Aachen

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Home Page > Travelogues > Germany > Nordrhein-Westfalen > Aachen

Also available:  Segment on the Aachen Christmas Market

Germany

State of Nordrhein-Westfalen

Aachen -- The Legacy of Charlesmagne Continues On

Germany

State of Nordrhein-Westfalen

I will admit that my enthusiasm for Aachen as a result of this trip was dampened, and not because of Aachen, but because (a) I visited it on a damp, cold, and foggy day and (b) the main attraction is undergoing massive renovation.  Yet, given the amazing scenes I saw (through the fog), I knew that I had to place Aachen high on my list of places to return to.

When one considers the various cities that formerly served a imperial capitals (Vienna, Paris, and Berlin), Aachen seems comparatively small and little regarded.  This is surprising considering Ponttorthat it was once the seat of Charlesmagne and the Holy Roman Empire that greatly changed the face of Christianity in Europe.  The exterior of Aachen's greater buildings are probably not much more fascinating that those in other German cities, but their interiors show the signs of a greater imperial past.

The city's downtown is basically built within two concentric rings, the outer Altenring that follows the outline of the original city wall, and the inner Stadtring.  My suggestion is to do as I did, begin by walking the Altenring first, then work your way to the middle (although I didn't walk the entire ring because of the weather).  When walking Aachen Rathausthis area, take notice of the colorful, old-style residences, many of which have exquisite window frames and sculptures on the facade.

You will find a handful of old city gates scattered among the buildings -- the best known of these is the Ponttor, shown in the first photo.  The Ponttor is quite spectacular on the inside.

The interior of the Stadtring is almost all pedestrian area, but it is quite steep.  The Rathaus, shown in the second photo, sits on the highest ground and lords over the Rathausplatz.  Barely discernable in this photo is a statue of Charlesmagne holding a royal orb (you can see a black figurine just above the left corner of the second Bronze Miniature of Aachen Cathedralumbrella.  The exterior of the surrounding buildings are quite impressive, you will find golden figurines and colorful clocks.

Aachen's better-known attraction is its Cathedral (bronze replica of which is shown in the third photo), where Charlesmagne was crowned Holy Roman Emporer.  The Cathedral is straight down the hill from the Rathaus, and was unfortunately almost completely covered in scaffolding (only the steeple and the very front of the Chorhalle was exposed).  But it's still worth visiting if just for the interior, which is unbelievable.  The ornate gold and blue tiling in the ceiling of the "Octagon" (the domed part in the center), the massive stained glass windows of the Chorhalle, and the various side chapels (Nikolaikapelle, in particular) are extraordinary.  I made a particular note about the huge iron chandelier hanging over the octagon, which is still lit by candles (though I doubt it ever gets lit much anymore).  For a small fee, visitors can climb to the upper sections of the octagon to get a great view of the Cathedral's interior.

I also had the chance to visit the Cathedral'sFountain near Elisenbrunnen Treasury, and I strongly recommend doing so.  The treasury is just around the corner from the Cathedral's entrance and contains some incredible specimens of ecclesiastic art, especially the original reliquaries, holy imperial robes, and painted altars.

There are several restaurants and cafés in the surrounding squares, and I had a chance to dine at a couple of them -- they were fabulous.

One aspect of Aachen that fascinated me is shown in the final two photos -- the array of bronze sculptures and fountains, some of which are decorated by beds of beautiful flowers.  The sculptures are a fairly new addition to the city, and many of them are modern art depictions of people (such as in the fourth photo, located near the Aachen is full of bizarre fountains...Elisenbrunnen), while some other are simply items of mechanical bizarreness.  These were definitely interesting enough to keep my mind off the rain.  :-)

The list of places I didn't hit is about as long as what I did.  Aachen's tourist map lists about a half-dozen palaces and palace gardens around the perimeter of the Altenring, with the Belvedere in the north and the Hauptgebaeude being the most prominently cited.  The convention area and Quellenhof to the northeast includes thermal bathhouses and a large casino.  These, plus the desire to get some better pictures of Aachen against a blue sky are all reasons why my return there is rather inevitable, I suppose.  [On the other hand, I've already done likewise for Ulm and Berlin, and the differences in the photographs are quite staggering.]

Oh well, one can't always account for the weather.

Also available:  Segment on the Aachen Christmas Market

Trip taken 14 July 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin

Useful Links:
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Nordrhein-Westfalen Tourist Page -- http://www.nrw-tourismus.de/index_e.htm 

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City Tourism Page -- www.aachen.de/EN/tourism_city_information/Current_information/index.html

 

   
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