One of my favorite things besides traveling is to read books about trips other people have taken, so it's not surprising that Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. In his amusing book of short stories about trips he has taken in Europe, "Neither Here Nor There", he mentions how impressed he was with the cathedral in Aachen. That was a good enough reason for me to want to see it.

When I mentioned this to Jack, however, he was appalled. "Aachen! Aachen! Why would you want to go to Aachen?"

Eventually he relented, and that was our next destination. We enjoyed our last Belgian chocolate croissants at the breakfast buffet, stuffed ourselves and our luggage into Jack and Aniko's tiny car, and hit the highway.

As we entered the city, I must admit that I had my doubts. Bryson describes a prosperous city of impressively well-dressed people, but it looked, quite frankly, desolate. Leaving our luggage in the car in the parking garage aroused feelings of acute anxiety.

The cathedral itself, however, did not disappoint. We saw many cathedrals during our trip, but this was the one that impressed me the most.

Charlemagne began construction of the cathedral around 792. Thirty German kings and twelve queens were coronated there. In 1978, the cathedral became Germany's first UNESCO World Heritage site. Who would not want to see this cathedral?

There was a flea market going on that day so the area was probably even more packed with people than usual.

We couldn't go inside when we arrived because a church service was in progress so we wandered about town a bit. As in Brussels, the shop window displays were impressive. Aachen is known for these crunchy, spice cookies which are called Printen.

We also discovered this rather strange fountain.

This building is a town hall. It was built on the site of Charlemene's palace in the early 14th Century and converted into a baroque building in the 17th and 18th Century. It overlooks the large square in the picture below.

After a brief stop to warm up over a couple of cups of coffee, we headed back to the cathedral. You may notice that there is quite a bit of scaffolding in these pictures. Aachen is not the only place you will see that. Almost every cathedral and historic building we visited during the trip was covered in scaffolding.

When the church service ended, the cathedral was opened to visitors. You were permitted to take non-flash pictures inside as long as you were willing to pay 2 euro. Since you are not charged a fee to enter cathedrals, I got into the habit of putting a euro or two in the collection boxes of the cathedrals we visited that did not specifically ask a fee in exchange for picture taking. It seemed only fair.

The inside was amazing. The brass chandelier was a gift from Emperor Friedrich Barbossa during whose reign Charlemagne was cannonised in 1165. The columns and walls are made of colored Greek and Italian marble.

This is the mosaic at the top of the dome. The cathedral was the first vaulted structure to be built north of the Alps.

It was a relief to find our belongings still safely stored in the car in the parking garage. We folded ourselves back into the car and headed on to Koln. I think we had traveled on the autobahn a bit between Brussels and Aachen, but now we were about to experience it for a longer distance.