After the concert, we dined in the restaurant of the hotel we were staying at: Brulls am Dom. Between mouthfuls of buttery white asparagus (our favorite local delicacy), we took in the room's delightful clutter: windowsills and shelves bursting with dolls, a miniature copper stove, a tiny table set with miniature china and flatware, and several dollhouses. "I've always liked collecting," said Hannah Brulls, wife of the fifth-generation hotel owner. "Our guests seem to enjoy my treasures."
The next morning, we strolled the city's old town again. As we walked by the front of the Rathaus on the way to another tour, dozens of students were shouting slogans and brandishing placards protesting a planned university tax increase.
Minutes later, our serious, 60-ish guide, Frau Goebbels, was telling us more about her city. "Aachen was known throughout Europe as an elegant spa," she said, standing in front of the Elisenbrunnen (Elise fountain), a neoclassical rotunda erected in 1822. "Albrecht Dürer, Voltaire, George Frideric Handel and Peter the Great are just a few of the famous personages who took the waters in Aachen." We looked in vain for a local imbibing his morning prescription of the healing waters.
Behind the Elisenbrunnen, the Elisengarten's benches were bustling with university students heatedly debating, reading, chatting on cell phones or simply contemplating the garden's colorful impatiens beds. Nearby, a group of younger kids gathered around the Money fountain, which illustrates the circulation of money. The kids giggled at the two figures portrayed: a man greedily stretching his hand out and nearly falling in the water, and a plump woman clutching at coins.
Fountains tell many stories in Aachen. Later, as we walked through town, we were amused by the three bronze figures of the Klenkes Fountain, their little fingers raised in greeting. The fountain is the legacy of Aachen's 14th century needle-making and textile industry; the children who worked in the factories used their little fingers to sort out bent needles.
Brilliant sunshine brought townsfolk outdoors on our last morning in town. In a courtyard near our hotel, a tow-haired 5-year-old rode his tricycle in front of the Domkeller Restaurant, built in the 17th century. His parents watched as they sipped coffee at a table by the courtyard's Roman arches, a copy of the original, which were fashioned from fragments of a 2nd century bath.
"We didn't get to the modern part of town," Lutz lamented later, mentioning other attractions we'd also missed during our hasty tour.
"Never mind," Bill said. "We'll add Aachen to our next German itinerary."
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At home with Charlemagne in Aachen
From LAX, Lufthansa, British and Swiss offer connecting service (change of planes) to Cologne, Germany. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $1,260.
Airport Aixpress, a direct airport bus service between Aachen and the Cologne/Bonn airport, takes 60 to 90 minutes and departs four times daily. For information: Taeter Aachen, 011-49-241-182-00-23. The high-speed Thalys train from Cologne stops in Aachen 12 times daily. Round-trip fare is about $35.
To call numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 49 (country code for Germany), 241 (local code) and the number.
WHERE TO STAY:
Brulls am Dom, Hühnermarkt, 52062 Aachen; 317-04, fax 40-43-26. In the heart of the old town. Owned by the Brulls family for more than 100 years, the hotel offers comfort and tradition in 12 small, cozy rooms with private bath. Restaurant features German specialties such as veal schnitzel and pork roast. Double rooms from $105, including a generous breakfast. No credit cards.
AquisGrana, Buchkremerstrasse/Büchel 32, 52062 Aachen; 443-0, fax 443-137, http://www.hotel-aquisgrana.de . Ninety-two comfortable, modern rooms with private bath. Double rooms from $120.
WHERE TO EAT:
Der Postwagen, off the market square at Krämerstrasse 2, 52062 Aachen; 350-01. A narrow, half-timbered edifice built in 1657, perfectly restored. Offers beer, sausages, dumplings, noodle casseroles and other German specialties. Entrees $10-$15.
Ratskeller, Markt Strasse 40, D-52062, Aachen; 350-01. Lively, upscale restaurant in the Rathaus cellar. German and Continental cuisine. Entrees from $14.
Aachener Kaffee und Weinstube, "Leo van den Daele," Büchelstrasse 18, 52062 Aachen; 357-24. Antique armoires and leather-covered walls generate the cafe's warm, 18th century atmosphere. House specialties include reisfladen (rice pudding), pastries and spicy printen (a kind of gingerbread). Coffee, pastries and printen for four: $30.
TO LEARN MORE:
German National Tourist Office, 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168; (212) 661-7200, fax (212) 661-7174, http://www.cometogermany.com .
Aachen Tourist Information, Monheimsallee 52, D-52022 Aachen; 180-29-60, fax 180-29-30.
— Eva G. Fremont