Aachen located in the west of Germany is a spa town with a long-spanning medieval history. This town has been around for millennia. The Celtics settled here and so did the Romans in order to bathe in the natural springs of Aachen. The Emperor Charlemagne made the city a strategic political centre and also soaked in the natural thermal springs of Aachen. He commissioned the Aachener Dom to be built which later became the first UNESCO World Heritage site of Germany included on the list in 1978. Aachen also saw many ceremonies from 936 to 1536, 31 Holy Roman Emperors (rulers of the Roman Empire and normally of Germany) were crowned in Aachen. Aachen is also located near to the Netherlands and Belgium and has an interesting site where the borders meet.
Yet Aachen is excluded from some tour guide books which features the Rhineland Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn tend to get more shine and draws in larger crowds as well. “Tour the Ruhr” 4th Edition guidebook which I received from the head of my department whilst studying in Germany doesn’t have an entry on Aachen. I still highly recommend the book by Roy Kift who lived in the region for over 20 years and has an engaging writing style. Anyways back on track if you plan on visiting Aachen or if you just want to learn more about it then read on dear reader.
My friend Anastasia and I decided to visit Aachen for a day as it isn’t too far from Essen around 2hours by train. This post will include a few of my experiences in Aachen.I didn’t research Aachen for this trip although I knew it was famous for its natural springs. I only checked the weather report and brought with a small backpack. The train ride went well although it felt a bit long. Once we got out of the train the first thing I noticed was the station which was much smaller than Essen’s train station. As we walked out we noticed the traditional façade of the station Anastasia loves old looking train stations so we took a few photos. I also took photos of a statue of a herd of horses. My older brother adores horses. He is disabled and cannot speak and whenever I saw horses I was reminded of him so although to most people the statue may seem unremarkable to me it had special meaning. After taking all these photos without even walking into the city centre yet haha we started walking. It was a very short walk and soon we were at what seemed to be the main road of the area. From across the street, we noticed a Roman looking white-columned structure where people were lining up to touch water coming from a mini fountain. The sign on the fountain clearly stated that the water was not for drinking despite that some people still drank the water. The structure is the Elisenbrunnen which was built in 1827. It features 2 sulphurous fountains we both touched the water.
We then used Google maps to find the Tourist Information Centre. We got maps of Aachen and I bought a postcard. At the centre, we were told to definitely go to Aachener Dom (church) as it is the main attraction of Aachen. As we walked to the church we found the historic Aachen settlement site along the way. The site is located in the middle of one of Aachen’s many parks. It is encased in a modern styled structured we walked around inside looking at the archaeological finds. As a South African, I was shocked that such a highly valued exhibit was outside and available to look at for free. In my country sadly the structure would have probably been vandalized by people trying to steal the items inside. As we walked we also spotted sculptures. Aachen has unusual sculptures some of them are also interactive and people are encouraged to touch the pieces I found this rather fun.
We then made it to the church. The medieval church is a world UNESCO site. It is a petite church but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Inside the gold moulding is striking. I’m not a huge fan of fancy churches often but, this one wasn’t gaudy at all. It was free to enter and there were very little tourists. I just wished I had a better camera as flash photography wasn’t allowed. My camera just doesn’t take good photos in the dark sadly. Fortunately, Anastasia took a few photos and sent them to me. The church was also being renovated at the time and that took a bit away from the external aesthetic overall but it wasn’t a mega drawback. A side note that I want to add here is that I’m fascinated by the fact that Germans really support their tourism industry many of the people inside the Dom were German. I am guilty myself of not travelling through South Africa as I have never had the money to do so. However, once I’m able to I will absolutely travel in my country and around Africa. South Africans normally visit bigger cities and tourist hotspots. Smaller places are often neglected such as Arniston for example with Germans this is not the case. I wish my country had this type of culture.
We then went to the Rathaus (city hall), with its grand gothic design. After that, we walked past a few stores and walked through a bigger public garden which happened to have a few cherry blossom trees in full bloom. It was a good weather day and the garden was full of people. Some were grilling whilst others were sunbathing in the park also has a cemetery section with beautiful headstones and statues inside of it.
Anastasia wanted to see the synagogue as there are few synagogues in Germany. According to Deutsche Welle, there are only 130 prayer rooms and synagogues left in Germany today. Once we got there she was a bit disappointed as was I. The building was very modern not what our preconceived notions expected. But, it is a beautiful design in its own right. There was a memorial close by and it made me feel sad for a while to think of the people who were affected by WWII. We also spotted police close by stationed at the synagogue. In Essen, there were also police people close to the synagogue and in other European countries, I noticed the same thing. This was also strange for me because in South Africa we don’t have any police presence at synagogues. Anastasia and I both being political studies scholars spoke about this and how distressing that police presence is needed to protect the synagogues from defacement. We chatted about neo-Nazism briefly and how Russian synagogues are also guarded by the police. One thing we both agreed on is that it is admirable for the Jewish community of Aachen to have created the memorial and to remain proud of their heritage.
After taking a few photos we passed another mini-mall Aquis Plaza. We passed more stores and St. Adalbert Church. By this time both of us were pretty hungry and we walked backed to the more central part of Aachen in search of a place to refuel. We soon found a few and picked one based on the fact that we could see Aachener Dom from where we were sitting. The food was great and cheaper than a meal in Essen we paid €11 for soup with bread, a salad and a plate of food which we decided to share I love eating but, I wasn’t majorly hungry. This meal was a special offer. We had tea which was roughly €2. I spent very little on this trip as most of our activities included visiting free sites, and walking around.
Aachen is small enough that everything is within walking distance. It is also a much calmer place than then ever busy Cologne and Düsseldorf, in addition, it isn’t flooded with fellow travellers which make places in Aachen easier to photograph. And in general, I felt less pressure in Aachen you can see everything you want in a day without rushing. You can walk without having to use expensive taxis and there are no long queues to stand in to see things like other more popular cities. So if you find yourself close by I guarantee that it is worth visiting. I will post again on things to do in Aachen and more about my experiences there.
If you depart from Essen’s main train station, Essen Hauptbahnhof the travelling time is 2 hours 1 min on average. I took the Deutschbahn train. Do note that Tallys also has a train travelling to Aachen from London. I didn’t pay any fare charges as my student card allowed me to travel in the region I was living in, in Germany for free. But if you click on the words “By train” the link will show you Deutsche Bahn’s various train ticket prices to Aachen.
How do I get there get there?
Where do I stay?
I didn’t stay over but if you plan on staying over click the following link for more information:https://www.thehotelguru.com/best-hotels-in/germany/aachen
Aachen tourist information office
Sources & more reading material:
Thanks a lot for reading and I will be posting more on things to do in Aachen and more about its history soon. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please feel free to comment both positive and negative feedback will be appreciated.
Wishing you happy travels through the journey of life!
xxx Nikki xxx