My quest for the metaphysical and how different cultures view magic or healing has become my passion. It’s what brought me to Baden-Baden, Germany—a 19th century spa town built on ancient thermal springs that houses some of the best science-based integrative, alternative, and naturopathic healthcare in the world. Since developing Finding Your Magic, documenting my esoteric international travels, people look to me for wellness recommendations. Baden-Baden had long been on my list to explore as there is very little information on this type of experience on the internet.
I booked a stay at the Villa Stephanie, for a wellness check. It’s the sister property of the renowned Brenners Park Hotel & Spa and home to Brenners Medical Care which offers everything from integrative holistic medicine, aesthetic dentistry and physiotherapy to medical fitness and nutritional counseling. Recently, Victoria Beckham had her annual tune up there. Sandra Lee has also been. Not to mention the Obamas, George Clooney, Rod Stewart and legend, Marlene Dietrich.
Rates start at 590 euros ($643) per night. A seven-day wellness package starts at 5,000 euros ($5,447). I opted for a consultation (300 to 500 euros or $347 to $525 per person to build a bespoke plan) since I was staying less than seven days. Treatments start around 150 euros or $163.
When I checked in, I was brought through a discreet hallway connecting Villa Stephanie to the clinic, run by Dr. Harry König. The moment I entered, there was a fantastical feeling of German fairies flying around who are, in actuality, nurses and doctors. I was handed a bespoke plan created for me based on my health history, as I had sent in documents prior to arriving. It consisted of therapies and tests that I had never heard of or done before. They reviewed my bloodwork and conducted tests that could only be completed in Germany. Each evening, with precision, I received an itinerary for the next day.
I started each morning with a bespoke IV drip and Airnergy oxygen therapy. Developed in Germany, the Airnergy+ looks like a glowing blue bubbling crystal ball. It emulates clean forest air AKA indoor forest bathing through a simple, 21-minute treatment in which you breathe through a nasal cannula. Afterwards, I felt more energetic and better overall. Being in a German holistic clinic in a remote spa town was a new definition of magic.
Every day during or following the IV regimen, there were a multitude of tests and treatments that are not widely available in the U.S., including a type of acupuncture treatment I had never done that uses lasers instead of needles. I am one of the few people who has discomfort with traditional acupuncture so this approach was pain free and welcome. When they removed the needle from the IV, they rubbed a cream on my arm and said, “This is German magic cream. We use this on everything.” I asked coyly, can I get some of that ‘German magic cream.’ They ordered it through the pharmacy and had it delivered to my room.
Courtesy of Jaspre Guest
Healing effects of hydrotherapy
I walked into town to experience Friedrichsbad, the famed 17-step Roman-Irish bath that opened in 1877. Entry is 35 euros ($38), which includes a sheet, slippers, and unlimited time in the spa. With only a towel (it’s really a sheet) and sandals, I was pointed to step one which is a thermal water power shower. I thought to myself if Mark Twain can do this so can I, and hung up my sheet.
The 17-step sequence aims to slowly heat your body up to a maximum temperature and then slowly bring it down. It is purposefully designed based on the ancient medicinal beliefs about the healing effects of thermal water at various temperatures. All I can say is that it does something ethereal physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The thermal springs are 12,000 to 17,000 years old and spew about 200,000 gallons every day. My left leg was in pain from days of nonstop walking and I thought this would be a good test. It was mystical to be inside a venue that has housed magnanimous nobility. The frescos everywhere help transport you back to a more magical time. The nights I slept the best were after I spent the day inside Friedrichsbad. My skin morphed into baby soft and yes the pain in my leg went away.
Forest-bathing in the Black Forest
With so many medical and spa treatments, you almost forget that you are on the edge of the Black Forest. After hydrotherapy, Germany is also known for forest-based therapies. I had to try forest bathing on the top of Merkur Mountain. Lacking the time to hike to the top, I took the Merkur Funicular Railway, which rapidly climbed 4,000 feet of track in five minutes to the top and is a steal at 7 euros ($7.63) round trip. It was like being on Thunder Mountain sans the drops.
Courtesy of Jaspre Guest
So began my meditative walk through the Black Forest which gets its name from the fact that the forest is so thick it blocks the sun. There are scientific studies that contend that forest bathing boosts your immune system as your body communicates with the scents of the forest. It reduces stress by lowering your cortisol levels and lifts your mood. Although the origins are nebulous, it has been practiced in Germany since the 19th century although the term emerged from Japan in the 1980s.
It was a grounding experience to be able to find my center which in Los Angeles and New York City feels almost impossible. I placed my hand on a particular tree I was attracted to and closed my eyes. I imagined the underground mycelium network that helps trees talk to each other and for how many thousands of years this forest has stood. It was transformative. How novel that you could be healed, as if you were a plant, with only air, water, and sunlight.
On the last day, I met with the team for my exit plan and was given an array of homeopathic remedies. We scheduled a zoom meeting to discuss my lab results. In the U.S., medical care is built on the idea that pharmaceuticals will fix you but do they really? Do you ever get 30 minutes with a doctor who actually reads your file? The attention that was given to me during my stay and even before was profound. Each doctor and nurse had printed my medical history and told me that they had been studying my file weeks prior to my arrival. I felt trust, hope and renewed faith.
The Black Forest is home to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and it is easy to see where they got their inspiration. The few days I spent there felt like going into a modern day storybook with magical concoctions at every turn. In a world that is filled to the brim with digital congestion, it was wildly refreshing to go back to a world that still believes in magic in every form.