Natalie Dietl, and Cornelia Stahr, who represent Southwest Germany and the spa city of Baden-Baden, describe their favorite things about this special area.
They cover cities including Heidelberg and Stuttgart; natural beauty in and around the Black Forest and Lake Constance; historical sites; outdoor activities, arts, and festivals; summer and winter pleasures -- and their personal special memories.
Natalie Dietl is team manager of international marketing of the State Tourist Board, Southwest Germany. Cornelia Stahr is Head of Global Marketing at the Baden-Baden Tourism Board.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to many guidebooks.
Contact Lea! @lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; on Facebook, it's Places I Remember with Lea Lane. Website: placesirememberlealane.com.
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Lea Lane 0:00
Southwest Germany has long been associated with cuckoo clocks, and that's charming, but this German state in the very heart of Europe bordered by France, Switzerland and Austria is filled with grand cities and fairytale castles, picture postcard villages, traditional festivals, great museums and Christmas markets. The state of Baden Wertenburg in southwest Germany, includes the Black Forest, Swabian mountains and Lake Constance and same cities including Heidelberg, Baden Baden and Stuttgart. We're going to explore its delights with Natalie Dietl, team manager of international marketing of the State Tourist Board, Southwest Germany, and Cornelia Stahr, Head of Global Marketing at the Baden-Baden Tourism Board. Welcome Natalie and Cornelia to Places I Remember. I'm very happy you're here. Let's start with the cities of Southwest Germany. Some have great shopping, or buzz with student life. Others are bases for music, art and culture. I think Heidelberg is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. The castle, the old town and the river Necker surrounded by hills has inspired poets and artists as well as travelers. Tell us more Natalie.
Natalie Dietl 1:11
Yes, Heidelberg is a really lovely city. It's in the north of the state. In the [...] area, we call it in German. It has a really lovely old town and I like Heidelberg To be honest, most of the time in December, because they have a lovely Christmas market. It's held in the whole Old Town area. So you have several booths and stalls all over the city, where you can stroll through the old town and enjoy your wine. I think that's a really lovely time in Heidelberg.
Lea Lane 1:41
I like all the cafes, lining Market Platz. It's a very charming European setting. I always think of Europe that way, with with lovely cafes all around in the old town. Heidelberg Castle this beautiful sandstone building on a hill. I think it's Renaissance architecture. Is that correct?
Natalie Dietl 2:00
Yes. And you can walk up there or either take the railway up there. And then you can explore the castle and the organization which takes care of state palaces and gardens. And they have more than 62 monuments in total. So there's a lot more to explore in the Heidelberg Castle to be honest, and they have a really special tip. So they offer the palace card. And it costs $26. And then you have free and free to 26 of these 62 monuments and I think that's a great deal. If you want to discover some of the monuments we have in the area and explore all about the history in the state.
Lea Lane 2:40
I found that Heidelberg University there was founded in the 14th century; it's really interesting to walk around there and see the old buildings and imagine what it was like then. Okay, Cornelia, how about Baden Baden, which is considered Europe's most elegant spa town. I know Romans came for the 12 natural thermal springs, and from 1700 onwards, Europe's aristocracy flocked there to take the waters. So tell us about it.
Cornelia Stahr 3:05
Yes, that's true. It was like the summer capital in the 19th century. So basically, everyone wanted to go in sometimes to Baden Baden to enjoy the water, you know, to take a bath in the thermal water or even during the summer water. So our thermal water within Baden Baden is very rich in minerals. So it has a heating effect on your body and on the soul as well, of course, and today, we have two public spas. So one is a more modern one, but the other one, and that's really like a hidden gem. It's over 140 years old. So you can really experience the very traditional way of bathing, which makes it very interesting. And also because it's a nude bath. So really, yes, it is.
Lea Lane 3:55
Mixed nude or separate.
Cornelia Stahr 3:57
It's on most of the days in a week, it's mixed, but they do have separate days as well. So I can really suggest everyone to go there once; it's a great experience, though.
Lea Lane 4:08
Especially in the heat.
Cornelia Stahr 4:09
It is, that's the funny thing, actually. Because you would think warm water would attract people to go there in fall and winter times. But usually, even in summer times the summer baths are very, very well for people because it just feels still nice on the skin, even the warm water so that's nice.
Lea Lane 4:31
When you get out of the water. It's so nice and cool. Yes, absolutely. And I just remember walking with all the beautiful flowers along the main alle, the main promenade of the town. Just beautiful flowers everywhere in the summertime, I'm sure all through the year there are different plantings and so forth. What about the casino?
Cornelia Stahr 4:53
Oh, the casinos also another highlight. So it's not only the spas you can see, but also the casino, too; one of Germany's oldest casinos, and the interior design is really beautiful. So it's resembling French Royal palaces. It's like stepping into another world. So you can really feel its great atmosphere. Yeah, even. I mean really, even if people are not into gambling, I always suggest them to go there ones because it's it's a great atmosphere. It's nice to watch the people gambling as well. They have a restaurant, a very nice one called the grill. There's a bar as well and the club so it's really a great evening event.
Lea Lane 5:34
2021 I know, UNESCO named Baden Baden as a World Heritage Site, and I'm sure these are the reasons. The beauty yes; and the history, not the nude bathing. I don't think that has to do with it. But in general, I just remembered as a beautiful place to visit very, very European. What do you think? How about Stuttgart, that's the capital of Southwest Germany's Baden Wurttemberg. State and car buffs should take note. Tell us why Natalie?
Natalie Dietl 6:01
Yes. So Stuttgart is not only the capital city of the state, but also the founding place of the automobile. So we have two car factories here, Mercedes Benz and Porsche. And both of the car factories also have a big museum in the city, you can visit both of them. And this is really special. So it's not only about the car history, so you don't have to be total into cars. I don't myself am a big, huge car fan. To be honest, I don't really have any sense for all the automobile and technical stuff. But nevertheless, it has a lot of history. The Mercedes Benz museum also tells you about German history in general, which I found really interesting you have in both museum audio guides in several languages. And also, the outside of the buildings are an architectural highlight in the city. They are really, really unique. And you can also being in front of the building, you can see how special it is.
Lea Lane 7:00
I remember the history of other cars when you go there. There's there are all kinds of famous people who have driven Mercedes and Porsches. Can you can you name a few of the historic cars that are there?
Natalie Dietl 7:05
So we have some really special one. There's a bus from the soccer team of the of Germany. And that was the bus who brought the team back home in early 74 After winning the world championship, and then we have a car with which strengths Diana drove in 1991. Furthermore, you can see one of the cars the pope used to drive while he was driven by his driver course. And then last but not least also one of the cars was used by Nicolas Cage.
Lea Lane 7:08
So I think there's a lot of choices, VIP cars. I remember seeing Emperor Hirohito of Japan. He was the emperor during World War Two and that car had chrysanthemums etched into the car. So each of these are custom. Many of them are custom cars, they're wonderful to look at. They're one of the times.
Natalie Dietl 7:11
And they have the first which the first car which was ever built? So and this was from Bradshaw, Benz, the wife of Carl Benz who invented it, so and I think that's really unique.
Lea Lane 7:24
And the first time ever, ever, ever anywhere. There is the Popemobile there. I know. I think I remember one of them. Can you race? Is there a time that a person could drive these cars or race them even? Is there any time during the year?
Natalie Dietl 7:40
No, don't do it. In public, they don't offer that.
Lea Lane 7:44
And for the castle, the Rosenstein castle.
Natalie Dietl 7:46
Yes, it's in the north of the city. It's also one of the monuments you can visit with the palace card. And also, from there, you have really nice view over the city. It's in a really, really clean area. So you don't really feel like in the middle of the city center. It gets really special too.
Lea Lane 8:03
And I remember wonderful Zoo and Gardens as well. Flowers are beautiful in that whole area. Now, when I toured southwest Germany, I realized that the trees were very green. So why is it called the Black Forest?
Natalie Dietl 8:18
Well actually has it then when the Romans crossed over the Alps, and they discovered our area, they had this huge mountain range in front of them after the Alps, and it seemed so dark. And that's why they call it the Black Forest. Okay,
Lea Lane 8:32
That's like Greenland and I went there, I thought it would be green, but was white. I guess that's a PR thing to get people to come way back. You have Lake Constance, you have the Swabian Alps, you have river valleys. So there's lots of room to have outdoor activities. What are some of the favorite outdoor activities?
Natalie Dietl 8:33
So I think the best way to discover Lake Constance for example is to rent an E bike and an electronic bike. And they have a biking path going all over the lake all around the lake. And I think that's a really special experience to discover the lake from the different spots. Then, of course in the Black Forest, and on this way we are mountains, you can do mountain biking or hiking. We have some of the most high best or the best hiking path in Germany. And I think last year bought and bought in Boston premium hiking path in Germany,
Lea Lane 9:26
Okay, so you know, there are prehistoric finds that I visited in the Swabian Alps. Can you tell us something about the ancient caves there?
Natalie Dietl 10:30
Yes, there are several caves you can visit and they are from the ice age. So they are one of our UNESCO world heritage and it's like one of the oldest and you still can some see some paintings on the wall from from the Ice Age times. And then you have the Ice Age figures, which have been found in the caves. And you can see some of them for example, in the museum in Tubigin in a city close by on the Swabian alps. it's a lovely city with a really lovely old town and in the museum you can also see the prehistoric bones of the Ice Age.
Lea Lane 11:06
These go back maybe 43,000 years, so they're really outstanding. There are Lake dwellings around the Alps, which are past settlements of the Bronze Age, the early Iron Age. That's interesting, too. I read that the oldest wheel in Europe was found there in this area from around 3000 BC so there's lots of ancient things to look at.
Natalie Dietl 11:27
Yes, definitely. So the Lake dwellings to be honest start in the area of upper Swabia, if you want to be completely correct. Then in the in the south on Lake Constance, you have another pole dwellings on the lake, you can discover and we in general, we are an adventurous.. So the oldest will have been found here, but also in Kassel. The bicycle has been found.
Lea Lane 11:50
So the bicycle and the car and the wheel, Wow.
Natalie Dietl 11:54
We invent a lot of things.
Lea Lane 11:57
I'm very impressed. I had no idea. What about the winter activities? Cordelia, can you tell us some of the things that you like to do in the winter in southwest Germany,
Cornelia Stahr 12:09
Of course. So in winter times, especially in Baden Baden, you can try it for example, especially in Baden Baden winter times. You can do for example, a nice horse carriage ride through the white park and gardens, which is like the green -- or winter times, then, the white stretch -- in Baden Baden with lots of beautiful trees. Or of course go to one of the nice events taking place at the Festival Hall, like a nice concert or a beautiful ballet. So that's something that people like to do winter times, besides of course, going to a nice summer bath.
Lea Lane 12:47
A thermal bath in the winter. Sounds great. Yes. Well then you have cross country skiing, of course snowshoeing, all these wonderful outdoor activities and you have cozy inns I assume all through the area where you can have a log fire. And what would you have to drink when you're sitting in front of the fire? What would be typical?
Cornelia Stahr 13:05
Of course, you would have some mulled wine. I mean, that's that's the typical winter drink in Germany and especially in our region. You drink it at the Christmas markets. So there's a beautiful Christmas market in Baden Baden as well with several different varieties of cleaner delights. But of course if you meet with friends outside outdoors or indoors, you also have a nice mulled wine.
Lea Lane 13:29
That sounds good. Speaking of Christmas markets, I know they started about four weeks ahead or lead up to Christmas and what are some of the best ones in the area? Besides Baden Baden.
Natalie Dietl 13:40
Of course Baden Baden is one of my favorites. And then when I mentioned earlier, Heidelberg is a really lovely city around with Christmas due to their Christmas market. And I think one of my secret ones is in the little town of [....]. And it's not so known to be honest, not not in other countries, at least. And it's really special because the town hall of Dingenbach has 24 windows. And in Germany, we have a tradition, and it's called an advent calendar. So little kids have their advent calendar. And every day they open a little door and they find a piece of chocolate and Dingenbach turn their town hall into one huge advent calendar. It's actually the biggest advent calendar in the world. So each evening at six in the evening, they opened one of the windows in the town hall. And you can see there will be some live music and you can see a famous painting from different artists. So they have a special theme and that goes for two years. And the last two years they are showed pictures or paintings from the book, the Little Prince, but in earlier periods, they also had a Van Gogh paintings. So really, really special and that's right on the market square. So you also have to the Christmas market there. And I think that's a highlight because it's different than the other Christmas markets.
Lea Lane 14:58
Sounds wonderful. It's wonderful to get inside information like this and not see so many tourists perhaps. Tell us about an unusual festival that you like, either of you, which, which is a special festival for you of the area.
Cornelia Stahr 15:12
So for me in Baden Baden very specialist, You Pop Festival, which is organized by regional radio stations basically; it's a festival which is stretched all over the destination, all over Baden Baden. So we have different kinds of concerts and what's quite special, the concerts are always with new comers, so you're not having the very big names; rather than, you know, smaller ones who don't know song. And then it turns out, they're gonna be, you know, very well known. So for example, we had Ed Sheeren years ago when he wasn't that famous. And that's what I really like about the festival. And that's one of my favorite ones.
Lea Lane 15:55
That's fun. I know, there are seven UNESCO sites in southwest Germany, and a span from 40,000 years ago to the present. My favorite is the frontier of the Germanic Roman Empire. Can either of you tell us about that? The Roman lines?
Natalie Dietl 16:11
Yes, it's a really special UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it's under Swabian Alps. Some part of it where you can visit it. And there's also a museum in the city of Allen which tells you all about the frontier line and the history which comes to the special wall, and what you can discover there. So I really recommend and visited the museum, which tells you a little bit more about the history.
Lea Lane 16:35
Yes. It's also wonderful modern architecture, Le Corbusier. Yeah, that's right. You can have modern and ancient all on the same place. So what about some of the other arts, performing arts in the area?
Natalie Dietl 16:48
Stuttgart ballet is really, really famous. So there has been several articles already about it in the New York Times, really known worldwide, but also we haven't stopped at the theater. We have a Museum of Modern Art, which is really nice. So Stuttgart is really the go-to place when it comes to to museums, arts, but also, of course, at Baden Baden. I mean, plenty can for sure. It's something to their museums, because when I was the first time in Baden Baden. I was pretty impressed how cozy the city is and how much museum and culture you have there.
Cornelia Stahr 17:21
Love to hear that. Yes, that's true. So in Baden Baden, we have the museum, [...} a private museum of contemporary and modern art. And it's very well known. They have great exhibitions. Every three to six months they have a new exhibition. And there were big names like Picasso and also Banksy. We were actually in Baden Baden, the first museum which had this painting in their rooms.
Lea Lane 17:55
I remember a performance in a castle courtyard that's very special. I think it was a concert in many of the castle courtyards have this kind of presentation Correct?
Natalie Dietl 18:04
Yes, that's correct. So also really famous is [...] Palace and the garden there and in summer days, they have a lot of open air concerts. And some other things: We have the palace in the right in the city center. And from the end of August until midfle September, they have something called the [...]. So its a light show actually. And it's in front of the museum. So everybody because it's still warm, everybody is sitting with their picnic blanket in front of the castle and enjoying the light show. And that's really unique, and a special experience as well.
Lea Lane 18:39
Sounds like fun. As an avid traveler, I'm always concerned about sustainable green travel. Can you give me a couple of examples of green travel in southwest Germany, Natalie?
Natalie Dietl 18:49
Yes, so we have several certified sustainable holiday destinations. One of them is the little village of [bias prone], it's right in the middle of the Black Forest next to the Black Forest National Park. And then also the Black Forest Highlands right in the south is a certified holiday destination. And they have something really unique I think; they have a holiday called the Red Inclusive Card. And with that you can also use their electronic car sharing for an especial amount of time. I think it's now a per day of the network and additional time you have to pay a small fee, but it's the perfect way to travel sustainable in the area. And in general the whole state you have a perfect train connection. So the Deutsche Bahn, the German train company, has a really advanced system. So from Stuttgart to Baden Baden you can go you can easily take the high-speed train, and be there in an hour and a half approximately. Or go to Freiberg work or Heidelberg etc. So especially the cities are really easy to prepare for to train.
Lea Lane 19:52
Wonderful. Well the name of the podcast is Places I Remember. So would you each please share a memory or story about southwest Germany. Cornelia, do you want to go first?
Cornelia Stahr 20:03
Yes, of course. And of course, I'm gonna tell a story about Baden Baden, and what I connect with the city. I'm actually born and raised in the region, so not in Baden Baden directly, but in the surrounding area. And my parents actually, they just loved going to Baden Baden for a nice event, like a concert in the Festival Hall. And for me as a kid, yeah, well, I didn't really love going to Baden Baden. But I love going there with one person. And that was actually my grandma, because she always took me to the [macro] mountain. And that's the highest point of the destination, and there's going up a funicular railway. So the funicular railway was like the best ever for me as a child. And guess what? Since nowadays, my favorite place in Baden Baden is the macro mountain. So that's where I still love to go. And wherever, you know, whenever someone asked me where to go in Baden Baden, I definitely recommend going to the macro mountain.
Lea Lane 21:07
That's very sweet. Natalie, how about you?
Natalie Dietl 21:10
Yes, so actually, my favorite experience is not that long ago. It was my first time I went to the Black Forest. And it was in October 2021, right after the pandemic, and when everything comes a little bit down here in Germany, and we had a group of U.S. travel advisors, and it was so uncertain if they could come on out due to all the regulations. And I had the good luck to accompany them for a whole week. And it was perfect, because like I said, it was my first time down there and it was already October, and we went with a boat.. And we drank the new wine you get in September, beginning of October when they freshly harvested, and it was sunny, and it was really warm, considering it was already October. And it was a lovely setting. And I think yeah, that was one of my favorite moments.
Lea Lane 22:07
Beautiful. Well, Natalie Dietl Cornelia Stahr. Thank you so very much for sharing about your lovely Southwest Germany. It really is what travelers seek when they go to Europe. Thank you so much.
Cornelia Stahr 22:21
Thank you very much for having us. It was a pleasure. Thank you.
Natalie Dietl 22:25
Yes. Thank you so much.