Monday, January 13, 2014

Weekend trip to Bonn and Aachen

For the last trip of his grant, Bobby spend two weeks in Bonn doing research at the Fraunhofer Institute (you can read about all that Bobby accomplished during his two year grant here; it's a very impressive list). I took an overnight train from Copenhagen to visit him (which was an adventure in itself, complete with hurricane-force winds, scary Germany boarder police with big flashlights at 2 am, and a Soviet-era train compartment with folding beds). Bobby has been to Bonn before, and we've both been to neighboring city Cologne (remember that blog post about eating 7 different animals in a 40 hour period?), so Bobby surprised me and took me to the town of Aachen to visit my ancestor! In order to visit, we had to stop by the Aachen Cathedral. The octagon and cupola you see here were first erected around 800 A.C.E.!
The inside of the cathedral is absolutely stunning. The core cupola is decorated with classical pillars and Carolingian bronze railings. This was the first post-classical cupola to be constructed north of the Alps.
The decorated ceilings are also quite lovely. Everywhere you look is detailed artwork.
And finally, the main event: my great (times many) grandfather, Charlemagne (aka Charles the Great, grandfather of Europe). Yes, it's true, I am related to Charlemagne, and I've got the papers to prove it! Do you see a resemblance? The Aachen Cathedral was commissioned by Charlemagne and is his final resting place. In the Middle Ages, the Aachen Cathedral became one of Christendom's most important places of pilgrimage. The pilgrimage still takes place every 7 years, with the next one happening summer 2014. During the pilgrimage, the four Aachen relics are taken out for display: Mary's cloak, Jesus' swaddling clothes, John the Baptist's beheading cloth, and Jesus' loincloth.
In addition to its religious importance, Aachen Cathedral was also politically important. Between 936, with King Otto I, and 1531, with King Ferdinand I, 30 kings and 12 queen were anointed and crowned in the Cathedral, and then enthroned on this throne. The throne, which was created for Charlemagne, was actually made of even older ancient material! Some claim that the steps are from Pilate's palace, which, according to the Bible, Jesus climbed up after being whipped.
This sarcophagus, known as the Persephone Sarcophagus, is where Charlemagne was first interred (his remains were removed around 1215 and put in the golden Shrine of Charlemagne, which is housed inside the main chapel of the Cathedral). The sarcophagus was created in the first quarter of the 3rd century A.C.E.
We all know by now how much Bobby and I love eating, so let's get to the good part: German food! In every city we visited (Bonn, Cologne, and Aachen), the Christmas markets were in full swing. It was fun to see all the crafty things for sale, but what we really enjoyed with the hot mulled wine and beer and the giant grills! Many of the guys behind the grills were dressed in traditional German clothes (lederhosen and all). There were so many different sausages to choose from, all of them delicious.
And we weren't just limited to sausages. Here we have a steak! In a bun! With grilled onions! Oh man, this was so delicious.
Don't worry, though; we saved room for dessert, like this gooseberry cake. I have to say, cold winter months are the best time to fill up on the rich, heavy German foods.

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