While in Germany this year, I hope to do a good amount of traveling – and I think I’m off to a good start! That said, while I did in fact visit another country this weekend, I really did not travel far. One of the great things about Europe is that the smaller countries (relative to the U.S.) let you experience a great variety of cultural, political, and social contexts, often with only a few hours’ travel. Quite the contrast to my venture from MN to CA this past summer, which took a solid 3-4 days of driving, and during which I never left the country!
Having just made lots of new Fulbright friends across Germany at the Germany Fulbright Research and Study meeting in Marburg last week, I coordinated with two fellow Fulbrighters in Bonn to go visit another Fulbrighter in Aachen, Germany. After about an hour and a half of train travel from Bonn, Shirin and arrived in Aachen on Friday evening. Aachen is a beautiful town – “Sehr schön!” my roommates had said – and it was particularly lively this weekend, as it was hosting a city festival. I’m still not entirely sure what the festival was for, but when we arrived there was a large and VERY well-attended concert going on in a park, and the next day we saw a Ferris Wheel brought in for the occasion, and got to enjoy the numerous food stands (waffles, sausages, beer, etc.) and musical events.
On our first night there we went to an Eis Café. These are somewhat similar to American ice cream parlors, though I would argue they are perhaps tastier and more elaborate. After ordering a waffle with strawberries, chocolate sauce, and ice cream to share with Shirin, I had a blast watching the café employees scooping and constructing various elaborate sundaes, eiskaffees, and more! I could definitely see myself working at a place like this. The waffle was delicious, as expected, and Erin’s Eisschokolade (which I sampled) was also fantastic!
On Saturday, we went to the Netherlands for breakfast (isn’t that a great sentence?). The bus to Vaals, Netherlands took just a few minutes, and thanks to the European Union required no passport stamping/elaborate border crossing procedures. Once there, we picked a cafe, and shared an excellent pfannkuchen (larger pancake), and some adorable poffertjes (little mini pancakes). After picking up our Bonn Fulbrighter pal, Lauren, from the station, we went to see the Aachen Cathedral. Constructed beginning in the 8th century, this is one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe – and probably one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. Along with gorgeous stained glass, and a massive organ, most of the domed ceiling of the cathedral is decorated in exquisitely detailed mosaic tiles. This was something I hadn’t seen before and found stunning, especially at the scale of this massive cathedral. Unfortunately, they charged for taking pictures and I chose not to do that, so I don’ have any to share with you all. But I highly recommend that you look up the Aachen Cathedral online to gain some appreciation for its magnificence!
While exploring some little shops, our group found a lovely Dutch gingerbread shop, where the storeowner very enthusiastically shared samples and told us about the history of her shop – open since 1858! A little later in the day our group ran into a fantastic musical performance by some highschoolers, including selections from Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, and more! And apparently Lauren is a big musical fan like me! The whole thing was quite fun, though it did make me rather nostalgic for being in a choir/in shows – Lauren said the same, and we’re both very excited to join the international choir at Bonn soon!
After another night on the floor (I think my hips have a 2-day limit on non-mattress sleeping), Shirin and I headed off to Maastricht, Netherlands the next morning! As it was Sunday, things were pretty quiet, though they picked up quite a bit after noon (in Germany things stay pretty quiet all day). We had a great time wandering the city, and, of course, eating! We shared a rose-blackberry macaron and a decadent mousse dessert to start, later I enjoyed a delicious frikandel sausage pastry (typical Dutch) and a croquette with truffle mayo, and last but not least I tried some stroopwafels! Sadly, in this part of the Netherlands you can’t get them fresh and hot (I guess I’ll have to go to Amsterdam for that), but I did find some nice-looking ones in the grocery store bakery.
Shirin and also found an incredible bookstore housed inside of a cathedral! This is probably one of the coolest bookstores I have ever had the privilege of visiting. Shirin and I spent a fair bit of time here – exploring the stacks… but also taking fun photos of ourselves in this unique setting! Sufficiently stuffed with food (or rather, more than sufficiently) and equipped with some Instagram-worthy photos, Shirin and I headed back to Aachen, then Cologne, then back home to Bonn!
One of the fun things about going places here, is it makes my familiarity with Bonn that much more evident – it really does feel like coming home! And the evening festivities only furthered that sentiment – some singing, games, and shenanigans with my housemates, and a lovely dinner at home together. All in all, ein ausgezeichnetes Wochenende (an excellent weekend)!