On our 10th anniversary, Todd and I wrote a “living” list on our dry erase board. The list comprises things we wanted to do within the next 10 years of marriage. We’ve made some progress on it, but there are sill lots of things left. One of our checklist items was to visit Germany with Todd’s parents. Well, friends, we checked that item off our list in grand style.
We started our tour of Germany in Aachen. This city was home to Charlemagne and his stamp is literally all over it. There are little brass plaques with his symbol on the streets and sidewalks as well as many of the buildings.
We rode the train from Leuven to Aachen on a Sunday. Upon leaving the Hoptbaunhof (train station) in Aachen, the kids were excited to greet the horses out front.
We walked through town to the historic area and settled down for lunch outside. The weather was perfect and it was fun to share Dave & Judy’s first German beer with them.
Aachen has one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever entered. Charlemagne commissioned the cathedral and construction of the original church completed around the year 800. Charlemagne was buried there after his death in 814. The church building has grown significantly since then. It was the church of coronation for 31 German kings and 12 queens!
Aachen was an “Episcopal seat” from 1802-1825. The church is now Catholic, however. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is an important church for pilgrimages. The church houses several significant relics: “the apparel of the Virgin Mary, the so-called swaddling clothes and the loincloth of Christ, and the decapitation cloth of John the Baptist.” (notes from the leaflet at the church)
All of the architecture in the church is impressive. The architectural style covers 3 different distinct eras with some interesting juxtapositions. There is gold on most ceilings. There are mosaics, marble paneling, and marble floors throughout. The stained glass windows were all replaced in 1951 after the previous windows were destroyed during World War II.
Despite all of the pomp and circumstance, I felt very peaceful inside the church. I honestly think the scent of church incense has that impact on me. Funny, considering how many people think it stinks!
After our tour of the church, we walked across the square to the town hall. This was also a key location thanks to Charlemagne. Fun fact, this building is called the Rathaus (rat house). The existing building stands on top of the remains of the buildings before it. Construction of this building began in 1330, but it has undergone many changes due to damage from civil unrest and later World War II.
The Rathaus tour offers a great deal of information about the destruction of Germany during World War II. It’s fascinating to see it from the German side. There is one room where you can listen via telephone to various speakers. Each person talks from a different perspective about events during the war or the restoration afterwards.
As we wrapped up our walking tour, we said goodbye to the horses and caught the train to Cologne.