North of Frankfurt, skyscrapers and Autobahns swiftly give way to the unspoilt, wooded hills of the Taunus. Tantalizingly close to the city, the Taunus range is never very high, but it offers a refreshing foretaste of what much of rural Hesse away from the Rhine–Main conurbation is like. The affluent spa-town of Bad Homburg – at the foot of the Taunus yet within sight of the Frankfurt skyline – is the region’s gateway, with easy access to the heights of the Hochtaunus range and to the reconstructed Roman fort at Saalburg.
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BAD HOMBURG disputes with Wiesbaden and Baden-Baden the dubious distinction of being the spa where Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky frittered away his fortune at the roulette wheel and thus found inspiration for The Gambler. Literary associations aside, the town has a certain genteel quality and a rather longer history than its Wilhelmine airs and graces would suggest: from 1622 to 1806 it was the seat of the Lilliputian landgraviate of Hesse-Homburg, and it has the Schloss to prove it. In the nineteenth century Kaiser Wilhelm II was a regular visitor and the Prince of Wales – the future British king Edward VII – popularized the Homburg hat.