The first German building placed on the UNESCO World Heritage site was the Aachen Cathedral in, of course, the city of Aachen.

Aachen is about a 2.5 hour drive from us, so rather than get up at the crack of dawn for a day trip that would involve a 5-hour round-trip, we spent one night there.  We drove up Friday after work and stayed at the Novotel, which is a pretty decent chain of hotels.  Saturday morning we got up and checked out of the hotel and our first destination was actually a little bit outside the city.

In German that’s called the Dreiländerpunkt or Three Countries Point.  It’s the spot where the borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands meet.  On the stone in front me, you can see the letters NL on the left for the Netherlands and B on the right for Belgium.  I’m standing on the German side.  So, if you walk around the stone you can be in three different countries in a matter of just a few seconds!  I later thought I should have put my arms around the stone to be in three countries at once so if you go there make sure you do that.

Located just steps away from the Dreiländerpunkt is another fun marker.

That’s Sean standing on the highest point of the Netherlands at a whopping 322.5 meters.  That’s the equivalent of about 1,058 feet or .2 miles.  The Netherlands is a very flat country.

Because we were pretty much in Belgium anyway, our next stop was the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial.

7,987 Americans who were killed in battle during World War II are buried here.  That number includes 37 sets of two brothers and one set of three brothers. 

The site is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), part of the U.S. government. They maintain 25 cemeteries and 26 memorials in 15 countries. 

Henri-Chapelle is the largest of these cemeteries in Belgium. Their brochure states that the U.S. 1st Infantry Division liberated the site on September 11, 1944. 

The World War I and World War II cemeteries maintained by the ABMC contain about 40% of those originally buried there.  The remaining 60% were returned home at the request of the family. 

The sculpture shown here represents the Angel of Peace.

You should be able to make out the olive branch in his left hand.

After we paid our respects here we drove back to Aachen and parked at a garage near the Cathedral. 

As we usually do in a new city, we stopped at the Tourist Information (TI) office to get a walking tour map.  Often these are free, but the Aachen TI charged a small fee for their map called “Charlemagne guides you through Aachen”. 

Charlemagne, who is called Karl der Grosse (Charles the Great) in German and Charles I in English, was a king in the 8th century.  He was crowned emperor in the year 800 by Pope Leo III and his remains are in the Aachen Cathedral. 

The walking tour map had some really good information but also some very cheesy “quotes” from Charlemagne.  For example, there is a statue of Charlemagne in the city and he says “The bronze bowl of the fountain resembles a kitchen bowl, that is why everyone calls it the “Eäzekomp” (pea bowl) – these people of Aachen really should show more respect rather than telling me that I am standing in a bowl of pea soup!”

There are little brass markers in the sidewalk around town to help you follow the walking tour as well.  One marker indicates that you’re on the right path and three markers indicates a site on the tour. 

The first stop on the tour was the Elisenbrunnen (Elisa Fountain), part of which you see on the left.

It was difficult to get any kind of decent photo of it because there was some kind of book fair going on throughout the city, and the fountain was surrounded by people selling and buying books.  The fountain was built in 1827 and was part of a spa resort that was famous for healing waters from underground hot springs.   

Aachen was heavily damaged during World War II and it was the first German city to be freed by the Allies.  While the Cathedral was mostly unharmed during the war, the Elisenbrunnen shown above was destroyed.  It was reconstructed in 1953. 

The next stop was the Klenkes Monument.

You can see that the statue has its pinky finger raised.  This is apparently reminiscent of the needle industry formerly based in Aachen.  At the end of the production process, bad needles were sorted from good ones using the pinky finger.  The gesture shown in the monument became a form of greeting for people from Aachen.

This next fountain is called the Bahkauv-Brunnen or Bahkauv-Fountain.

The monster in the fountain is called Bahkauv and he’s supposed to look like a calf with scaly skin and sharp teeth.  According to legend, he would scare drunken men on their way home at night.  He would jump on their shoulders and if the drunk prayed to be relieved of the burden, the monster would get heavier.  But if the drunk swore, the monster would back off.  So as Sean pointed out, if you’re drunk and attacked by this monster, you should say something like “Get the f— off me!” instead of “Oh, God, please help me!”

The girl depicted in this statue is holding what’s called Printen, an Aachen treat that is similar to gingerbread.

The statue is in front of Aachen’s oldest café called Café van den Daele.  The café was established about 180 years ago and is located in a building that was built in 1655. 

In this cute little alley around the corner from the café, you can see little bits of colored paper on the trees and plants.

May Day, which falls on May 1st, was just two days before our visit to Aachen and sometimes the celebrations for the day include decorating greenery like that.

Here you see a little area called the “Hof”, which has lots of little cafés and bars.  The structure on the right with the columns is called a portico.

The portico is a reproduction of something that was likely part of a temple at one time.  The original is in a museum in the city of Bonn.

These little figures are part of the Puppet Fountain.

Each figure is moveable. Sean is shown there moving the hand of “the professor”, who symbolizes the fact that Aachen is a city of science.  The Rhineland-Westphalia Technical University has been located in the city since 1870 and is its largest employer. Almost 20 percent of Aachen’s population is students.

The lovely building shown here, now a museum, was built in 1778 and is located in an area called the Hühnermarkt or Chicken Market.  It’s named that because there used to be an actual chicken market in the square.

A fountain nearby depicts a chicken thief.

The Granus Tower shown here is the oldest remaining building in Aachen. 

It was built in 788 and was once part of Charlemagne’s palace.  The palace was ahead of its time, having contained both a toilet and heated rooms.

This little pink and brown building on the right is called the Postwagen.

It is the last remaining wooden house in Aachen and is now a restaurant. 

Just around the corner from the Postwagen is Market Place.

There you can see the “pea bowl” fountain with the statue of Charlemagne that you read about earlier.

The houses that you see are called burgher houses.  Burghers were wealthy citizens.  The houses reflect different building styles from different periods and many are now restaurants.  The tan-colored building with the little turret is the oldest burgher house in Aachen, dating from the 14th century.  Just across from that house to the right, the salmon-colored house is Aachen’s oldest pharmacy, named after Charlemagne.  It’s called the Karlsapotheke and if you remember, Charlemagne is called Karl in German. 

Yet another name for Charlemagne is his Latin name of Karolus Magnus.  The sign shown here, on the side of the pharmacy, reflects the name of Karolus and it was Charlamagne’s seal.

His “signature” was the letter y that you see inside the little diamond shape in the middle of the letters.   The same seal is on the brass markers you read about earlier that mark the way for the walking tour.

This building was a residence constructed in the 15th century and now houses the International Newspaper Museum.

It contains 200,000 international newspapers covering a period of 500 years.

Back at the Market Square, the impressive building you see here is the Town Hall.

It was built in the 14th century on the highest point in the city.  Charlemagne’s throne was located here, and the building housed coronation banquets for German kings and queens after they were crowned in the Cathedral.  The façade of the building is from the 19th century. 

You can tour the inside of the town hall, which includes a little exhibition showing war –damaged Aachen.  The Coronation Hall, located on the upper floor, was unfortunately closed the day we were there.  I was a little disappointed because the rooms contain five frescos that are supposed to be quite stunning.  There were originally eight frescos, but three were destroyed during the war. 

We were still able to tour the rooms on the lower floor though, including the White Hall shown here.

Small receptions are still held here, including wedding receptions.

The back of the town hall looks completely different from the façade on the front.

To the left of this photo you may be able to make out a little greenery at the base of the town hall.  The area is called Charlemagne’s herb garden, created in 1965 and based on a code in effect in Charlemagne’s regarding the growing and use of herbs.

Across from the back of the town hall you can see one side of the Cathedral.

The square between the two buildings is called the Katschhof.  This was Charlemagne’s former palace square and today the square hosts various markets, including the Christmas market. 

This next building houses the Cathedral Treasury.

Although the walking tour brochure described this as “the most important church treasure north of the Alps”, we didn’t go in.  I’m actually not a big fan of treasuries and find them to all be about the same. 

This little fountain is called the Fischpüddelchen.

It stands at the location of the former fish market.

See the vertical gashes in this wall?

That’s where the fishmongers used to sharpen their knives.

Unfortunately one of the more famous buildings in Aachen was under scaffolding during our visit.

It’s called the Grashaus and was Aachen’s first town hall.  It was built in 1267 and is one of the oldest non-religious building in the city.  Once the new town hall was built, the Grashaus was used as a jail for many years.

This cute little fountain, not running at the time we saw it, is called the Fountain of the Birds.

You can see 11 or so bird figures on it, hence the name.  When it is running, the water is safe for drinking.

This fellow here is Saint Stephen, who was also known as Stephen I and was the first King of Hungary.

Why is there a statue of the King of Hungary in Aachen, you ask?  Well it’s because he is situated in front of the Hungarian Chapel that’s adjacent to the Cathedral.  The chapel was founded by Louis the Great, another King of Hungary, and it was used as a base for Hungarian pilgrims making their way along the Camino de Santiago. 

At this point we finally made our way into the cathedral.  We had actually tried to go in earlier but there was a wedding taking place and the cathedral was temporarily closed.

One of the first things you notice inside is the intricate mosaics.

The altar and stained glass were also amazing.

That little house-looking thing that you see suspened in the middle, surrounded by glass, is the Shrine of Mary.  The walking tour brochure says that it contains the Aachen Holy Relic, and among those relics are the “Nappies and Loincloth of Jesus”.  Well.  I must say that even after growing up Catholic and all the churches we’ve visited I never once pictured Jesus wearing nappies (diapers) until I read that.  And even if I had, I certainly never would have imagined that they would be considered holy relics.  I’ll probably go straight to hell for the fact that I found this all somewhat amusing.  In any case, the relics are displayed every seven years so if you time your visit right you may be able to see Jesus’ nappies.

Here you see the Chandelier of Barbarossa.

Emperor Barbarossa had it created in 1165 to celebrate Charlemagne’s canonization.  Although Charlemagne was named a saint back then, he is not now recognized as one.

This Madonna figure is called Our Dear Lady of Aachen.

She is referred to as the richest woman in Aachen because she has over 38 gowns and a large collection of jewelry. 

Charlemagne’s remains are also in the cathedral but we saw them only from a distance because we didn’t take the guided tour, which is the only way to see them up close.

This lovely decorative doorway is now part of a bank.

It was originally an infirmary for the poor.

The next-to-last stop on the tour was yet another fountain but it turned out to be a very amusing experience.

The fountain is called Circle of Money, and all of the figures around the fountain have something to do with money.

That guy is supposed to symbolize greed.

When we first approached the fountain, we saw that there was a grown man in it with his shoes off and his pants rolled up.  He was posing with the “greed” sculpture while the small crowd watching him was laughing and taking photos.

It didn’t end there.

He was kind enough to give the sculpture a 20 Euro tip for its troubles before he left the fountain.

Sean and I both wondered what nationality he was because it was definitely very unGerman-like behavior. 

The last stop on the tour was the Elisa Garden.

The rounded part of the building that you see is the back side of the Elisa Fountain that you saw earlier.  During the process of redesigning the garden in 2009, archeological finds dating from about 4700 BC were uncovered and some are on display behind glass in the garden.  You can see in the photo that people use the garden just to sit and relax or take a nap or play music.

The very last photo is of a little area of public art across from the garage where we parked the car.

People were having a good time sitting in these giant chairs and posing and taking photos.  Sometimes the Germans really can be quite whimsical.

Have you been to Aachen?  Tell us about it here or on our Facebook page!

Annual CHIO, World Equestrian Festival

Reuters news agency founded here in 1850

Anne Frank’s mother born here

David Garrett born here

Twinned with Reims

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