Our Easter Pil-grim-age! Part Eins!

On Good Friday we got up early and headed to the the train station to Aachen, which took about 7 and a half hours by the regional trains from Hamburg.  All in all not TOO horrible, but it did make for a long day.  We were fortunate enough to snag a four seat area when we had a 2 and half hour stretch on one of the trains we transfered to so we were both able to “stretch out” and nap.  I think we annoyed people by being two people taking up four seats – buuut the napping was totally needed and necessary.

When we arrived in Aachen it was only about 4pm, so we figured we could explore a bit after checking in at the hostel and tossing our stuff down.  It took us a little while to figure out the buses – and we JUST made it onto the bus that would take us to where we needed to go.  The hostel was a good chunk away from the train station, but not TOO horrible, and we walked the rest of the weekend, sometimes much to our dismay… more on that later.  Our room was very simple, but very nice.  And again, the beds were more comfortabe than what we had been sleeping on.  Also, we were excited because we were able to push the beds together without a hitch — in Goslar the beds were bunked. So, WIN 😀

After getting our stuff stowed, changed, and freshened up after our long train ride we set off to find the Dom (cathedral).  We got a tad turned around at first – Aachen was a little harder to navigate than Goslar was, and MUCH more hilly than Hamburg is.  When we first spotted the Dom it was pretty apparent that JP and I were pretty much wet-yourself-excited.  Why you might ask?  because FREAKING CHARLEMAGNE BUILT IT!!!  That and he worshiped there, and his body is in the Dom and ugh!!!

While traveling on Good Friday was actually ok, and the train ride wasn’t too bad, the downside is that the Aachen Dom closed after Good Friday services at 3pm, and didn’t reopen until the following morning.  And because JP and I were so freaking excited we pretty much circled the building a couple of times and took a TON of pictures.  I also had a really weird urge that I wanted to LICK the Dom… yeah… I can never say that the urge to lick a church before, but I did then.  Especially after getting SUPER excited seeing the stone marking that Charlemagne was really burried there!!!  No worries, I totally didn’t lick the Dom — I just told JP I had that urge and continued to emit lots of silly excited high-pitched fangirl squeals… yeah… I’m a dork…

We decided to attempt to locate the Rathaus (town hall), and did so.  Again getting really excited — and I kinda sorta geeked out over a pharmacy that was called “Karl’s Apotheke” and featured a picture of Karl der Große on it.  (for those who aren’t aware, “Karl der Große” is what those in Germany call Charlemagne, because they’re cool like that) We also got to see the fountain with his statue and a funky horse statue outside the Ratskeller (town hall restraunt) and saw lots and lots of people eating ice cream, and waiting in really really long lines to obtain ice cream.  Also, as the weather was so nice lots of people were enjoying their dinners at various sidewalk cafes – and we totally would have joined them if: a) it wasn’t so hard to find vegetarian options, and b) the vegetatian dishes were were finding weren’t running 16 euros at the least… so we did was a couple of poor students do and looked for a Nordsee, which when we found was closed (DUH! it was Good Friday), so we did the next best thing and headed back towards the train station in hopes of finding cheap eats.

As it turns out, pretty much every cheap place to eat aside from McDonalds was closed in the train station, and while the theory of getting a fish sandwich from there sounded  like a good idea, the reality and the smell when we walked in totally changed our minds… thankfully we had noticed an asian carry-out place across the street from the train station, which was open — so we went back across and snagged a couple boxes of veggie noodles and headed back to the hostle to eat.  And the downside is that the walk back was, um, well, it was all UPHILL!  so while in theory JP and I can go 2.5 km in a decent amount of time, make that trek uphill, in a stange city, with rumbling tummies, and sore and tired feet and it takes just a bit longer.  But we made it and had a nice quiet dinner in our room, followed by a pretty laid back evening of talking about nothing.

We totally played the part of the ‘old’ married couple and had the lights out and were snuggled up in bed by 10pm so we could get a jump on getting our butts down to the Dom early the next morning.

Fast forward to around midnight and we were woken up by an UNGODLY amount of noise made by about 150 soccer players from the Netherlands arriving for a tournament… and they DIDN’T shut up until about 5am!  Before you get all up in arms about them being there, we were emailed by the hostel after making the reservation and offering to let us cancel without penalty. Heh… We got up a little on the grumpier side the next morning around 7 to head down to breakfast.  Thats when we found out just how bad things had been the night before — not only had the soccer players been INSANELY loud for hours on end, but they had been really destructive, including pulling down the huge awing that was covering the patio.  We chatted a bit with one of the hostesses before heading into breakfast, who apologized for the noise and the mess.  JP assured her that we totally didn’t blame her and that we felt bad that they were such a rotten bunch of kids.  During breakfast we gave every single soccer kid a very grumpy evil looks.  After breakfast we headed back to the room to shower, dress and get ready to head out.  And you know what? we got to witness just a tad of pure sweet poetic justice – the head of the hostel had pulled ALL of the adults who came with the soccer kids over to the main desk and was chewing them out!  And pretty much said that the noise level and the behavior was totally and completely unacceptable.  We, well JP, didn’t overhear too much more because we needed to get ready to head out, I can say that we did a little big of a happy dance on the way up to our room.

So after hearing the coaches and other adults getting told off for bringing a bunch of ill-mannered kids in late the night before, we actually felt a little refreshed and skipped down the hill to see the Dom.

Again, we were SO excited to get to go in.  No pictures were allowed to be taken while in it – but OMG, this is one of those places that I think everyone needs to see before they die!  Not only is part of the Church 1200 years old, and was built by the first Holy Roman Emporer, but words cannot describe how beautiful and amazing it is inside — and we only got to see the abridged version!  Again, due to it being a holy day parts were closed, so we didn’t get to see Charlemagne’s throne or tomb up close, but just to be in the same space where he worshiped was enough for us that day.  The Aachen Dom really is one of those places that I am SO happy I got to see before I died (I know, big words for someone who isn’t 25 yet), and not only that, but I got to see and share the excitement with my best friend. 🙂  At one point when we headed into the Eucharistic chapel we were ushered out by one if the guards who mistook our intention — the one downside to being the nerds that we are, since we tend to be about 40 years younger than most of the people who actually GO to these sites and intend to pray at them.  Also, we were the last people they had to worry about trying to sneak pictures, though it was tempting 😛  Eh, such is life, and JP was able to get the guard’s attention to explain that we weren’t attempting to tour the side chapel, but really did intend to pray for about 15 minutes.

After we finished up in the chapel, we headed to the Dom treasure museum — it was pretty neat, we got to see some vestments that dated as far back as the 15th century (and in awesome condition), statues of the Virgin and Child dating from the 12th century, LOTS of relequeries claiming to hold parts and belongings of various saints — two claimed to contain the rope Jesus was bound with and Mary’s belt, and got a quick history lesson about the bishops of Aachen.  But by FAR the coolest thing, and the thing we geeked out the most about, was the relequiries that contained Charlemagne’s BONES!!! Cue the fangirl squeals of excitement and delight from this girl.  😉  So while we didn’t get to see his tomb, we still got to see the BONES of CHARLEMAGNE!!!

We finished in the treasure museum and decided to head to the Rathaus to see if we could get a peek inside.  We did, but it cost us about five euros, meh.  We found out that the Rathaus was originally the site of CHARLEMAGNE’s house!!!  It wasn’t the original – but it was the site of it!  Cue another bunch of fangirl squeels.  So, that day not only did we get to be IN his church, and see his BONES, but we got to be at his HOUSE!  Not to mention, we walked all over what would have been Charlemagne’s courtyard!  Have I mentioned yet that I loved being in Aachen?  The only thing that probably would have made the trip MORE complete was if we had been able to bathe in the thermal springs, which was the big reason Charlemagne made Aachen his main home.  Which totally means that we’ll have to do it the next time we go back.  And of course there will be a next time because we still want to get up close to his tomb and see the throne 😉

After seeing the Rathaus we headed to Nordsee for lunch – hey, its cheap, filling and totally veggie in our book – before heading to the medieval art museum for the afternoon.  The museum itself was pretty cool, we got to see lots of art that was old – some that was more recent, and a pretty cool special exhibit on Joos van Cleve – a painter from the 16th century.  It was pretty neat seeing various pieces and reading about how he had a workshop that turned out paintings — there was even an area that explained how they used a ‘cartoon’ of the Virgin and Child to crank out lots of the image, and showed in a short video how it could be manipulated and changed to suit the customer.

After the museum we hit up a grocery store to get things for a light and easy dinner.  Before heading back to the hostel for the night we made one more purchase, which turned out to be the BEST COOKIES in the entire WORLD.  But we totally didn’t know that until we got back to our room and had dinner.  We went back and forth about getting a print of the city, or a cookie tin — our reasoning is that we’ll use the tin pretty much daily to store loose tea, that and we’ve bought a lot of prints already!

So we went back to the room, enjoyed our light dinner, ate some cookies, went down to the hostel’s bar and got a beer, then drifted off to sleep with visions of Easter Mass in Köln (Cologne) dancing in our heads.

Aaand that will be covered in part two, because I seem to have written a small novel in blog terms!

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