April 28, 2011
Happy Birthday! The Radisson Blu Schwarzer Bock Hotel, Wiesbaden, celebrates its 525th anniversary. With its first documentary mention in 1486, it is considered to be the oldest Grand Hotel in Germany. At that time, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and St. Basil's Cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow did not exist, America and the Amazon were not discovered, and Martin Luther was just three years old.
The "Schwarzer Bock" was originally a bath house, and its name stems from the first owner, Philipp zum Bock, who had black ("schwarz" in German) hair. Back then, Wiesbaden had only 36 inhabitants, but it already had an established reputation for its beneficial hot springs: the bricks from 33 AD found during construction work on the hotel's site prove that the ancient Romans treated their ailments here. The bricks can be seen in the cellar of the "Schwarzer Bock".
Throughout its early history, the "Schwarzer Bock" opened its doors to some unwelcome and illustrious guests: The officers who were accommodated in the house during the Thirty Years War were not inclined to go without when it came to the inventory, and the horses, for which one of the owners installed a bath, became an odd attraction extending well beyond the town's borders. However, later Wiesbaden became one of the leading spa destinations in Europe. Ladies from nearby Frankfurt society made sure, when drawing up their marriage contracts, that they could visit the Wiesbaden spa once a year – without their husbands! Goethe was a guest at the "Schwarzer Bock" and summed up the experience as follows: "The primary duty of every bather is not to sit and think, but rather to bend to a higher purpose his wit, and make a merry life of it". Dostoevsky worked on his novel "The Gambler" while staying at the "Schwarzer Bock" – it should be mentioned that the casino around the corner proved to be the writer's undoing: He lost his entire travel budget there.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the old bath house was demolished and replaced by a modern building with 220 beds, electric lights, elevators and later, running water – at 5 Marks per night! After the Second World War, the Americans occupied the "Schwarzer Bock" for another twelve years. Since then, it has been repeatedly modernised, but always keeping in mind its rich history: The historical "Ingelheimer" room with valuable carvings and a ceiling from 1881 made of walnut, ash and Thuja wood is used today as the most exclusive of the 8 meeting rooms. In 2010, the current owner - Capital Hotel Management BV - renovated the legendary bath house: In the historical section of the spa, wooden doors, art deco tiles and even bronze bathtub valves were faithfully restored to preserve the tradition of Wiesbaden's spa culture.
The hotel, which has been known as Radisson Blu since 1995, now has 142 rooms and suites decorated in a classical style. But don't worry: It's been a long time since guests have slept on bed frames covered with bags of straw and hair mattresses, as used in the "Schwarzer Bock" at the end of the 18th century. Ovens in the rooms, as used by guests in the 19th century to cook their own meals because the hotel had no restaurant at the time, are also a thing of the past. Today, the "Schwarzer Bock" offers every facility imaginable, from comfortable beds and private baths to air conditioning and free WiFi. The "Capricorn" restaurant serves international and national specialities, and the atmospheric Bar 1486, named after the official "birth year", is the perfect place to end the day. On entering the bar, guests should not only cast an eye over the cocktail menu, but also look at the door, on which the year of the first documentary mention is inscribed: 1486.