Aachen apparently translates roughly to water, so it is appropriate that it poured down rain during our visit on Saturday. But who lives in the Netherlands and lets a little water stop them? We met up with the another expat couple who have been living in Bonn for a little exploration. For a day trip, Aachen is a lovely city of hot springs, history, and printen.
Before getting started, I thought I’d mention something about the water. Aachen is known for their hot spring. People since the Roman times have been flocking to the area for the benefits of the spa and the spring waters. People even drink the water as it is suppose to help digestion and your skin. However drinking too much is a bad idea since it actually contains a small amount of arsenic. I took a sip from one of the fountains and the water tasted odd, but not necessarily bad. It apparently smells strongly of sulfur as well, but I didn’t notice.
We started our visit with a little walking tour that took us from the Tourist Office by the XX, the largest fountain in the city, past the Dom Cathedral, and to the Market Square and town hall. Along the way we saw some attractive fountains, an old chemist shop, and got to taste a bit of the printen, Aachen’s gingerbread-like cookie. Despite the rain, the tour was actually quite nice and it gave us an easy way to learn about Aachen. Charlemagne of course featured prominently , but the guide also spoke quite a bit about the horse races, which are popular in the area.
The Aachen Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Europe and the original resting place of Charlemagne. The dome inside is the most impressive feature of the church, featuring a beautiful large blue and gold roof and huge chandler. While we were there the cathedral was under construction, so the English tour was unavailable and I was a bit disappointed with it.
I found the Town Hall, built in the 14th century on the ruins of Charlemagne’s palace, to be more impressive; probably because we had the opportunity to explore with with a nifty pseudo-augmented reality audio player. The structure was original Gothic, but was refurbished in a baroque style later. Inside each room had a dome-shaped ceiling and is done up in different colors. The upstairs room use to be used for coronations and is also where you can find the original Charlemagne statue that once stood in the Market square (the one there now is a replica) and replica’s of Charlemagne’s royal vestments. The tour took about an hour or so and was pretty interesting.
The third thing you can’t miss in Aachen is the printen, a spicy, gingerbread-like cookie shaped in a mold and something covered in almonds or chocolate. The story we were told is that the cookie was “invented” after the Aachen city fire when the local people needed to feed visiting pilgrims something. In reality, the recipe is probably from Belgium. We had a taste in one of the many shops in Aachen, and then visited a great restaurant called XX to sample more German confections. This place is worth visiting both for their cookies and the ambiance (but not for the hot chocolate).
After a late afternoon dessert we had run out of things to do in the city, what with the rain and all, so we parted ways and took bus 50 home before dinner. We didn’t make it to a spa, but Aachen has several, and I’d love to check out a public bath sometime. Maybe next visit.