Aachen Revisited: Culture, Cosmetics, and Toy Stores


On one boring weekday in mid-November, Samar and I decided to venture outside Maastricht. So after a few deliberations and discussions, we decided to go to Aachen, because while it’s in another country, it’s still close enough to be able to spend a full day in and not feel guilty about skipping out on work.

It was my second time going there, while being Samar’s first. So it was decided that I would lead the way- readers, that is never a good thing considering my love for getting lost and only asking for instructions when absolutely needed.

The moment we walked onto the bus heading towards Aachen’s train station, two Korean tourists approached us asking if they were on the right bus. Being helpful and all, I smiled and confirmed that.

Aachen, we meet again

What I didn’t know was that this would not be the last we’d hear from them. When we stepped off the bus, they stuck right behind us, following our every move. That’s when I started to get panicked. I’m all for meeting new people but I wanted to shop (strange, I know)and explore without having to play tour guide.

Samar too wasn’t very happy with that, as indicated by her remarks in Arabic. Still many of the customary touristy photos were taken as we journeyed towards the city center. Setting up for Christmas was just beginning to take place too.

Christmas goodies! My heart skipped a beat at that display.

We finally managed to get them out of our hair at the tourist information center, when they explained they wanted to go sight-see, and we said we’d be shopping.

Having no exact plan in mind, we headed in the direction of the church. And along the way we were confronted by several of the shops I had seen on my first trip. Namely this one:

The first time I visited, I promised myself I'd go in the next time. And I did!

So we went in. And despite my thinking it would be a good location to pick up a magnet for the ever growing collection we have in Beirut, it turned out to be a toy shop.

Now my mental age tends to vary between 2 and 30, depending on the situation. I can safely say that during our trip to Aachen, it was stuck at 6 years old. I mean hello, they had Legos!

Legos! Really, how could anyone ever resist? Minus the painful stepping on them part...

Time was limited though, so after a quick stop for food at one of the bakeries, we continued towards to DM, or what I like to call “girl heaven” for the pure reason of it selling all sorts of cosmetics and products that we girls love.  Though I didn’t need anything, the power of want did kick in, and I ended up with a full bag of purchases- some for me, some as gifts for the family and friends back home. I mean, I can’t be completely selfish when confronted with all the goodies that DM offers.

The church was our next stop, though not for long, as many sections of it were closed off and there were too many tourists crowding up what limited space was left. So consulting the helpful map we picked up at the center, we set our sights on the town’s rathaus (that’s city hall for you non-Germans).

What we were actually looking for

Except even with a map we didn’t know where it was.

Asking for directions proved to be no help at all though one lady was kind enough to lead us to the start of the street it was on, but after she left us, we had no idea where to go. That’s when Samar spotted a bunch of people with cameras leaning from the balcony of an obviously old Gothic and fancy building, which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.

And finally inside, trying to listen to the audio tour.

You know what though? We could’ve been spared this entire situation if someone had just used the Lebanese way of giving directions- based on landmarks. I mean how hard could it have been to say, oh it’s the building facing the Starbucks? I mean, being Starbucks deprived and all, I would have no problem locating anything.

Thus commenced the only cultural part of our journey. After getting the student discount (win!) and the audio tour (double win!), we set off exploring the historical journey that Aachen has been on from its founding by Charlemagne up to present day. The rathaus featured many interesting artifacts and statues that are well worth looking at, including replicas of orbs and crowns, as well as many, many paintings.

Ouh, fancy! And very big...

The rathus is still in use today, as it is the location for the yearly Charlemagne Prize ceremony and for events such as weddings. I wish I could tell you more about it but I honestly remember nothing from the audio tour. It happened in November after all, and a lot has happened since then.

I promise not to dress up like a disheveled cold tourist should I ever win the Charlemagne Prize, last won by this guy. Though I must say, I love that jacket.

After an obligatory stop at Starbucks, we continued along the path of shopping and store exploring. To say the least, not one shop escaped us as we  walked through the hilly streets of Aachen. Mainly out of pure curiosity and that I was looking for that magnet to add to the fridge- which may or may not have killed the cat.

In this case however, it led us to multiple toy and cosmetics shops. Don’t ask me how it happened, but it was like we had planned this- so much so that Samar and I would just look at each other knowingly before  heading in to see the same products being offered all over again.

The only exception to the rule: a bookshop. Which I loudly declared I would be moving into should I ever get frustrated from my studies. Also, my limited German and knowledge of books is indicating I snapped this in the chick-lit section

Not to say that it wasn’t fun. Of course it was.

It started to get dark and cold in Aachen, so entirely satisfied with all the exploration we had done that day, we headed towards the bus, iPod in hand, singing along to classics by Wael Kfoury and Amr Diab (the only two Arabic pop musicians I will ever willingly admit I listen to).

One final note: I did manage to get that magnet! Even though I’m not particularly happy with it.

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