Arrival in Germany

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May 14th 2015
Published: May 14th 2015
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This morning I left Bastogne and drove north. The roads were nearly empty because of the holiday today. It is Ascension Day and most businesses are closed. I drove to Verviers in northern Belgium. I wanted to look around the little town because my father was stationed here for five days in April 1945. He wrote letters from here and had a drawing of his profile done. He mentioned the cobblestone streets and how hard they were on his feet when the troops went for hikes. I took some pictures around town, including one in front of the town hall (see picture). I don't know where exactly Dad was, but I like to think he and I saw some of the same sights. Next I drove across the border to the city of Aachen in Germany, a country I haven't visited since 1977. I was talking with a young man at a gas station and I asked about Bonn. He had never been there even though it is pretty close to Aachen. It dawned on me later that, although I think of Bonn as the former capital city and therefore important, this young man probably can not remember a time when Berlin was not the capital. My father describes Aachen as being badly damaged when he came through in 1945. There is no sign of that now. Even on a holiday, it appears to be a bustling metropolis with clean streets and well-kept buildings. My father did not stay overnight here, but I did because I wanted to see the cathedral. This is the cathedral built by Charlemagne when he was the first Holy Roman Emperor, crowned in 800 AD (see picture). The structure has been renovated many times and was damaged and restored after WWII, so little of what remains is original to Charlemagne's time. Still, it is impressive and I particularly liked seeing the original throne (see picture), and the huge chandelier donated by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (see picture). The latter had candles lit for Ascension, so it looked especially magnificent today. Aachen is also famous for its whimsical fountains, including this one with movable puppet figures that can be manipulated by passersby (see picture).

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