Sunday, May 25, 2008

2008TripBlog13






Letter No. 13

Aachen, Germany

Guten Morgen (or something like that),

We waffled for a long time, but finally decided to make Aachen our next stop. There was loose talk about going to visit Antwerp again, but Adelle wasn’t enthusiastic, so we just drove past on our way to Aachen. We were very sad to leave the campground in Bruges since we are now going to have to take the computer to the WI FI instead of sitting in comfort in our own “home” and using the internet.

It is worth noting that we spent five days in that campground, and the bill was 112euros or about $170-$175 in total.

So we were off this morning with the following information: follow Maldegem, then Antwerp. At Antwerp’s Ring Road, we would look for signs to Liege (Luik). We managed the first part very well. But the Ring Road got us. We wanted R1 and the Kennedy Tunnel (which is free), going south around the city. We turned off accordingly, only to find ourselves on R2, going north and using the tunnel that requires a 5 euro payment. It may be our inability to read signs easily contributed to this problem, but we don’t think so. The signs were just confusing.

Be that as it may, we had no trouble getting to a campground in a village called Vaals in The Netherlands, close to Aachen. We asked at the desk about a place to park the RV so we could catch the bus to the city. She said there was nowhere to park and we should just walk to the roundabout to get the bus. So Ron took an experimental walk. No way Adelle could make it up the hill to the road. That’s right. We find there are hills in this part of The Netherlands. He left the RV at 2:30 and didn’t return until 4:30! On his travels, he found that there is a Park & Ride up the road in Germany, where we can indeed park and catch the bus without this difficult walk. We can’t believe that the lady in the reception area didn’t know this!

So on Wednesday, we did just that and visited Aachen for the day. We’d been there before, but although we did remember some things, we really hadn’t concentrated on the surroundings. So, although Adelle was sure we had visited the Cathedral, she didn’t remember what it looked like. Ron did remember that we had also visited the Town Hall and the “Treasury” of the cathedral, and so we retraced our steps at least partially. What we did remember vividly were the beautiful bakery windows. The Germans really know how to tempt anyone who likes bread or any kind of cake!

The first thing we noticed on our way in was a statue of a horse. Not a person on a horse. Just a horse. So when we went into Tourist Information, we asked about it. Turns out that Aachen is ver proud of its position in Europe as a horse city. Apparently it hosts a big dressage event that is attended by people all over the world. We found some funny statues of horses as well as the beautiful one in front of the big theatre.

On our way to the Cathedral, we met some old “friends”. These statues at the fountain near the Market Square were among our memories of the last time we were here. We’ve seen similar statues in other places in Europe. “People” waiting on balconies, talking around the fountain – they definitely come under the heading of fun.

We decided not to return to see the “Treasury”, but walked around the area, waiting until the service in the Cathedral was over and we could go in. We restrained ourselves from buying things at the outdoor market, thinking we’d be back after visiting the Cathedral. But we didn’t go back and as a result, Ron didn’t get the fried fish and Adelle doesn’t have 30 stuk of flowers for 3 euros.

The Cathedral is amazing. In the 800’s, Charlemagne built an octagonal cathedral. It is still there and still beautiful. You step down onto the original floor and the original church is intact. In later centuries, a building was built around the original octagon to make it bigger. The decoration is spectacular. There is a 15th century bas-relief in the nave – and a 12th century candelabra of gold made to celebrate the coronation of Frederick Barbarossa in 1125. The 9th century doors have been taken away for some reason, and we didn’t get to see Charlemagne’s throne or the side chapels which were closed, because they only allow tourists in with a guide. Neither of us felt like touring the cathedral with a German speaking guide!

We did return to the City Hall to see the room where the powers that be greet distinguished visitors. The room is white and gold and gorgeous. Then we went upstairs to the enormous coronation room. Very Gothic with white paint between the stone pieces that hold up the ceiling. And very nice flowers and other decorations on the white. When we left, we asked when those panels were painted and were told 1951, after the repairs were made to the building after the war. The stained glass in the Cathedral, too, dates from after World War II. But they are still works of art. It’s just that we know when they were designed and who did them!

After lunch, we walked around again. In our wanderings, we saw a beautiful old church. We walked in and found it has been taken over by a Greek Orthodox congregation. We walked through just to see the way it was decorated. Then we continued until we found a shopping street that we had been on in 2002. Ron remembered that there had been a Woolworth store there – long after those stores had disappeared everywhere else – and we looked for it. Of course it is gone now too – but Ron took a picture of the stores that he thought were the replacements for it, and he found a picture showing the same rocks and the same markings on the ground.

Aachen is a very nice little city. There’s a very small area that is old. We’re amazed that anything survived the beating the city took in 1945 when it was the first German city to be occupied! We enjoyed our day there. Now we’re debating our next stop. You’ll find out in our next letter.

Auf wieder sehn.

Adelle & Ron

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