12 August 2016

Champagne Air and a Hipster Wine Festival

After two years of trying I was finally able to visit my good friend D in Bad Homburg, Germany. Bad Homburg, a suburb of Frankfurt, is one of the wealthiest districts in Germany which is pretty clear in the town's slogan: Champagnerluft und Tradition (Champagne Air and Tradition).

Bad Homburg Schloss

I don't know about the champagne but the air really was lovely! When I'm in Istanbul I don't usually realize how poor the air quality is but nothing drove that home until the morning after I arrived and D took me on a tour of Bad Homburg and its many (many) parks. There are very few things I miss about country life but the smell of clean air, trees, and grass is one of them. Possibly the only thing actually. The parks in Bad Homburg are gorgeous.

Kaiser Wilhelm II spa

Bad Homburg became a popular spa town in the 19th century and, situated in one of the parks, is the Kaiser Wilheml II spa. The spa takes advantage of the natural mineral water deposits and throughout the park you can find different drinking fountains with plaques to tell you the mineral composition of the water and which ailments its good for. I sampled several of the waters and have to say I think I'd rather have the ailments. The spa was lovely though. It consists of various rooms that, like the water, have different elements and minerals to benefit one's health. My favorite was the hay steam room in which you sit in a hay-lined alcove, are covered with a paper sheet so only your head sticks out the top, and hot steam pours through the hay. I don't remember what this was good for but I giggled the entire 15 minutes because it reminded me of sweating during hay season. I think my dad should build one of these in Michigan and charge all the city people who board their horses in his neighborhood ridiculous amounts of money for hay steams.

Bad Homburg casino

Bad Homburg is also home to a casino, built apparently by the brother team responsible for the Monte Carlo casino. I've never been to Monte Carlo but I have to say this is the most sedate and German-looking casino I've ever seen. We went one evening, not to gamble but to dance in the small club on the top floor. It was better people watching than it was dancing owing to a really uneven performance by the DJ...but it was still great fun.

One afternoon D and her family took me to nearby Mainz where we spent an overcast morning wandering around the cobbled streets. The historic center of Mainz is everything you want in a German town: cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings, Roman ruins, and beautiful, old churches.

For the purposes of my visit the most important feature was the river that runs through Mainz, the Rhein. Mainz is situated in the Rheingau-one of Germany's most important wine regions. I don't know much about German wine outside of Riesling and Gewürtztramiener so I did some research before going. The most cultivated grapes in the Rheingau are: Riesling, Spätburgunder, Dornfelder, Grauer Burgunder, Kerner, Dunkelfelder, Chardonnay, Ehrenfelser, Müller-Thurgau, and Weiẞer Burgunder. I had the opportunity to try several of these and a few others at the Wine is in the Air festival.

Without a doubt this was the most hipster wine festival I'd ever been to but despite that it was great fun and I really enjoyed being able to try a whole mess of German wines I'd not only never tried but never heard of before; like the bottle of Zwitschern that I bought to take back to Turkey.

In a trip that involved nature and clean air, spas and hay steams, dancing til 3 AM, the most amazing truffle pasta ever, karaoke until 3 AM and then skipping through Bad Homburg barefoot, practicing my German with a seven year old, and a hipster wine festival it's difficult to choose a highlight. For me of course it was being able to hang out and do all these things with a good friend I hadn't seen in six years but even if you don't have such an amazing friend and host waiting for you, Bad Homburg is definitely worth a visit!

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