Friday, March 23, 2012

A Stop in Die Eifel: Monschau

Last Sunday it was bitterly cold, rainy, grey, and an all around sort of miserable. So guess what that meant? ALL DAY TRIP OUTSIDE. I am such a smart cookie. 

It was the last day of my vacation before real school started, and so I decided I would take Jessica on a short trip to the village of Monschau, based on several recommendations that it was a quaint little place. Monschau is located in the (sort of) National Park called die Eifel. Apparently, in the summer, it's quite the happenin' place for hiking and other outdoorsy activities. Besides, on Sundays in Aachen, everything is always closed, so we might as well go somewhere. We met my Polish friend Kamila at the bus station, and the three of us headed out.

It was about an hour trip by bus to Monschau, and I'm sure the countryside flashing past the window would've been beautiful had I not instantly fallen asleep. I don't know what it is about public transportation, but it works better than Lunesta. The grey weather may or may not have contributed to it as well...

When we got to Monschau, our first thoughts were sort of along the lines of, "What the (insert choice word here)?"  It was a tiny, tiny place. And because it was nestled in a valley, and we were perched at the top corner, we couldn't see hardly any of it. But, hey, we had gotten all the way there, so we had to go check it out. Walking a little ways, we heard water rushing, and it turned out there was a river running through the middle of the town. Walking a little farther down the path, the town opened up before us, and we realized we were possibly in the cutest place on Earth. Before exploring, we decided to take a  hiking trail up to the top to look out over the village. There was an old ruin, but we couldn't understand the German plaque.


 The woods were really pretty, and from the ruin, we could look out over the village and see that we had made no mistake in coming to Monschau. 

There was another lookout point on the other side of the city, and so we eventually made our way through the town, and hiked up to it as well. 

IT HAS A WATER MILL... can this place get any CUTER???!?!?!?!?!?

I didn't take the picture crookedly, those steps were really like that! :)
Can you see the little chapel in top? ^

It's a wee-door!! 

Now that I've either completely blown you away or put you to sleep with the nature and cute little village, here are all the photos of the CASTLE that was also in Monschau... Oh, "..castle?" you say?? YES THERE WAS A CASTLE. You could basically climb in, around, on, and all through the castle too (including several sketchy staircases). It was really, really awesome. I can't wait until the weather warms up for good, and the flowers start blooming. But as Kamila said (and our grey skies proved), you don't need beautiful weather to enjoy this beautiful place.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Saturday, we got up early and took a bus to Maastricht, the closest major city to Aachen. Maastricht is a decently large city, with a big college, is one of the first cities in the Netherlands, and one of the most ancient cities in all of Europe. It's name means "crossing of the Meuse" referring to the bridge built by the Romans in the time of Augustus Caesar

The River Meuse runs right through the middle of Maastricht, separating the Altstadt (old city) from the rest. When we walked out of the bus station, we ran into a cute little Saturday flea market set up right in the middle of the street. They had wooden shoes for sale!!! I wanted to buy them sooo badly, but my common sense won out. :( 

I did buy a cute little tea spoon that says "Holland" with a windmill on top that actually spins. :) 

Taking our own walking tour, we saw Helpoort (Hell's Gate: a 13th century city gate and the oldest in Holland) and the old city wall built in 1229. Of course I had to touch it, that's the oldest thing I've ever seen!!! 

The Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek (Basilica of our Lady: an 11th century church...holy cow!) was a really cool place that looks like a combination castle/church. The inside was super dark, and rather creepy. They had a neat little side chapel, where there were lots and lots of candles which produced waves of heat. It was such a relief after the bitter wind outside. 

We followed the map around Maastricht, where we made our way to Church of St. John (Sint Janskerk: built in the 1300's) [below with the red top] and right next to it was the Church of St. Serviatus (Sint Servaasbasiliek), where we got to go down into the excavated crypt, and also see the saint's tomb. 

This floor was a legitimate maze. The center cross is Jerusalem, and there are other cities in the four corners of the floor. I actually walked through most of the maze, and it was really awesome. Probably the coolest tiled floor I've ever seen. I was running around the maze, using tiptoes because my feet were almost too big for the corridors, and some people came into the room and started giving me funny looks. Hey, it's a maze people! 

We found this adorable little bakery that sold macarons. I've been wanting to try macarons desperately for a while now, and so I was BEYOND stoked to try them. So I bought four (earl grey, rose, coffee, and a weird purple berry flavor). Now I can't stop thinking about them. I want NEED more macarons soon. I might just take a trip to Maastricht to buy them. 

So Maastricht was a blast, and I can't wait to go back soon (hopefully on a nicer day next time) !!

Here are some of my random pictures:

The oldest street in one of the oldest cities