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Aachen, a small city in the north western part of Germany, is located at a short distance from both the Belgian and Dutch borders. Around the late eighth century the city became very important as the capital of the empire of Charlemagne. He made this choice partly for strategic reasons but also because of the presence of hot springs – exercising in these waters is said to be one of the emperor’s favourite pastimes. In the center of town you can find the Aachener Dom, a beautiful palace and cathedral, built for Charlemagne. Thirty Holy Roman emperors were crowned there between 936 and 1531. While the kings' palace does not exist any more, the church built by Charlemagne is still the main attraction of the city. Apart from the remains of its founder, it became the burial place of his successor Otto III. The cathedral of Aachen has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In French, the city is known as Aix-la-Chapelle.

It’s fun to spend a few hours strolling the streets of the Old Town lingering in the shops, quaint restaurants and historical ruins. We particularly enjoyed the venerable “Alte Aachener Cafe” which has superb Printen a locally made gingerbread and an interior out of the Brothers Grimm. Other attractions include mineral baths and year-round casino gambling as well as an active concert and theatre season. 35 mi/60 km north of Cologne.

Aachen is no longer an industrial center of major importance, although it boasts a large number of spin-offs from the university's IT-technology department and still is a major centre of IT development in Germany. Due to the low level of investment in cross-border railway projects, the city has preserved a slot within the Thalys high-speed train network which uses existing tracks on its last 70 km from Belgium to Cologne. Aachen was the administrative centre for the coal-mining industries in neighboring places to the NE; it never played any role in brown coal mining, however, neither in administrative or industrial terms. Products manufactured in or around Aachen include electronics, chemicals, plastics, textiles, glass, cosmetics, and needles and pins. Its most important source of revenue, the textile industries, have been dead for almost half a century now.

Robert Browning's poem "How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix" refers to Aachen, but not to any historical fact.

The annual CHIO (short for the French Concours Hippique International Officiel) is the biggest equestrian meeting of Germany and among horsemen considered to be as prestigious for equitation as the tournament of Wimbledon for tennis. Aachen was also the host of the 2006 World Equestrian Games.

The local soccer team Alemannia Aachen plays in Germany's first division, since its promotion in 2006. Their stadium is called Tivoli.

Since 1950, a committee of Aachen citizens annually awards the Karlspreis (German for Charlemagne Award) to personalities of outstanding service to the unification of Europe. In 2003 the medal was awarded to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. In 2004, Pope John Paul II's efforts to unite Europe were honored with an Extraordinary Charlemagne Medal, which was awarded for the first time ever.

The local speciality of Aachen is a stonehard type of sweet bread, originally baked in large flat loaves, called Printen. Unlike gingerbread (German:Lebkuchen), which is sweetened with honey, Printen are sweetened with sugar. A heretic, factory-produced product under the same name which does not immediately unroot your teeth is produced in the city as well, but no local baker will publicly acknowledge that this product has anything to do with the sort of "printen" which may or may not have been used as building material as far back as the times of Charlemagne, although it is not sure that sugar was used to sweeten them in such remote times.

In 1372, Aachen became the first coin issuing city in the world to regularly place an Anno Domini date on a general circulation coin, a groschen. It is written MCCCLXXII. None with this date are known to be in existence any longer. The earliest date for which an Aachen coin is still extant is dated 1373.

King Ethelwulf of Wessex, father of Alfred the Great was born in Aachen.

Mies van der Rohe, one of the titans of modern architecture and director of the Bauhaus during its period in Berlin was born in Aachen as well.

The food-water taken from the warm springs at Aix-la-Chapelle contains a considerable percentage of common salt and other sodium salts and sulphur.

Out of Town:

World War II Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial

16 kilometers (10 miles) from the city near Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. From Aachen, take N3 southwest toward Liege, Belgium. Turn right onto Rue du Mémorial Américain. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery is the final resting place for 7,992 American military dead lost during the drive into Germany the Battle of the Bulge. A monument is inscribed with the names of 450 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. A museum and a chapel are located on the grounds. Free.



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