Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aachen, Germany

After spending the night in Cologne this past Saturday, I took a train over to nearby Aachen, which sits on the border between Belgium and Germany. This is a very small city best known as the favored residence of Charlemagne in the late 8th and early 9th centuries.

The first landmark I passed was this city gate. Only two gates remain throughout the entire city. All the others were destroyed during the eventual wars that arose.

After passing through the gate, I made my way to the city's main cathedral.

This cathedral was originally built in 786 AD, however, additions were made to it after it suffered damage throughout the years. Charlemagne's remains are stored inside. Unfortunately I didn't get to view it. Seeing that it was Sunday, there was a service inside that prevented tourists from entering. Here's another picture from the opposite side of the cathedral.

Placed directly in the city square, I found a Starbucks.

From what I've noticed, the franchise has very few stores throughout all these medieval cities. All throughout Amsterdam, Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels, I failed to notice any of these chain coffee shops. I'm assuming the primary reason Starbucks has few locations over here is because of the fact that much of the architecture throughout these cities are rather medieval, and there is little room for commercial expansion. In order to preserve the history in these cities, I feel like renovation in these ancient buildings is restricted.

In addition to Starbucks, there are significantly fewer fast food restaurants here. I can count the number of McDonalds and Burger King restaurants I've seen over the past month on my 2 hands.

The picture above is of the city square from the direction of the city's town hall.

After relaxing and sitting outside Starbucks for half an hour, I decided to go on a tour of the city hall.

It was built in the 14th century and is the place where Kings were coronated. Once I walked inside, I was given a tour via an audio device.

This device was actually an iPhone. When I accidentally reset it, I saw the iPhone interface and the T-Mobile symbol that indicated it was connected to the network. Since this device had GPS, whenever you stepped into a new room, a prompt of audios would appear specifically for that room. Fourteenth century architecture, meet 21st century technology.

These stairs in the city hall have been ascended by kings and nobles of centuries past.

Once you get to the top of the stairs, you can see copies of Charlemagne's relics.

Centuries ago the original relics had been stolen. After recovering them, they were stored and these copies (forged in 1913) were put on display.

Once I left the city hall, I made my way to the Elisenbrunnen. It's a neoclassical hall surrounding one of the city's fountains. I actually didn't see the fountain itself. I didn't find out there was one until I got back to Leuven.

Anyway, that was my trip to Aachen in a nutshell. It's a very small city and there are very few sites to see. As a result, few tourists roam the streets.

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