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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Europe, Part 2 · Aachen and Trier

(For part one, visit this post!)  As I mentioned in my previous post, in order to have more cohesive posting, I saved our first day's travel to share in part 2. :-)  So here we go- days 1 and 3!

Our flight into Frankfurt went smoothly and we arrived bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and rearing to go after a refreshing night of 2 hrs of sleep!  OK, not quite... but we were eager to get out and explore!  Previous experience has taught us to push through the first day with as little napping as we can get away with, so we put just 1 item on our itinerary for the day: Aachen Cathedral.

It was a 2-3 hr drive to Aachen and our path took us through many scenic vistas and past lots of tempting castles.... Oh for all the time in the world to stop at every place that catches your interest!

We were hoping to make it to the cathedral in time for their once-daily English tour, but finding a parking place meant that we were rushing with just minutes to spare in order to catch the tour!  As it turned out, we *just* barely made it, but I'm so thankful we did!  Admission to the cathedral is free, but that means that they aren't spending any money on placquards or informational literature.... so if we had been just a few minutes later we really wouldn't know anything at all about what we were looking at!

Charlemagne lived in Aachen in the late 700s and started building this cathedral in 796.  The exterior is quite a conglomeration of different styles as it's been added on to over the years.  The central, original portion is octogonally shaped and decorated with brilliant mosaics- a different theme for each section!

The mosaics are not original; in the late 1800s, it was deemed appropriate to decorate the cathedral "as a Byzantine cathedral would have been decorated".  While I certainly commend them for their artistry and taste (it was one of the selling points to include it in our itinerary!), I must say that it seems a mite presumptuous to think that 1,000 years later, we could have more insight into popular aesthetic than Charlemagne himself.... ;-)

Charlemagne's throne still stands in its original place- on the second floor, looking out over the center.  The throne was the place of coronation for over 30 German kings throughout the centuries.  Kind of surprisingly unpretentious, don't you think??  To make up for that- it was made from stones from Jerusalem. ;-)

The master tiler had a "signature" that he would always include in his mosaics- a tiny mouse.  Can you spot it?

The center of the cathedral has an elaborately gold-tiled ceiling and an original immense brass chandelier weighing... I-forget-how-many tons. 

 Aachen was Charlemagne's favorite church, and his remains are housed here.  This elaborate coffin was made a few hundred years after his death, when The embellishment on the exterior depicts German kings and emperors along the sides, and considering it is being displayed prominently in a church is rather sacrilegious, when you come right down to it!

The nave of the church was added on in the medieval period and all the walls were decorated with gorgeous paintings.  Unfortunately, in 1944, Aachen suffered bombing and the tremors destroyed all of the stained glass in the nave.  The cathedral was open to the elements for several years and in that time, irreparable damage was done to the painting.

It still remains in some portions, but only as a reminder of its former glory. :-( 
The stained glass was replaced in the 50s, but unfortunately in the modern style. :-/  I really, really don't care for that style of stained glass in the slightest!

The massive iron doors in the front of the cathedral are original, and probably only survive because no one through the millenia was able to easily cart off their 2 tons of weight each. ;-)

Our tour was thoroughly interesting and helped banish all thoughts of jet lag from our minds!  Dad had to stop by a local shop to get our cell phone ready for use in Europe, so the rest of us took the opportunity to try out a bakery. :-)

 (see- they don't really look all that jet-lagged, do they?? ;-))

Our 3rd day was spent in Trier, Germany.  Before planning our trip, I was unaware that Trier was actually one of the main capitals of the Roman Empire!  I do love Roman stuff, so we had to make the trip! :-)

There are quite a few reminders of the former Roman grandeur which, considering they are over 2,000 years old, is just incredible!

Unfortunately, there was also a huge fashion show going on that day right in the middle of town, so that effectively destroyed any hope of getting photos of the charming architecture.... you can see the crowds starting to assemble and the cat walk at the far end of the street here!

Our first stop was Porta Nigra- the last remaining of the Roman city gates.  It survives in remarkably preserved condition considering it has been in almost constant use.  From hermit's residence to church to near destruction by Napoleon, it's seen quite a lot of refurbishment and redecorating! 

This is part of the medieval addition when it was turned into a church.  You can make out the addition on the left of the picture above- the original gate was symmetrical.

The interior has been divided into 3 floors, and the stone has been carved decoratively in most places.

And beautiful views from the top floor!

Our day in Trier was a bit dreary, but thankfully we missed any rain so it was an enjoyable day for site-seeing after all. :-)

Next up: the Cathedral of Trier! (also, this is the church visible in the above photo) This place was so, so massive- I had the hardest time getting it (mostly) all in a picture!

The Rococo stucco-work in the front dome was stunning!

Next stop- Constantine's Basilica.  Again- immense.  The basilica was built in the early 300s and despite some remodeling over the centuries, is now back to its (semi)original state.  I think it's amusing how modern the design looks!  Coupled with the fact that it certainly doesn't look like it's 1700 years old...

.... In contrast to that, the Roman baths definitely *do* look their age! ;-)

Unfortunately, there was major restoration/cleaning work going on at the time, hence the lack of pictures.  Giant scaffolds and tarps really do make it difficult to get the "feel". ;-)  One feature that was quite fun about these baths is that the underground network for steam, etc. still survives and is open for exploring!  Fun!

Our last stop of the day was the Roman Amphitheater.  The amphitheater has been through a lot over the years... stone seating disassembled for building houses, the whole thing filled in as a garbage dump, etc!  I do wonder what prompts you to fill a ROMAN RUIN with garbage... but then again, I certainly can't boast any attraction older than 200 years in my area so I have a much different perspective. ;-)

The underground network still survives and is tour-able via the stairway holes visible.  The glass tiles in the surface of the amphitheater floor are modern additions to provide light to the network.  Also, the rooms and passageways accessible through the doors in the walls are also restored for exploration!

Thanks for visiting!  I hope to be back with the next installation soon... we're on to Alsace, France next!


  1. Wow!!! This is so fun! It looks like you had a wonderful time! I love seeing the pictures.
    Thanks for sharing them, Lily!!

    P.S. Hope you're having fun on your adventure!!! ;)

  2. Loving these updates. We didn't get to Aachen, but cathedrals are my absolutely favourite part of Europe. I love the details and the history in each one.

    1. Kaitlyn, I know! Even the most "mundane" (haha!) of churches and cathedrals still have an interest and certain draw. As well as being absolutely mind-boggling in their immense-ness!

  3. EEK! I can't believe you went to Aachen and Trier!!! Trier is my favorite city in Germany and Aachen is just amazing. Did you get to sit on Charlemagne's throne? When we last visited a few years back, they my brother sit there! I miss living there so much, so I'm so happy to see all these beautiful pictures! I'm so happy you enjoyed it!

    1. Morgan, Yay! Someone else who has been there!! :-) Aachen and Trier are so off the beaten trail and usual "tourist rounds" that I think you're the only person I've heard of who has been there too! :-) Unfortunately, the throne wasn't open for touching, even. Which I understand...

  4. Goodness, these photos are beautiful. I love seeing slices of Europe through your eyes, dear gal.

    ♥ Jessica

  5. Once again, what a glorious time you must have had! Such splendid historic scenes and destinations... Ahh!

    the Middle Sister and Singer

  6. Thanks everyone for commenting! I know these posts are a bit out of my ordinary and the series isn't very short... but it's my substitution for scrapbooking, and I'm enjoying the feedback! :-)



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