The beautiful entrance to the Dom
The entry to the Dom is a lovely spot, provided it's not crowded with tourists.
You enter from the west and pass through gates into what would be called a 'church close' in England, lined by houses that presumably once housed clergy and other associated with the Dom and would now constitute extremely desirable real estate. I didn't see it myself, but I would imagine that it's particularly picturesque just before dusk as the sun sets over the gate and bathes the Dom in gentle light.
The massive bronze 'Wolf Doors' are the main entrance to the Dom and date back to the 800s when the Palatine Chapel (the original part of the Dom structure) was built. There is a legend that a deal was done with the Devil when funding ran short to complete the Dom, and in return, he was promised the first soul that entered the church. The canny townsfolk reneaged on the deal by herding in a wolf rather than a person, which so enraged the Devil that he slammed the huge bronze door in fury, and caught his thumb, which was left behind in the door. Lesser mortals now use a rather less impressive person-sized side entrance adjacent to the Wolf Doors.
This event is commemorated by a bronze statue of a wolf with a hole in its chest which sits in the cathedral antechamber, presumably through which the Devil ripped out its soul.
As they say, the Devil's in the detail ... or in this case, "The Devil's the hell in with the detail"!
The beautifully preserved city gate
I love city walls - they give me a sense of security which is probably totally misleading given how often many of these have been breached throughout history!
Aachen has a couple of reassuringly solid city gates, and fragments of the medieval city walls still remain: if you look at a map of the city centre, you can see that what was most probably the location of the old city wall is now a ring of parkland around the Old Town.
I particularly like this gate - the Pottnor Gate, just north west of the town centre - because you can still see the remains of the moat. In my subsequent research, I was charmed to discover that this wonderful building is still in use - as the scout hall of the Holy Cross Scout Troop!
The whimsical Circle of Money fountain
Aachen is blessed with many beautiful fountains - apparently over 60 in all - most of which were unfortunately cordoned off when I visited, less drunken Karnivallers should fall into them, doing damage to both themselves and the fountain!
The 'Circle of Money' fountain is the one that I liked most, and symbolises the circulation of money. It was sculpted by Karl-Henning Seemann and sponsored by Sparkasse Aachen, a local bank.
The figures arranged around the outside of the fountain are affectionate caricatures of people in all walks of life, and I particularly enjoyed the way that the water circulated in the fountain itself. Very symbolic in an unpretentious and accessible way (just my kind of art)!
There is a small park adjacent to the fountain which was just starting to show the first evidence of spring bulbs when I was there, and seems to be much favoured by families. The park also has a small area of 'amphitheatre style' seating which seems to be regularly used by school groups.
The Eurogress conference centre
Having trodden the conference circuit at various points in my career, I tend to regard conference centres as a necessary evil. Although I accept that they are practical and major sources of revenue for towns, they are usually unlovely structures that are often inconveniently located and don't excite me much.
Unfortunately Aachen's Eurogress conference centre is somewhat unfortunately named, as it conjurs up images of 'regressing' (something that conference delegates are wont to do when they've had one too many free drinks) - I can't quite decide whether the trendy '€ Gress' abbreviation makes it better or worse.
However, Eurogress at least is excellently located, in a leafy location just on the eastern edge of the old town. It is within easy walking distance of many nice hotels (including the swanky Hotel Quellenhof next door) and the casino (yawn), as well as the lovely Carolus Therme spa complex.
In addition to conferences, the complex hosts concerts, plays and exhibitions.
Have a flutter in the casino
In my excitable temperement, enthusiasm for beer and ability to extemporise (usually expressed in more scatological terms), I am a classic product of my dominantly Irish heritage. However, there are two cultural traits that I have managed to sidestep inheriting: smoking and gambling.
I cannot begin to explain how much gambling bores me. When (reluctantly) staying in hotels that have casinos attached, I have been known to haunt the lobby, trying to offload free casino vouchers that have come as part of the 'package' onto bewildered fellow guests, I can't see the point of having a flutter on the gee gees, and I fast forward all James Bond casino sequences (which didn't leave me with too much of Casino Royale).
Given all that, it was to be expected that I wouldn't have road tested the casino in Aachen. Suffice to say that there is one, it is housed in a very attractive building next to the Eurogress conference centre and the Hotel Quellenhof, and I'm sure that it's very nice if this sort of thing lights your candle. Me, I'll just get excited about talking rubbish over a few glasses of Kolsch ...
Catch your breath in the Salvatorburg woods
The Salvatorburg woods may only be a stone's throw away from Aachen's city centre, but they feel much more distant in the positive sense of the word!
The Salvatorburg is a lovely little pocket of woodland on a steep hill, topped by the lovely Salvatorkirche. After the pretty but manicured parkland around the casino, conference centre and spa, it is a pleasant change to find a more natural setting with lots of birdlife. The woods appear to be much used by local dog walkers and are surrounded by some extremely desirable real estate, all of which further add to its considerable charms.
The only minor criticism that I have of this lovely spot is that even in winter, the trees obscure the view of the old town, so if you're intending to undertake this hike in order to obtain panoramic views, you'll unfortunately be disappointed. Otherwise it is a charming spot to retreat for an hour or so (or maybe even a picnic?) when you need a breather.
There are several of these shrines around the perimeter of the church, but not enough for them to be stations of the cross (unless a considerable number of them are missing). I'd be interested if anyone can cast some light on their significance?
A rather more disturbing horse sculpture ...
I may have loved the sculpture of the horses outside the main railway station, but this one at the northern end of Monheimsallee (just up from the Hotel Quellenhof and behind the kiosk) disturbed me greatly.
Fencing in a life sized (and otherwise lovely) contemporary sculpture of a horse in a box made of hideous concrete pillars is aesthetically distasteful, and the apparent symbolism is worse still, as the horse is so closely confined that it couldn't move. It's not entirely clear to me whether the concrete 'box' is part of the original sculpture or something that was added later to protect the statue: I suspect the former (in which case it is irredeemable), but if it is a later addition, then surely the Powers That Be could have come up with a more pleasing manner of protecting this?
There was a small plaque apparently indicating that the monument was erected to commemorate some horse show or other (hardly an uncommon occurence in horse-mad Aachen), but unfortunately my German wasn't good enough to work out anything more, and I was so repelled by it that I forgot to take a photo so that I could ask my husband to translate it. If anyone else knows more about its background, then I'd love to hear from you.
Furthermore, the statue's location virtually on the kerb of a busy road intersection is not conducive to attracting visitors, and on every front, it seems like an ill-concieved monument.
Not recommended for animal lovers or claustrophobics.
Admire Aachen's marauding herd of horses
If I needed any persuading that I was going to enjoy my time in Aachen, stepping out of the railway station and being welcomed by this small herd of galloping horses was all the incentive I needed!
Aachen has a long association with horses and hosts a world famous Equestrian Festival (that's a 'horse show' to you and I) in July every year . One legend even suggest that Charlemagne decided to build a palace here because his horse pawed the ground and discovered hot water emanating from the thermal springs, but unfortunately this is charming but spurious piffle, as the springs were already used by Bronze Age Celts and the Romans established their Aquae Granni (the 'Waters of Grannus', named after a Celtic God) settlement around the springs hundreds of years before Charlemagne (or his horse) were born.
The figures which comprise this beautiful bronze sculpture is surprisingly small - more ponies than horses - but wonderfully captures the energy of the herd in motion and the personalities of the different animals. It is much beloved by small children who clamber on the horses' backs, and nobody seems to mind - living in a country where municipal art is sadly undervalued, it's heartwarming to see a statue being so appreciated
The lovely Route Charlemagne office
The Route Charlemagne offices are located in a stunning Gothic building directly opposite the Rathaus and closely supervised by a statue of the Man Himself (see tip below)!
As mentioned in my introduction, the Route was not fully operational at the time of my visit (March 2011), but should be completed some time in 2012. This office is intended to be the hub of the 'Charlemagne trail', and hopefully the quality of its information and service will do credit to both the legacy of the man and the beauty of the building's architecture!
Aachen Dom's stunning treasury
Some cathedral treasuries can be a bit of a 'ho hum' experience, but that's certainly not the case with Aachen's Dom treasury, which is a jewel and well worth the extra admission fee (if you buy a combined ticket for Dom and Treasury, there is a slight discount).
What I think distinguishes this treasury from many others is that it's a case of quality over quantity. The exhibit is actually quite small, with relatively few objects on display, but each and every one is outstanding and displayed to its absolute best advantage. There is also good access for those with limited mobility (not always a given in such places).
One of the more thoughtprovoking items on display is Charlemagne's sarcophagus, an enormous and exuberantly carved hunk of Carrera marble. I confess that I was slightly taken aback to realise that the design is inspired by the Rape of Persephone, which hardly seems like suitable subject matter to be introducing, but a little research indicated the following explanation:
"The ornate coffin comes down to us from Ancient Rome, or to be more specific, from Imperial Rome during the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla (around 190 to 220 AD). Originally it had a lid, which however has been lost. When Charlemagne died therefore, the coffin was already over six centuries old. The stone comes from Upper Italy, and was quarried at the world-famous marble quarries in Carrara. Simply the technical construction of the coffin is considered to be an amazing feat. It is made from one single block of marble: 87 inches long, 25 inches wide and 23 inches high. The sides are 3 1/2 inches thick and filled with a panorama of ornately carved figures. The Emperor Charlemagne and his court probably saw the coffin when they were in Rome (773 -- 774 AD), and it was probably the Emperor himself who ordered that it be taken back to Aachen with him." (http://www.travelgermanyinenglish.com/aachencharlemagnecoffin.html more more information).
As you would expect, there is a stellar collection of top quality crosses, croziers, crowns, chalices, vestments and other ecclesiastical paraphernalia, as well as a few reliquaries.
A word on reliquaries whilst I'm at it. Thankfully all that 'relics and indulgences' lark is long behind us, but we are left with the interesting sacred artform of reliquaries. These are effectively 'display cases' crafted to house a holy relic and very often the form of the reliquary mimics the part of the body from which the relic originated. So, for example, the famous gold bust of Charlemagne - which is our stock image of the man today - was actually made to house his skull (remember that Charlemagne temporarily had saintly status - unfortunately granted by an Anti Pope, and thus later recinded).
That's great if we're talking skulls or arms, but what happens if the more 'crowd pleasing' relics have been harvested by the time you get to take your pick? So if you're at the rear of the queue and only qualify for Charlemagne's coccyx, what sort of design dilemma does that pose for your goldsmith??? (snigger)
The Elisa Fountain (Elisenbrunnen) is the symbol of the spa town of Aachen. It was constructed in 1827 according to plans of the architects Cremer and Schinkel. At the time, the Elisa Fountain served as a drinking hall and a promenading hall and still today it is possible to try the healing thermal waters of Aachen from this fountain.
only one thing it smell like rotten eggs.
- Arts and Culture
Information Office Elisenbrunnen
go her for info or to get a map.
also for guided tour like the fountain tour.
Monday to Friday: 9.00 - 18.00 h
Saturday: 9.00 - 14.00 h
During the summer months the office is also opened on Sunday and on public holidays.
- Budget Travel
Bathing history in the town of water
Aachen, as said descending from Aqua, is still a spa. "Bad Aachen" as many Germans say, attracts yearly thousands that want to have a cure, a healthtreatment or just some relaxation. In the centre the old "Urselinen-Brunnen" isn;t a bath house anymore, but still shows some of the grandeur the town had in recent centuries (it's also the place to be for information as the local touris-information is now settled here). Places where one can subscribe to a cure are the Schwert-bath, the Well of the Roses or the Carolus-well.
Elisenbrunnen (Elisa Fountain)
The Elisenbrunnen (Elisa Fountain) is the symbol of Aachen's spa culture. It is named after the Prussian Crown Princess who was the wife of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. It was built in 1827 in the classical style. After being damaged during the Second World War, it was reconstructed according to its original plans.
Inside the Elisenbrunnen, there is a marble bust of the Crown Princess Elisabeth. There are also two marble fountains where visitors can touch or drink the Aachen spa water. If you are curious about the exact mineral content of the water, there is a plaque that lists the minerals and their amounts. Warning, the water smells pretty bad because of its high sulfur content. Because of the high sulfur and other minerals, though, the water is known to have strong healing properties.
Aachener Rathaus (Town Hall)
The Aachener Rathaus (Town Hall) was erected in the 14th Century by the citizens of the Free Imperial City of Aachen. It was built on the foundations of the formal Carolingian Royal Hall. The elaborate design of the facade is in the Gothic style.
Inside the interior of the Rathaus, there is the Coronation Hall which contains exact replicas of the imperial insignia (the original items are kept in Vienna). The Aachen imperial insignia consists of the Imperial Orb, Imperial Scepter, Imperial Cross, Ceremonial Sword, Holy Lance, Imperial Gospel, Purse of St. Stephen, and the Sabre of Charlemagne.
Sometimes, the interior of the Rathaus is closed to the public on account of special events. Unfortunately, that was the case when I was visiting Aachen.
- Book now for big savings!
- Hotels.com Outstanding choice of hotels all over the world at fantastic prices.
- Save money, Book now!
- Booking.com Excellent choice, Low rates