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Water & Wellness

by Kristin Vukovic

ABOVE: Hotel Sackmann

Less than an hour’s drive from the famous German spa town of Baden-Baden, Baiersbronn is an oasis of natural wellness in the heart of the Black Forest. Its cluster of culinary powerhouses—three restaurants with a total of eight Michelin stars—paired with standout spas, makes Baiersbronn, comprised of nine villages and 14,000 residents, a complete destination in itself.

When my husband and I arrived at the family-run Hotel Sackmann, I went straight to the spa, where I exfoliated with a natural pine honey scrub in a private steam bath. Then, I experienced the purifying and detoxifying Field and Hay Package, where I was cocooned in a bed of warm, wet hay, then massaged and “stamped” with hot herb pouches filled with chamomile, melissa and spruce needles from the nearby forest. The spa boasts a Kräuterbad (herbal sauna) and a Himalayan salt stone sauna overlooking the babbling Murg River.

Upstairs, we dined at Schlossberg, Hotel Sackmann’s two-star Michelin restaurant. “The seasons tell us what we can take in the kitchen,” said award-winning chef and owner Jörg Sackmann, whose son, Nico, forages in the Black Forest for herbs used in the restaurant’s dishes. By the ninth course, I had discovered an abundance of nature on my plates, along with hay-ripened Coulommiers cheese, sourced from neighboring France and served on a local river rock with Jerusalem artichoke, garlic and vogelmiere (chickweed), which recalled my hay-wrapped spa treatment.

The next morning, we took a Kräuterwanderung (herb hike) with Christine Bissell, our wild plant guide. Bissell pointed out various herbs in the forest, including Lady’s Mantle, a delicate cloak-like leaf coated with beads of dew. Halfway through the walk we stopped for a glass of fresh water from a brook and indulged in snacks Bissell had prepared, including crackers with fresh pesto made with herbs from her garden. Although we only covered a tiny fraction of the Black Forest’s 2,320 square miles, a couple of hours surrounded by the deep hues of towering spruce trees left me feeling rejuvenated with a clearer mind. hotel-sackmann.de

Entering Hotel Bareiss, we felt like we had discovered a hidden Black Forest town. The sprawling property has herb and vegetable gardens, beehives and orchards, which provide ingredients for local products used in the Bareiss kitchens as well as treatments in the spa. Their sustainable trout farm in a nature conservation area on the edge of the Black Forest National Park provides fresh fish for the restaurants. At three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Bareiss, chef de cuisine Claus-Peter Lumpp prepared venison from the Bareiss hunting grounds served with rose hips, broccoli and caramelized hazelnuts.

The property offers nine freshwater and seawater pools, including a natural bathing pool in a garden landscape that recalls a pastoral pond; it is bordered by reeds and contains flowering water lilies, zooplankton and phytoplankton to ensure that its fresh spring water stays naturally clear.

The luxurious spa features a Finnish sauna, bio-sauna, herbal steam bath, sanarium and rose steam bath. Internationally inspired treatments include highlights from Ayurveda and a singing bowl treatment from Tibet. Spa Manufactur products were used in the anti-aging Dune Rose body scrub and massage, which left me in a serene state. These local and organic products, which contain cold-pressed vegetable oils and pure botanic essences, are used in combination with a special waterbed, which promotes absorption and efficacy of the ingredients. Afterward, I headed to the relaxation room and took in sweeping views of the Black Forest, a mesmerizing riot of foliage.

For guests who prefer to imbibe nature, a visit to Peter Schnittger’s organic BIO-certified farm is a must. The 1918 Abrahamshof farmhouse is typical of the area, painted a cheery yellow with small shingles resembling fish scales and teal shutters with carved hearts. The Schnittger family produces a variety of products including apple vinegars from their orchard flavored with violet, raspberry, spruce needles, wild thyme, meadowsweet and elder blossom, as well as gin and liqueur. Owl Elixir, infused with a blend of 20 herbs, is made from a 1920s German recipe; Schnittger produces it in his basement with a still that dates back to the same time period. bareiss.com

ABOVE: Hotel Traube Tonbach

Before we departed, we stopped at Hotel Traube Tonbach, home to Baiersbronn’s other three-Michelin-starred French restaurant, Schwarzwaldstube—which was booked out during our visit—a lesson to reserve far in advance. I discovered their five-star spa is moving toward a holistic approach and intr oducing new treatments with Team Dr. Joseph natural products, just a few of the many reasons to return to this idyllic Black Forest retreat. traube-tonbach.de

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