Phil and Hayley, what country were you in over the weekend? We were in Deutschland! So why are you seeing Dutch orange, Dutch flags and bike enthusiasts dressed in their Tour de France outfit everywhere you looked on the streets?
Are you confused yet? OK let me explain:
This year the Tour de France started in Germany and it went through Aachen, Germany before entering Belgium and then France. Also, this year CHIO Aachen (World Equestrian Festival) were jointly hosted in Aachen, Germany and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and that’s why there were a lot of Dutch colours decorated around the city. Of course, none of these were known to us until we arrived in Aachen on the day. In fact, our original plan was to visit the city cathedral and explore the streets of Aachen.
Rescuing Repunzel & Land of Fairy Tales
We visited Aachen on a Sunday, and we soon realised that it may not be a good idea. Maybe next time. Nevertheless, some tourist shops and some of the sights remained open. From the train station, we hit the city centre to see some cool stuff. Some of the houses look like they came out of a fairy tale stories. Particularly, the towers at the Rathaus (Town Hall) look like it was a place where Repunzel was held in captivity by the evil witch. On the serious note, this interesting building is an example of a Gothic architecture built in the 14th Century.
The City Cathedral and Its Royalty
Apart from the Rathaus and the streets nearby, the Aachen Cathedral (otherwise known as the Dom locally) is also a must see. This Roman Catholic cathedral was constructed in 796 AD, but the completion was unknown. In fact, it is considered as one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe.
From the outside, the cathedral look like any others in Europe, especially with its rectangular footprint, a typical church spire and a dome. However it was when we were at the inside when the cathedral revealed the interesting part of the history. In a sense, it was very unusual that the main chamber is circular. Everywhere we looked it was covered in highly decorated stone cravings, fine paintings, enamels, and precious metals. It was definitely very stunning. We now understand why there were more than 30 kings. In fact it is full of history that it is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Although we had taken some photos inside the cathedral, I don’t think these photos do the cathedral justices in terms of its beauty. It is better to actually visit the place and experience its glory.
Another thing that we did was to try out the Aachener printen from the local bakeries. Many of them are located from the short walk from the cathedral. These are spiced gingerbread, which are very famous in the city. Each bakery has a unique and secret blend of spices when they make their printen so they taste slightly different from each shop. Make sure you taste test them thoroughly before buying them – we certainly did. XD
Tour de France Come to Town
After seeing all the amazing sights and tried out all the delicious printen, we headed down to the main square to catch some actions. People were already lined up on the street dressed up in their biking jerseys of their favourite team or waving national flags of their favourite teams.
Before the cyclists arrived, the fun-cars came along and kept the crowd entertained. Of course it was a chance for the commercial sponsors came and advertised themselves. The fun bit was that they were throwing freebies such as sweets, caps, pens, and super glues (yes to read that correctly) to the spectators. Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Like many people thought as soon as the fun-cars came along, the cyclists would have arrived very soon. However, it didn’t turn out like that. It took over an hour before the bikers came along. While we were all waiting for the cyclists came along, some people kept themselves entertained with music blaring out the windows. They also cheered for random cyclists who happened to bike along the route.
So the cyclists finally came along. They were cycling in such a big group and in such a high speed that our brain couldn’t process all the information. Well, shall we say it was one of the experience where our brain played tricks on us. The support cars were driven at about 30 mph, which was comparable to those cyclists, but I guess the brain wasn’t used to the image and blurred things out!
So for a couple of hours wait, it turned out that we only got 5 minutes glimpse of the action. I suppose it’s one of those sports that is best to watch on TV. Then again you would have missed out the atmosphere.
- How to Get There?
- Aachen is German city located at the border with Netherlands and Belgium. Trains from the rest of Germany connect to Aachen very frequently. High speed international trains from Brussels (about 1 hour), Paris (about 3 hours), and Amsterdam (around 4 hours) are also available.
- We started our journey in Eindhoven, which took us 2 hours one way via Heerlen on slow intercity trains.
- Train tickets can be bought via NS International, DB or Thalys webpages
- Aachen Cathedral
- It is located in the city center and it is a short walk from the train station.
- There is no admission charge for visiting the cathedral. However, if you wish to take photographs inside the cathedral you would need to purchase a photographer wristband for €1.
- Guided tours are also available and tickets can be purchased at the Cathedral Visitor Center across the road from the cathedral.
- See more information on the Cathedral’s webpage.
Have you been surprise when you went on holiday? What was it? Have you also seen Tour de France in real life? Comment below and let us know!