A Little Trip to Aachen

Authored By:

Zoe S.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the lovely city of Aachen for three days with my generous local coordinators from CIEE. Aachen was charming. I sometimes forget how much I adore being in a new place; the thrill of walking down a new street, peering through all the shop windows, and the inexplicable way (especially in Germany) that old, beautiful architecture makes me feel. 

I knew I was in love as soon as I saw the winding cobblestone streets of Aachen and Christmas wreaths already set up for Weihnachtsmärkte, the German Christmas markets that will open next week. Thanksgiving was only a few days ago, but everywhere in Germany now feels like Christmas, especially in Aachen. It is a bit like a disease. Once it starts feeling like Christmas, you can’t get rid of it. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I’m absolutely infected with the longing for Christmas. 

And Aachen is really such a beautiful city to exploreIt is actually one of the oldest and most important cities in Germany, dating back to the Neolithic times (3000-2500 BC). In fact, I learned that the Aachener Dom was the tomb of the emperor Charlemagne. The German name for Charlamagne is Karl der Große, which I find so funny because it sounds very different from the English/French name. The history and significance of a city like Aachen was fascinating to me. It means so much more to me when I travel and can know the history of a city and feel all the ancient stories that run through every street and alleyway I walk through.

I also had the chance to wash my hands in one of the famous mineral thermal water springs in Aachen for the healing properties that come from the high content of sulfur. Charlemagne himself was convinced that hot springs were very beneficial to one’s health, so I took his advice and tried it out for myself. I cannot say I noticed any immediate effects, but to be fair, I was only exposed to the water for about 30 seconds.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was popping out of the typical German rainstorm into my favorite chain of thrift stores in Germany, Think Twice, and getting to thrift with my local coordinators. I find it so fun to be surrounded by people in the cutest outfits and sort through the absolutely hässlich clothes and the pretty ones. I bought the cutest sweater (shoutout to Mathis for finding it), and then we continued exploring Aachen through the rain.

It rained the entire day we walked up and down the streets of Aachen. In Germany, I’ve discovered one must always prepare for the rain. If you think it won’t rain, you’re wrong. The rain in Germany falls fast, spontaneously, and freezing cold. Especially when it is windy, the rain feels to me like little pockets of ice slipping down my hair, my face, into my shoes until even the tips of my fingers sting. 

Although I experienced a variant of that exact feeling in Aachen, I barely noticed it. It was so cold, but I felt so warm inside. While I was completely submerged in the rain, I was also overwhelmed by the gleaming Christmas lights, the glint of the shop windows later in the day as the sky turned a dusky dark blue, and the grandness of all the looming, great architecture. Normally, the rain makes me miserable. However, something about it raining torrents in Aachen added character to my trip. There are so many details I can remember, even now, just because it was raining so hard. 

In every new city that I have the chance to visit, I find my eyes immediately drawn to anything that pleases me: the color of the trees, the little traces of German history left in the statues scattered through the streets, the way people bustle noisily in and out of the train stations. I suppose that whenever I am in a new city I am looking for something to find beautiful. And what is life if not in the pursuit of beauty?

So until the next beautiful thing I find:

Ciao-ciao for now!

Zoe Schauder