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Baden-Baden moment

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 27, 2007

In Reply to: Baden-Baden moment posted by ESC on December 25, 2007

: : Has anyone heard of the phrase "Baden-Baden moment"? Supposedly this means an event where for example you and telling a friend about the great 1947 Cadillac you once owned when suddenly one drives by. This perhaps has something to do with German revolutionaries in the early 20th century.

: Nope. Interesting phrase.

Yes, interesting. I immediately thought of Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais' film of 1961.It was a sort of psychological drama in which, unlike most dramas, just about nothing happens, except in X's mind, and it's difficult to say what exactly happened there. The film has a dream-like quality, and is almost all atmosphere.

Marienbad, site of warm springs popular between two world wars, is possibly not much like Baden-Baden, whose hot springs have brought people to this spa in western Baden-Württemberg over a long period of time, but most characteristically in the 19th century. (It was a favorite with Napoleon III and Eugénie, and with the upper classes of his day; Queen Victoria paid a visit.) The apparent motionlessness in the film reminded me of the sense of the cessation of time that was such a part of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, though I can't say if this has any relation to the "Baden-Baden moment".

I was never there, alas. But look at these words from Richard Bernstein, a fraction of his essay in the New York Times.

"The hot springs, though, are Baden-Baden's indispensable ingredient. The Friedrichsbad was pleasing for its antique quality and its naked authenticity. But there's nothing wrong with the more modern Caracalla Spa, which has a large outdoor area open in the warm months.

You can steam, sauna and soak for as long as you want; some people stay for hours. You'll see that the brochures all repeat Mark Twain's comment, after he visited the Friedrichsbad, to the effect that you lose track of time here after 10 minutes, and lose track of the world after 20. He was right." [From:]

When Bernstein says "naked authenticity," he is referring to the fact that the bathers in the Friedrichsbad, men and women, wended their way through the caverns of the hot springs (really just pleasantly warm) nakedly together.

Without more context I cannot be sure if this has anything to do with the "Baden-Baden moment", which may include experiences such as those of the Festspielhaus, where the music dramas of Richard Wagner (and other operas) are performed, or any of the other socially minded venues, like the Kurhaus, where fancy dress balls are held (and fancy dress is expected), or the Casino, where Dostoevsky figuratively lost his shirt.

I would be interested to know in more detail where Colin heard this phrase.