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Aachen - Welcome to My Home Town

Welcome to Aachen – my home town. Some people say that the special feature of Aachen is its location in the border triangle Germany – the Netherlands – Belgium. Other people think it is Aachen Cathedral that attracts numerous visitors to the city. I say it is both – and many things more. But find out yourself what makes the most western metropolis in Germany so special.

Things to Do in Aachen:

Aachener Printen - Aachen Gingerbread

Aachen is also famous for one of Germany’s most popular varieties of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) known as Aachener Printen. In fact the two commonly go hand in hand: Tourists visiting the cathedral will often stop by a bakery or cafe to enjoy the city’s world famous Printen.

Aachener Printen are a type of German gingerbread that are richly spiced, have a deep caramel-like flavor notes, and a hard texture. The standing joke is that Aachener Printen are so hard that the bakers have a standing contract with the city’s dentists! Printen are characteristically hard because they’re a very low-moisture cookie: They contain no eggs, fat, milk, virtually no water, and contain three types of sugar which caramelize during baking. You can find my recipe here.

Aachener Christmas Market - Weihnachtsmarkt

If you have the chance to visit Aachen end of November till end of December, you need to enjoy the Christmas market and Gluehwein (click here for the recipe). For about four weeks before Christmas, the squares and lanes around Aachen Cathedral and the town hall are transformed into a Christmas village. Twinkling lights and the scent of mulled wine and Aachener Printen (click here for the recipe) wherever you go – and all in a unique atmosphere! It’s no coincidence that Aachen Christmas market has regularly made it to the top ten Best Christmas Markets in Europe in recent years.

Things to Do with Kids

Aachener Tierpark  – Euregiozoo: Opened in 1966 and located in the beautiful regional Water Conservation Area “Drimborner Wäldchen”, the “Aachener Tierpark” has developed into a home for more than 1,700 animals representing 250 different species. – From tiny exotic birds to huge Asian Camels and selected western European animals, the park has a colourful variety of interesting inhabitants. There is nearly 9 ha of space for the animals and about 3000 m of pathways for the visitors.

If your kid is a little bit older and interested in history, you can visit the Cathedral Treasury. The treasury exhibits some of the largest and most illustrious relics and artefacts in western Christianity. Or if you are looking for a family spa day, you can visit the Carolus Thermen, a thermal bath with different indoor and outdoor pools.

Adrenaline junkies will have a lot of fun at the Kletterwald Aachen, a high rope course with different difficult levels inside the forest. A special location not too far away from Aachen is the Dreilaendereck, it’s the highest elevation in the Netherlands and the triangle place where Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium meet. Surrounded by varied nature, the area offers various hiking trails and viewing platforms. The adventure playground and the “Dreiländerlabyrinth” are a great day trip destination with children, offering excitement, action and fun. For reinforcements afterwards, there are many restaurants and cafés to choose from, or you can settle down on the large lawn and enjoy a relaxed picnic at sunset.

If it’s rainy and unfortunately that happens quite a lot in Aachen, you can visit the Aquis Plaza, a shopping mall in the city center. The Aquis Plaza, which was opened in October 2015, is located at the end of the Adalbertstraße shopping mile in Aachen. The plaza has about 130 shops covering a sales area of 29,200 square meters, split over two floors. A food court with different cuisines from all over the world has something for every taste. Perfect for well-earned nourishment after a shopping marathon.

Aachen Dialect - Öcher Platt

Let’s face the fact: if you didn’t grow up speaking it, you’re going to have problems with Aachen’s “Öcher Platt” dialect. But don’t throw in the towel. Nobody’s going to discourage you from trying to learn Aachen’s curious patois.

Beginners can get to grips with the subject matter in a variety of ways. For example, you can join a guided tour of the Town Hall given in Öcher Platt, or attend a Carnival meeting, or go to a performance of Aachen’s legendary puppet theatre, the “Öcher Schängche”. If you’re lucky, you might get the chance to exchange a few words with one of the “Thouet Dialect Prize Winners” – or to listen to the renowned master of Öcher Platt: Hubert Crott, a.k.a. “Jüppchen”…

Click here for a beginners guide or listen below.

Öcher Platt for Beginners

  • Dat woer jar net esue schleäht.
    [German: “Das war gar nicht so schlecht.” Meaning: “That was really good!” (Öcher speakers are not particularly generous when it comes to giving praise.
  • Wenn et net reänt, da dröppt et. 
    [German: “Wenn es nicht regnet, dann tropft es.” This has nothing to do with rain. What it means is that less can still be more than enough.]
  • Ich han et Hazz av.
    [German: “Ich habe das Herz ab.” Meaning: “I can’t stand it any longer.”]
  • Du kleids en e Höddelche.
    [German: “Du kannst anziehen, was du willst, du siehst immer gut aus.” Meaning: “You can wear anything you like. You always look great!”]
  • Dat es ene jlatte Jrosche.
    [Das ist ein glatter Groschen: Meaning: “He’s/she’s a slippery character.”]
  • Ochhärrm.
    [An expression of condolence, sympathy]

Hot Springs & Fountains

Aachen’s hot springs have been known for more than 2,000 years and are still inseparably linked to the history – and the name – of the city. For the city name Aachen can be derived both from the Old High German word “ahha” (water) and from the early medieval “Aquis grani” as well as the Latin “Aquae granni” derived from it, which in turn refers back to the Celtic god of healing Grannus.

After the Celts and Germanic tribes, it was above all the Romans who discovered the healing and soothing effects of the Aachen springs and celebrated a comprehensive bathing culture in spacious, luxurious thermal baths. Even then, bathing in the warm mineral thermal water was not only for health reasons. It was “good manners” to meet in the baths and also to discuss important business there. Under Charlemagne – who was so convinced of the healing effects of the hot springs that he declared Aachen his favorite palace at the end of the eighth century – the Aachen baths experienced a renewed heyday.

Thanks to the work of the Belgian spa doctor François Blondel, Aachen then advanced to become one of the leading spas from the 17th century onwards. Prominent bathers from all over Europe – such as Tsar Peter the Great, the composer Georg Friedrich Händel, the Prussian King Frederick the Great, King Gustav III of Sweden, Empress Joséphine, Napoleon’s wife, and even Casanova – used the Aachen and Burtscheid bathhouses to alleviate their illnesses.

History of Aachen

In this part, I’ll take a journey through the fascinating history of Aachen and explore the events that have shaped this beautiful town into what it is today.

The Early Ages

The history of Aachen dates back to the Roman era, when it was known as Aquae Granni. The town was a popular destination for Romans who were seeking relief from various ailments in its hot springs. The Romans built numerous public baths in the town, some of which are still visible today.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, Aachen became an important religious center. Charlemagne, the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, had a palace built in Aachen in the late 8th century. The palace became the center of his empire and the site of his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor. The palace also housed Charlemagne’s throne room, where he held court and conducted business with his advisors.

A Golden Age

The 18th century was a golden age for Aachen. The town became a popular destination for European aristocrats who were drawn to its hot springs and grand architecture. Many of the town’s most famous buildings were constructed during this time, including the Aachener Dom (Aachen Cathedral), which was built in the Gothic style and is still one of the town’s most recognizable landmarks.

Aachen also played an important role in the history of printing. The town was home to the famous printer Johann Wilhelm Lindau, who printed numerous books, including the first German translation of Don Quixote.

Modern Times

During the 20th century, Aachen faced many challenges. The town was heavily damaged during World War II, and much of its historic architecture was destroyed. However, the town was quickly rebuilt after the war, and many of its historic buildings were restored.

Today, Aachen is a thriving town that attracts visitors from all over the world. Its hot springs are still a major draw, and the town’s architecture and cultural heritage continue to fascinate visitors. Aachen is also home to several important institutions, including RWTH Aachen University, one of the top engineering schools in Europe.

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