• Day 3 Thursday, May 24

    Cologne (Koln) to Aachen

    We had another wonderful breakfast in the hotel dining room.  We headed across the street to buy a train ticket for Aachen.  We weren’t sure how to use the ticket machines so we went to the train ticket office.  Our ticket turned out to be a special round trip ticket for up to five people.  We discovered this late in the game.  We kept looking at the ticket to find which “class” we were.  On the way to Aachen, a conductor told us to sit in first class, and we didn’t object.   Another conductor told us we were in the wrong place but didn’t move us.  It was a dome car.


    When we arrived in Aachen, we tried to find a map without any luck so we just followed some of the crowds to the cathedral.



    On Christmas Day in the year 800 A.D Pope Leo III placed the imperial crown on the head of Charlemagne and established the Holy Roman Empire.  Charlemagne decided to live in Aachen in Germany, not far from Cologne.  As a Christian ruler he would not have taken up a permanent residence in Aachen without building a church.


    In 800, the first domed chapel church was built beyond the Alps.  For the dome, Charlemagne built an octagon rather than a rotunda.   The octagon was a sign of perfection.   It is somewhere between a circle and a square.  The circle without beginning or end symbolizes the eternity of heaven, and the square the four corners of the earth.

    The length, width and height of  Charlemagne’s Palace chapel are all equal.  The octagon is surrounded by a 16 side polygon.

    There are eight massive pillars, folded into each other making double pillar.  Each pair are close together so to carry the weight of the whole building.  Above these pillar are slender columns which are positioned in pairs.  The antique capitals fit into the round arches.   These pillars have no supporting function.  French soldiers from the revolutionary army broke these pillars out and took them to a French parish in 1798.  After the second peace treaty of  Paris in 1815 they were brought back.

    Frederick I Barbarossa was crowned king in Aachen in 1152.  In 1165 he donated an amazing chandelier for 48 candles.  The diameter is 13.5 feet and matches the octagon.

    Charlemagne furnished the chapel with relics.  In 799 a monk delivered a gift from the patriarch of Jerusalem which contain Jesus’ swaddling clothes and loincloth, the garment Mary wore at the birth of Jesus, and John the Baptist’s decapitation cloth. It was not until 1312 that the relics were first displayed. 


    Charlemagne died at age 72 on January 28, 814 and was buried in the octagon on the same day.  The exact spot is still unknown.

    The Gothic choir was built in 1355 for the large number of pilgrims.  It took 60 years to build.  The design was inspired by Sainte Chapelle in Paris.  In 1414, three days before the 600th anniversary of Charlemagne’s death, the choir was consecrated.

    The 84 foot windows in the choir are the tallest north of the Alps.  In between the glass panels are 4.7 foot pillars.  There are no flying buttresses as in other Gothic structures.  Iron bands were drawn through the windows and pillars and then connected to the existing structure.  In 1729, hail destroyed the glass.  The present windows were completed in 1951.

    In the choir area there are two shrines – the Shrine of Mary and the Shrine of Charlemagne. 

     The Shrine of Mary was designed in 1215 for the safekeeping of the original relics. Thousands from all over Europe visited these shrines. On one day in 1496 there were 142,000 pilgrims present.  There is a very unusual and interesting ceremony involved in viewing the relics.  The relics are placed in the shrine for 7 years.  The keyhole is sealed and the door of the shrine is lock with a new lock.  The key is broken in two and the town receives the ward end and the cathedral chapter the handle.  Seven is the chosen number.  The seventh day of creation is the day of rest.  Pilgrims were shown the relics every 7 years at 7 places, 7 times a day in the 7th month of the year, 7 days before and 7 days after the consecration celebration of the church on July 17th. 

    The Shrine of Charlemagne was commissioned by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1182 for Charlemagne’s remains.  It was completed in 1215.  The inside is oak and the outside is gilded silver.  Contrary to the other shrines of the same time period, Charlemagne’s shrine did not show the twelve apostles.  Instead there are eight kings and eight emperors. 

    When Charlemagne was building the cathedral, they ran out of money.  It is said that the devil made a deal with the town councilors that the first person to enter the cathedral when it was completed would pay.  The town’s people send in a wolf first.  It was believed that the devil ripped out his heart – thus the whole in his chest.  The statue of the wolf stands inside the front door.

    We saw a sign at the entrance to the cathedral that said we had to pay 2 € for a “photo license”.  Later, a man approached me and charged me the 2€ for taking pictures.  I was not allowed to use my tripod. 

     After wandering around by ourselves for a while, we noticed that some people were allowed in the choir where they could get a better few of the two shrines- reliquaries.  It seems these people were on a tour.  We found we could take a tour in German at 1:00.  We went to a bookstore where we saw another model for me to build…see AACHEN CATHEDRAL MODEL.  We knew we didn’t have time for lunch, so we hurried to find a restaurant where we could get something to drink.  We had lemonade at a bar across from the cathedral.  Even though we could not understand a word that the guide was saying, we did get in the choir and got a close up look at Mary and Charlemagne’s Shrine.

      Then we went upstairs to see Charlemagne’s throne.  All 30 kings were crowded in Aachen Cathedral between 936 and 1531.  There are 6 steps leading up to it.  They represent the number of floors from the tower of Babylon.  It is designed of antique white marble slabs of different thickness, held together by bronze clips.  I really wanted to sit on it but there was a rope around the entire area. 

     The view down unto the floor of the old Carolingian church was outstanding.  In addition to our tour, there was a young lady giving an English tour so we listened to hear the explanation of  the throne.   When the tour was over, the guide speedily went down the steps while my wife went slowing.  She asked me  to hurry down the stairs to make sure the charming guide wouldn’t lock us in the tower!!  When we got to the bottom the guide had closed the iron gate, and we couldn’t get out.  We keep asking for help (actually my wife yelled) and finally someone came to our rescue and unlocked the door.

    We had lunch back at the same café where we had our lemonade.  We sat outside.  I had Sauerbraten and my wife had a tuna salad.  Both were good.  Then we went back to the book store and got the model and some post cards. They were 1€ each.  We walked around the outside of the church and found an ice cream store and got a cone each.  We sat in the shade and relaxed. 



    Behind the apse of the Cathedral was another church, St. Folillan.  The Cathedral was for the nobility. This was the parish church for the common people.  The tower was in the back.  Part of the church had been destroyed during the war so when they rebuilt it they left the right side(right photo) Romanesque and the left side is modern (left photo).



     We walked up a few streets to the city hall which was an old palace.   We took a self-tour.  The top floor was a big conference room called “coronation hall” with murals about Charlemagne. 




    It was long walk back to the train station, and we were not sure of the way. We kept following signs for the HBH (train station).  We were tired.   We had a hard time figuring out the train because the train before ours was 40 minutes late.  We did get on the right train…first class again.  We got off at the Koln Hbf  and went to our hotel for a little Jim Beam.  Then out to look at the cathedral again.  There was a Mass in one of the chapels so we attended.   There weren’t any guards or spies around so we took communion. 

    We looked for a restaurant that was listed our one of our books but it wasn’t there anymore.  We went to the tourist bureau and bought a large poster print of the Cathedral for 1€ and a mail tube for .60€.  We looked around for a place to eat.  This search for a restaurant took us through some lovely streets with up-scale shops that we hadn’t seen before.  It seemed that all the restaurants were full.   It appears that  everyone spends a lot of time drinking as it was about 7:30 and couldn’t  see anyone eating.   We found a nice outdoor café, Hof 18.  My wife had Haehnchenbrust ( spicy chicken breast ) and I had Lammfiletspiess (lamb and shrimp on a skewer).  The restaurant faced the west side of the cathedral.  It reminded us of having dinner facing Chartres.  The dinner was good but the wait was very long.  

    Went back to hotel and packed our bags.


    Next Day

    Day 1 - Cologne

    Day 2 - Cologne

    Day 3 -Aachen

    Day 4 - Maria Laach - Mainz

    Day 5 - Mainz to Trier

    Day 6 - Trier

    Day -7- Speyer

    Day 8 - Speyer - Strasbourg - Freiburg

    Day 9 - Basel - Lindau

    Day 10 - Lindau- Meersburg

    Day 11 - Lindau

    Day 12 -   Hohenschwangau

    Day 13 - Zurich

    Day 14 - Zurich -home