It has become a tradition for me to go away for a few days to a Christmas market, but since I’m taking a break from travel, that wasn’t an option this year. So instead I hopped on a coach and took a 3-hour bus ride to Aachen.
Germany’s westernmost city sits along the border of the Netherlands and makes for a relatively easy day trip. Though the market is not especially large, it was big enough for me to get my Christmas market fix and put me into the holiday spirit.
Aachen is known for its local specialty, a type of sweet bread called Printen, and many of the stalls at the market sell it. Also in abundance at the market are the requisite Nutcrackers, Smokers and Christmas Pyramids that are staples at the German Christmas markets.
I wasn’t looking for anything specific, but I did buy some ornaments, Printen for the little ladies, a Printen liqueur for myself and lots of other little odds and ends from some of the other shops in Aachen.
Just as important as the trinkets for sale at the market is the food! It seemed as though every other stall was selling food, and I think I stopped at all of them, for investigative purposes, of course. Latkes, bratwurst, currywurst, crepes, waffles, candy, toffee almonds, roasted chestnuts, and pretzels.
And let’s not forget the famous glühwein. Warm, spiced wine is not my cup of tea, but the aroma does add to the festive atmosphere.
After spending too much money and eating too much food, I went to church, not to repent, but to see the historical house of worship.
Aachen Cathedral, or the Imperial Cathedral as it is sometimes known, is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. Built by Charlemagne, the cathedral served as the church of coronation for German kings and queens from 936 – 1531, it is also the final resting place of Charlemagne.
The cathedral, with its octagonal shape, marble columns, bronze doors, and mosaic ceilings, was one of the initial 12 sites to be placed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Aachen Cathedral is also where some of Christendom’s most revered relics can be found. The relics, which include the cloth on which John the Baptist’s severed head lay, swaddling clothes of the baby Jesus and the loin-cloth he wore on the cross, are only shown once every seven years, the next showing to be in 2021.
The Aachen Christmas market is open from late November until the day before Christmas Eve. For more information, visit the website.
Guided English tours of Aachen Cathedral are offered daily. Visit the website for more information.