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Bad Ems (Germany)

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About Bad Ems (Germany)

Set on a tributary of the River Rhine, between Frankfurt and Cologne, the spa quarter of Bad Ems sits in a steep-sided wooded valley, stretching out along the canalised River Lahn – all within the Nassau Nature Reserve. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Bad Ems was known as “the Summer Capital of Europe”, with international guests staying for the summer season from all across Europe, including kings, tsars, emperors and politicians – several of them arriving by the river. Richard Wagner, Jacques Offenbach, Jenny Lind, Victor Hugo, Franz Liszt and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, to name just a few completed the international elite. Bad Ems was also the stage for several important political events including the publication of the Ems Dispatch which contributed to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.

Today, visitors to Bad Ems enjoy walking, hiking and climbing in the hills around the town as well as using the modern spa forest railway, the Kurwaldbahn is one of the steepest funiculars in the world. There is an annual music festival to celebrate composer Jacques Offenbach, and the Bartholomäusmarkt, held at the end of August each year is Germany’s largest flower parade.

Historical Background behind Bad Ems

The Upper Germanic Raetian Limes, the fortified border of the Roman Empire has impressive remains close to Bad Ems, and is Germany’s largest archaeological monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. Despite the presence of Roman soldiers here, it is not known whether or not the Romans enjoyed the thermal springs along the river.

The first mention of Bad Ems as a town was in the 7th century, and it wasn’t until the 14th century that a “warm bath near Ems” was documented in written sources in 1382 a tower house was built directly over one of the springs. Important local ruling families added bathhouses in the 15th century, and Bad Ems built one of Europe’s first “Assembly Rooms” in 1696, and this eventually became the Kursaal.

By the early 18th century, Bad Ems was one of the most popular spa towns in Germany, with a casino (until 1872), new bath houses and new pump rooms as the popularity of the drinking cure increased. During the early 19th century the state owners of the spa expanded and refurbished the spa architecture, blending it with existing buildings and the landscape, ensuring the town’s popularity throughout the 19th century. In 1855 an innovative new French inhalation treatment was introduced as well as the Emser Pastillen, inspired by the pastilles de Vichy, and Bad Ems still continues to develop and refine inhalation and anaesthesia technology today.

Nowadays, visitors can enjoy the historic architecture as well as the landscape with numerous viewpoints, vistas and promenades. There is an extensive network of footpaths, and the hills can be accessed via a modern funicular that replaced the Malbergbahn built in 1887. Bathing in the new Emser Therme and drinking the waters are part of the wellness packages that are offered by modern-day Bad Ems.

The Hot Spring Waters

Bad Ems boasts fifteen hot springs which can be found in a geographical feature known as the “Emser Quellensattel” or “spring saddle” at the base of the Klopp and Baederlie hills. They rise mainly on the north bank of the Lahn river – a tributary of the River Rhine. These medicinal waters, between 27°C and 57°C are described as acidulous-alkaline of the sodium-hydrogen carbonate chloride type. The artesian springs rise from deep geological faults, assisted by “gas lift” from carbon dioxide, and they are free-flowing with the most abundant being the Robert-Kampe Sprudel next to the Kurhaus, which has a fountain eight metres high.

The Bad Ems waters, with their high mineral content, are well-known for the treatment of respiratory organs and the gastrointestinal tract, for improving blood circulation, and especially for the relief of catarrh and asthma. They can be taken as bathing, drinking and inhalation cures – inhalation was introduced here in 1855, and medical innovation has been important here ever since. There is a long tradition of bottling the water, and the salts are exported around the world in the form of “Emser Pastillen” lozenges, invented in 1858.

The therapeutic spa landscape surrounds and is closely connected to the spa quarter of Bad Ems. In the 18th century, various paths and promenades led away from the Kurhaus, but it was after 1816 that the spa landscape began to be developed as an integrated part of the spa town. Prince Wilhelm of Nassau, who came to the throe in 1816 had been to Baden Bei Wien the previous year and saw the famous Helental Valley, which inspired him to establish a similar parkland and network of footpaths and lookouts, much of which is connected to the spa quarter and gardens through planned vistas. Much of this network of paths is still in use today and has been described in literature and guidebooks for over two hundred years. Don’t miss the “brownie caves” on the Bäderlei ridge and the viewing towers with breathtaking views back down to the river and the town.

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