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An Old-World Spa Town and Germany's Best Racing
8 Days, 7 Nights (including one en route)
MAY 28 to JUNE 4, 2018
6 nights in Baden Baden
2 days of racing at Iffezheim Racecourse
Farm visit and the mixed 2-year-old Breeze-up and Horses-in-Training Sale
Heidelberg and Neckar River Excursion
An optional excursion to Strasbourg
|Depart the U.S., if not joining the trip from Europe or elsewhere.
Arrive in Baden Baden. If arriving today from the U.S. we can meet you at Frankfurt, Stuttgart, or Strasbourg airports (the latter of which is across the border in France but actually the closest of the three to Baden Baden). You'll then be transferred to our lodging at the Brenners Park Hotel. From Frankfurt it's about two hours and from the other airports a bit less.
The remainder of your arrival day is free for your adjustment and independent activities. We always suggest staying active if it's your first day over, and Baden Baden is an eminently walkable town, with many of the prime delights just outside our hotel door. At about 6PM we'll rendezvous for a welcome cocktail hour to get to know one another and gear up for our week together. We'll pick an outdoor spot not far from the hotel that maximizes the neighborhood ambiance, and follow up with a no-host dinner booking afterward for those who want to participate. It will be an early night.
THE BRENNERS PARK HOTEL. A hotel has stood on this site since 1832, but it was in 1872 that Anton Brenner took title and began the process of making it what is it today. Over the 145 years since then, under several generations of the Brenner family and their successors the Oetkers, the property became and remains one the world's most famous hotels. Royalty, diplomats, and celebrities have made it their Baden Baden HQ. Because of the town's location near the Franco-German border it's often been the setting for meetings between the two heads of state, most notably the 1962 rapproachement meeting of Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer that marked one of the first steps toward a united Europe.
Brenners offers luxury and service in the European Grand Hotel tradition. The location, overlooking the Oos River and the Lichtentaler Allee promenade, is just a bit isolated but still only minutes from the center of town, thus providing both convenience and tranquility. The amenities include three restaurants and three bars (each with a distinctively different atmosphere), an extensive fitness center and pool, and a full-service spa.
Our rooms are in the "Classic" category and quite spacious. A buffet breakfast is included each morning of our stay, with the exception of June 1 when we'll be breakfasting elsewhere. Visit www.brenners.com/eng/home to learn more about the hotel.
|Today is a day to enjoy the unique character of this old-world spa town. We'll start with a morning walking tour.
Baden Baden has been known for its healing natural spring waters since Roman times, when it was utilized by Emperors and the local legions. By the middle of the the 19th Century it had evolved into the most elegant and fashionable summer resort in all of Europe; Wilhem I, Napoleon III, and Queen Victoria set the tone and the wealthy and well-connected followed to "take the cure", gamble at the opulent casino, go racing at the new course, and enjoy the verdant and relaxing environment.
On our 2 1/2-hour walk we'll see the central neighborhoods and the spa district, and hear some of Baden Baden's varied history. We'll conclude with a brief look at the casino, considered by many to be the most beautiful in the world. You'll then be well-equipped to set out on your own explorations.
Certainly you'll want to walk the Lichtentaler Allee -- Baden Baden's iconic outdoor expanse. In the 1100s Baden Baden became the seat of the local Margraves of Baden (a polity that evolved into the Grand Duchy of Baden and ultimately combined with the next-door ex-Kingdom of Wurttemberg to form the modern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg). Subsequently a Convent was established at the nearby village of Lichtentaler. The Allee was originally the path that linked the two places but in the 19th Century it and the surrounding land was transformed into a strolling park and arboretum for the pleasure of the vacationers. It's well worth your time.
We also highly recommend a leisurely afternoon or early-evening visit to one of the major spas in town. Caracalla is modern and luxurious, but we prefer the traditional and unique Friedrichsbad and its 17-stage procession of hot-and-cold showers, pools, steam rooms, massages, and relaxation chambers. Have a look at www.carasana.de for an overview of the spa alternatives. (You also may want to include a taste of the spa facilities at the Brenners Park during the week.)
In the evening we'll organize another no-host dinner outing for those who care to join in. There are a couple of nice spots out of town in the country, and we might just taxi out to one of them tonight.
|An early start today and a wide-ranging excursion that will encompass a breeding farm visit, lunch on a riverboat, and some time in the historic castle-and-university town of Heidelberg.
First stop will be in the beautiful Odenwald, a very pretty and peaceful area of hills, forests, lakes, rivers, and old castles -- and home to Gestut Etzean, one of the top breeders in Germany. Etzean's 300 acres currently host about 70 mares -- about half farm-owned and half for clients. They generally keep half their fillies to race and breed on, and sell the other fillies and all their colts. They also stand three stallions.
Started by the Weil family in 1969 and managed by their good friends and next-door neighbors the Kredels, the Etzean philosphy has been variously descibed as "tough but fair", "as natural as possible", and "respect and maintain nature's laws and cycles". The youngsters stay outside all year round and the paddocks are naturally fertilized. Their results include offering nine individual Group 1 winners and numerous other black-type performers at the Baden Baden sales. 2007 European champion Manduro was raised here.
The German breeding industry, despite its small raw numbers, is becoming more and more consequential. Germany was an early adopter -- by the 1840s there were more Thoroughbred stallions here than in any other country on the Continent -- but its bloodlines took a while to reach the highest levels of international performance. Some commenters have attributed this to an over-emphasis on stamina and soundness over brillance, among other factors related to soil and climate. And then there was the severe disruption resulting from two World Wars and the division of the country.
But today the lingering element of stoutness in German strains is an increasingly valuable commodity. And astute German breeders (incliding Etzean) are leavening their stock with speed while still stressing durability. (Germany has perhaps the most stringent set of rules of any country in the world, covering which stallions are permitted to enter the breeding population.) The recent exploits of such as Manduro, Shirocco, Danedream, Novellist, and Protectionist in the last decade alone, out of a country that produces less than a thousand foals annually, shows that they are prodcucing quality far above what their quantity would suggest possible. And also notable have been non-German breds that have descended from German families: Galileo, his half-brother Sea the Stars, and our own Animal Kingdom are good examples of this.
Leaving Etzean, we'll hopefully have the time to take a different route back out of the Odenwald to experience more of its tranquil beauty. Our next stop will be Neckarsteinach, a town which boasts an inventory of no less than four castles. Here we'll embark on our own boat for a couple-of-hours meander down the scenic Neckar River, enjoying a simple lunch en route to Heidelberg.
At Heidelberg itself you'll have a few hours to explore on your own. Have a drink-and-sit in the central Marktplatz. Cross the arched Alt Brucke footbridge to the opposite bank and hike the "Philosopher's Trail", with its pleasing views of the town and castle. Take the funicular railway up and visit the castle itself, which dates to 1214. Or just poke around and sample the many sights of the well-preserved Old Town core.
At a pre-determined time and place, we'll meet up with our driver for the ride back to Baden Baden. We should be home by mid-evening.
|We have another opportunity to rub shoulders with German racing and breeding professionals this morning. The Baden-Badener Auktionsgesellschaft (the local sales company, thankfully referred to by all as the "BBAG") conducts a mixed 2-year-old breeze-up and horses-in-training sale at their site adjacent to the racecourse in Iffezheim, about nine miles down the road from Baden Baden. BBAG is the leading sales organization in Germany and a good proportion of the country's top runners have gone through the ring here. They operate three vendues annually: the major yearling sale at the end of the summer, a mixed-sale of breeding and running stock in October, and this low-key combination sale in the spring.
We'll head out to the complex early enough to have a good look around and see some of the offerings being shown. Mid-morning the action moves over to the track for the breeze-up. Between watching the several sets of work, BBAG puts on a delicious and ample breakfast to which we're kindly invited to join in.
You'll have three choices for the afternoon: stay at Iffezheim for the sale itself (you can return to town by taxi at any time), spend the entire rest of the day enjoying Baden Baden, or come along on a optional excursion we'll be organizing to Strasbourg in France.
Strasbourg (the name literally means "city of roads") has long been an important trade junction and is one of Europe's oldest cities. A semi-independent free city within the Holy Roman Empire for hundreds of years, it became officially French only in 1697. A spoil of war, it was part of Germany between 1871 and 1919, and again from 1940 to 1944. Among the things that have happened here are the swearing of the Strasbourg Oaths in 842 -- the first written documents in the languages that evolved into todayís French and German -- the probable invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg around 1436 or 1437, and the writing of the song that would become "La Marseillaise", the French national anthem, in 1792.
The traffic cooperating, Strasbourg is less than an hour from Baden Baden. Once there we'll visit the magnificent cathedral, a contemporary of Parisí Notre Dame but with a vertical elegance far surpassing its bigger-city sister, and also the neighborhoods of "Old Strasbourg" including the Petite France which is completely surrounded by water and was the core of the original settlement. An early evening return to Baden Baden will complete the day.
Plenty of time this morning for a workout, a swim, or a stroll along the Lichtentaler Allee, and then our racing kicks off with the Saturday program of Baden Baden's Spring Meeting at Iffezheim.
Horse racing based on the English model began to spread through continental Europe in the mid-1800s. When it did, Edouard Benazet, proprietor of Baden Baden's well-established casino, was one of the earliest embracers. Given the tight and hilly terrain of the town center, a site was chosen in the flatlands, down near the Rhine River and the frontier with France. The course opened in 1858 and was an immediate success, attracting all of the "best people" and offering racing of a high quality. Today it remains Germany's most popular racing venue and annually generates about 30% of all German betting handle.
Three meetings are conducted yearly here. In addition to the spring dates, there is a multi-day festival in late August-early September and a two-day weekend meeting in October, held in conjunction with a major sale. The main racecourse itself is a left-turning oval, a bit more than 1 3/8 miles around. There's a half-oval extension heading out from the top of the far turn to allow certain longer distances to be run, and sprints of up to six-furlongs are started on angled chute which after a mild bend joins the main course at the top of the stretch. All of the racing is on grass.
Distance racing prevails, which is the norm in Germany. On our previous visit, on the corresponding day, only one of the nine races was at less than a mile. That said, one of the co-features today is the six-furlong Silberne Pietsch ("Silver Whip"), one of the big German sprints of the year. The other is the Diana Trial, an important nine-furlong prep for the German Oaks. There will also be simulcasting of the racing from England (it's Derby Day at Epsom), Ireland, France, and other German locations. Our headquarters at the track today will be the ultra-comfortable private lounge operated by the Brenners Park Hotel. The room offers table and sofa seating with an open bar and endless food, plus an outdoor viewing terrace right on the finish line.
Following the racing we'll head back to town, and after a refresher interlude we'll mount another no-host dinner expedition for those who want company and have a semblance of appetite left. This could be a good night to also hit the casino. Remember to take your passport if you do.
Another relaxing morning is yours for the using. We'll be hosting breakfast on the terrace at the Brenners Park today at a time that seems to fit in best with the group members' plans for the AM. Early afternoon we'll head out to Iffezheim for our second day of racing.
The headliners at the track today are the mile-and-a-quarter Derby Trial (a major stepping stone for the German Derby) and the Grosser Preis der Badischen ( an eleven-furlong test for older horses). The supporting card will again feature predominately distance racing and we should be able to catch on T.V. the French Derby card from Chantilly. For this day we've reserved a group of front-row 4-seat boxes close to the finish line. There's an adjacent comfortable lounge for light snacks. (Those wishing to can upgrade to another day in the Brenners Park Salon.)
Following the racing, you again have a choice: head directly back into Baden Baden, or as we hope you'll do, join us for a mountain-top dinner to celebrate our last evening together. The local peak of Yburg, about a half-hour away from the track, commands a splendid view back across the Rhine Valley to France. We'll motor over, have a round of drinks and enjoy the view, then settle in for an unpretentious but satisfying repast.
After our return to the Brenners Park, the hardy among us can repair to the bar we've chosen as our favorite, for between one and an indeterminate number of nightcaps.
Sad to say, the organized itinerary ends this morning following checkout from the hotel. We'll provide transportation to your departure airport and your flight home. Those extending at the Brenners Park will get their outbound transfer on the day they depart.
Gute Reise, and travel safely.
This trip will close on April 2, 2018. Payment in full and all necessary completed paperwork must be received by us no later than this date to insure that you will be able to join the trip.
COME EARLY, STAY LATE:
This itinerary is designed to be full and busy. For those preferring a more leisurely experience, we invite you to consider coming earlier, staying later, or combining our arrangements with other European travel.
We can provide transportation for you to the Brenners Park Hotel and back on whichever days you choose to arrive and leave. Additional nights at the hotel can be booked, either before or after our scheduled stay. Golf is available in town and additional spa experiences await. The Brenners Park has promised to accommodate extensions as best they can, but the space is not blocked or guaranteed. You should let us know as soon as possible if you wish to do this.
Baden Baden is centrally located and convenient to many places in Europe. Alsace, of course, is just across the Rhine and is an attractive area to explore for both scenic beauty and cuisine. (Baden Baden to Paris is only a five-hour straight-through drive.) Munich, Prague, Lucerne, and the Italian Lakes are between 165 and 350 miles away and from 2 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours' drive. In some cases a train can get you there even faster. It's an excellent jumping off point.
ITINERARY & PRICES:
The itinerary includes:
- Six(6) nights lodging at the Brenners Park Hotel in "Classic" category rooms. (Upgrades are possible.)
- Breakfast each morning as indicated.
- Two(2) escorted days of racing at Iffezheim Racecourse, including round-trip transport, admission, and racecard. The Brenners Park Lounge on June 2 and reserved front-row box seating on June 3.
- Visit to a breeding farm in the Odenwald.
- Visit to the BBAG mixed Breeze-up and horse-in-training sale.
- Guided walking tour of central Baden Baden.
- Neckar River cruise and visit to Heidelberg.
- Lunch on two(2) days: on the Neckar River (May 31) and in the Brenners Park Lounge at Iffezheim Racecourse (June 2).
- Dinner on one(1) night: at Yburg (June 3).
- Transfer from Frankfurt, Stuttgart, or Strasbourg airports to the Brenners Park Hotel.
- Transfer from the Brenners Park Hotel to Frankfort, Stuttgart, or Strasbourg airports.
- Complimentary racing newspaper on days published.
- Welcome cocktails in Baden Baden.
- Accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable American escort.
The itinerary does not include:
- Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
- The cost of dinner or lunch except on days indicated.
The Cost of the Trip does not include:
- Any charges incurred at hotels other than the basic cost of the room, including but not limited to room service, mini-bar, television or video, restaurant or bar service, laundry or dry-cleaning, business services, golf or other activities, and activities arranged through the hotel concierge. (All group members will be required to provide a credit card imprint upon check-in at each hotel to guarantee payment for any individual charges.)
- Excess baggage charges. Please check intra-European airline baggage limitations.
- Costs related to obtaining passports or visas.
- Travel insurance.
- Alcoholic beveragtes, except during the "welcome" cocktail hour and at the Brenners Park Lounge at Iffezheim Racecourse.
- Charges incurred for anything other than what is specified in the "Itinerary Includes" summary above.
- Personal gratuities. As part of our arrangements we will tip our drivers and the hotel staff on behalf of the group. Group members should appropriately tip their incoming and outgoing transfer drivers and anyone who provides them with personal assistance, including special assistance by hotel staff. Please note your principal tour escort does not expect and will not accept a gratuity.
The Cost of the Trip Is:
$3,825 per person, based on double occupancy (twelve or more travelers).
$3,925 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or eleven travelers).
$4,025 per person, based on double occupancy (eight or nine travelers).
$1,035 single supplement, regardless of group size. If we're able to consolidate some of the airport transfers, we may be able to reduce this supplement a bit.
*Please note we have still not received final pricing for some elements of this trip, and the trip price is therefore subject to minor adjustment until we do.
We will attempt to match single travelers wishing to double up and thereby avoid the Single Supplement, however it will always be the single travelerís decision whether or not to accept a roommate. The single occupancy rooms at the Brenners Park are smaller than the double occupancy rooms.
All trip prices are subject to change up to thirty(30) days prior to trip departure to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the United States and the European Union. U.S. Dollar prices quoted here are based on the following exchange rate:
1 US $ = 0.862 Euro // 1 Euro = 1.16 US $
- Additional Nights at the Brenners Park Hotel, if available: Will vary according to nights selected. Please inquire with us.
- Upgrades in room category at the Brenners Park Hotel: Will vary according to room category and nights selected. Please inquire with us.
- Upgrade to the Brenners Park Lounge at Iffezheim Racecourse on June 3: Please inquire with us.
- The optional excursion to Strasbourg: Will depend on the number of people choosing this option. Our best guess at the moment is $100 to $150 per person which would include round-trip transportation and a private guide for a portion of the time in Strasbourg.
*This trip is designed for eight(8) to eighteen(18) people. We will make every effort to operate the trip, however we reserve the right to cancel the trip if it has less than eight(8) subscribers. Should we need to do this, all payments made to Racing-Europe toward the cost of the trip will be fully and promptly refunded.
*You must have a valid passport to enter Germany.
*Photos courtesy of the Brenners Park Hotel, the Baden Baden Tourism Office,
Peter Kastner, Gestut Etzean, Christina T / Vancouver, and Baden Racing..
View the Itinerary for our other 2018 trip:
For October (France), click here
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