Hi. I am in
Aachen in Western Germany at the moment. Currently typing this in an
expensive internet cafe.
Had a grand couple of days in the city of Charlemagne. Charlemagne was a
Frankish king who ruled between 768 and 814. He formed an alliance with the Pope
of Rome leading to his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in the year 800.
Following his coronation Charlemagne based a permanent palace at
I arrived yesterday on the train from Cologne. The main reason I have come here
is to furfil my long held ambition to see St Mary's Cathedral which formed part
of Charlemagne's palace. Charles laid the foundation stones for the cathedral in
794AD and it still stands today. I wandered into the Cathedral around 4pm only
to find that it was closed due to a concert being held there at 5pm. By this
time a number of people were already finding themselves seats for the concert,
and there did not seem to be a door charge so I decided to sneak in. It turned
out to be a performance of Mozarts Requiem complete with a small orchestra and a
three part choir. Suffice to say it sounded awesome. Someone must have known
that I was coming :)
Aachen is also famous for its thermal hotpools. Charlemagne himself liked
nothing better than bathing in the warm waters, surprising many with his
practice of conducting vital matters of state while he was dressing. Following
the concert I decided to visit the thermal hot pools on the outskirts of town.
It took a long time to work out the bus system, it took me an hour to work out
that the bus I was waiting for does not run on Saturday nights!
"Travelpack and me next to
Charlemagne's Throne" (its a fake but still old)
The pools were very upmarket, with upmarket prices to boot (9 Euro for 2 and a
half hours). The water was warm without it being hot - from memory the pools at
Hamner Springs in New Zealand seemed to be hotter. It was really nice to have a
swim, especially as I think it would be well over a year since I last went
swimming. The complex consisted of a large centre pool that was warm, a smaller
pool in a south east corner which was a little hotter and a very violent spa
next to the main pool. There were also two outdoor pools, connected to the
complex through plastic flaps that you could swim though.
Being there on my own I found I could relax completely, without having to think
about anything. However at times I found the lingustic barrier made the
experience more isolating than it would have been otherwise. Travelling on your
own does have some upsides in that you can see what you want when you want, and
you do end up meeting more people, but you do have to make more of an effort to
make sure you are not on your own all the time. Short trips are fine, but I am
not sure if I could travel on my own for longer than a week in places where I
was less likely to meet English speaking people. While I was in the spa I met
some hard cased people from Portugual and best of all one of them spoke good
Water was supplied to one of the outdoor pools by an artificial waterfall and a
number of wide jets on the side of the pool that pointed down into the water.
The water came out of these like a watercannon. Standing underneath one of the
jets gave an outstanding water propelled back massage, right in the spot where I
store my stress (just below the shoulder blades). The spa pool was great too,
the only word I can use to descibe it would be 'violent'!
Later, when I was inside I looked out at the same outdoor pool to see people
circling around the pool like a big fast train. It looked like fun so I went
back to the outdoor pool. I did not have time to work out how it worked as I was
whisked away by a strong current. The pool attendants had turned it into a giant
whirlpool! The best thing was that although you were being pulled around at a
pace, you did not have to worry about hitting the sides. At one point I lay on
my back as I was pulled around - it was like backstroke without the fear of
hitting the side
A model of Charlemagne's palace as
it would have looked in his day.