Road trips can open up whole new areas that turn out to be well worth seeing. We were actually heading toward Paris, but wanted to break up a long drive. Friends told us that Aachen was a town that was worth seeing, so we stopped early enough that we could wander into the Old Town and see what it was all about.
Turns out that this pretty little town with its thermal hot springs became a major political center of his empire, and he was buried here when he died in 814 AD... so we're talking about a really historic and old town!
The King's Palace no longer exists, but the church that Charlemagne had built in 805 AD still stands... and the Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are all kinds of treasures to see inside.... including Charlemagne's throne. The Palace Chapel... the octagonal chapel in the Cathedral, was part of Charlemagne's palace.
In the Cathedral Treasury, around the corner from the Cathedral, you can see the Golden Arm Reliquary…. a giant arm and hand that has Charlemagne's arm bone in it. The Treasury is worth a visit as there are other religious treasures to see.
The 14th century city hall or Rathaus lies between the market square, the Markt, and the Cathedral. It was built on the foundations of Charlemagne's palace and within some of its surviving walls. Kings of Germany held their coronation banquets in the Coronation Hall of the Rathaus.
Try to stop on a Tuesday or Thursday morning where there is still a fantastic market in the Markt square in front of the Rathaus. The flowers, fruits and vegetables look so artistic in these markets. The cheeses and sausages call to you.
There are a number of hotels right in the Old Town, and lots of restaurants scattered around the pedestrian streets.
Road trips can yield unexpected surprises. Brushing up on our history and learning about Charlemagne in Aachen was one of those surprises. So go ahead and stop for the night.
Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark
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