiencing the thermal baths as the Romans did. The Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme (Kaiser Friedrich Thermal Baths), erected in 1913, re-opened to the public in 1999 after extensive restorations. This historic thermal bath is heated by the "Adlerquelle" (Eagle Spring), a hot spring with a temperature of 66°C.

Lutheran Church, Wiesbaden

Russian Church

Neroberg Mountain

Villa Clementine

Wiesbaden City Palace

Hessian State Theater, Wiesbaden

Palace Square

Palace for the Heir to the Throne

Old Town

Old Town Hall

New Town Hall

Museum Wiesbaden

Market Church

Spa Gardens

Kurhaus, Wiesbaden

Kurhaus Colonnade

Kaiser Friedrich Thermal Baths, Wiesbaden

Hot Fountain

Heathens' Wall

Map of Germany

Top Tip: Neroberg Mountain Railway

Since 1888 the carriages have moved up and down the mountain with 7.3 kilometers per hour driven by water ballast and therefore carbon neutral.