Aachen 5th September - 10 September 2016
We returned to Aachen to spend a few more days with my uncle, aunty and cousins and in doing so we continued the relaxed approach to travelling that we´d begun in Friedburg and as such took the next few days easy.
On the first evening we hung out with Micha, Karin, Lena and Kolja, celebrating the good weather with a BBQ on the balcony of their amazing house. I once again forgetting my place as Sarah´s translator forgot on most occasions to translate and instead sat there looking at her curiously, wondering why she wasn't replying to the question. Sarah however was able to put to use the one German phrase Dad keeps teaching her "das ist sehr lecker" (that's very tasty) as he too naturally shares our high opinion of German foods. Sadly that was all the time we had to spend with Micha and Karin as they were off to Vienna for a holiday but before they did, Micha once again offered us his car to drive around but this time I wasn't brave enough to take up the offer, especially on my own.
We of course visited Aachen itself which is another beautiful medieval city filled with pedestrianised streets, a huge 8th century cathedral with an ostentatious interior, and naturally a large number of magnificent bakeries. Although we had 4 or 5 days in Aachen we once again took it fairly easily knowing that in the months to come we wouldn´t have much time to relaxed. We had planned to see as much of India as we could in a month - starting in the north and finishing in the south - which we knew would end be being hectic and chaotic and so we used that as an excuse. Plus with Amsterdam and India both approaching we needed to do some serious planning which we´d neglected somewhat. Back in April when we had booked the original flight to India I´d started to do some planning for our visit to the subcontinent but I quickly got distracted and had failed to start planning again and so it was time to do some catching up. Thankfully we had good wifi and lots of draft paper. Consquently (back to my original point) we only ended up going into the city centre once during our time there.
We weren´t however totally inactive as the next day we headed up to the Dreilandereck (the three country corner), the border point where Germany, Holland and Belgium meet. The weather was beautiful and we headed off on what should have been a relatively easy walk through the forrest and up to the border point where we'd been promised a great view from a observation deck. The hike as it turned out was not as simple as we´d reckon on, or at least the path we opted to take because as it turns out after an initial climb there were a number of numbered paths up to the border and apparently also a further number of paths which definitely weren´t numbered and may not have lead to the border either. We managed to somehow take a mix of both which found us wondering through beautifully scenic woods where the tree tops created a natural arch overhead, through wide grassy fields, into more fields surrounded by cows....then under a train bridge and through a farm marked private property and down an alley with two opposing signs one warning us to keep out the other advising us to continue......We proceeded quickly and quietly so as not to attract unwanted attention from either the cows or the farmers and eventually after some more uncertain decision making we reached the top and just in time to meet my cousin Joon, Jennifer, and their tiny adorable baby Milo who we had arranged to potentially meet at the border point - sadly owing to our poor navigating we arrived a fair few hours late and so arrived just in time to say hi and bye as they were just getting in the car to head home.
In any case we headed up to the top of the observation deck which meant climbing 4 flights of steeps stairs which our legs weren't all too happy with following the hike we'd just completed but thankfully the view was definitely worth the ascent. In one direction was Germany, in another Belgium and the third was Holland. From that height and distance all three countries looked very much the same; lots of green interspersed with the occasional signs of towns and civilization but there was one noticeable difference; looking into Germany and Belgium the panorama was littered with rolling hills stretching all the way back to the horizon however as soon as you cast your gaze toward the Netherlands the landscape fell dead flat and continue that way until it reached the horizon where a single solitary hill reared it's head from the earth. I mean Holland is famously flat but I wasn't expecting it to be so immediately true.
Beyond this we obviously took lots of terrible photos of ourselves stretched around the plinth demarcating the actual point where the three countries meet because how often can you say that you've been in three countries at the same time. Then finally it was time to relax so we sat in Germany and drank a Belgian beer that we'd brought with us whilst enjoying some good dutch Chips and Mayonnaise. The sun was starting to get low in the sky so we packed up and headed home, this time managing to take a far more direct route. All in all it was a lovely day.
The following day we had a few plans which included going swimming in a nearby pool to enjoy the lasting good weather but as expected with us we didn't quite get that far and instead we hung out with Joon and Jennifer, making up for the previous day. Their home, like both Micha's and Lukas' was beautiful, so much so that I'm pretty sure Sarah didn't want to leave but at least we now know how we want to decorate our own place if and when that time emerges. After helping Joon move some bookshelves up 4 flights of stairs whilst pretending I was strong enough to do so without struggling a huge amount, we chatted, caught up, got lots of excellent tips about our upcoming trip to Asia and chilled in the garden.
That evening being our last before once again moving on we cooked dinner for Lena and Kohja who due to their very busy schedules we hadn't really had the chance to hang out with. One of the reasons that we put on weight while we were working in Cardiff was that I enjoyed to cook but what I enjoyed cooking tended to either contain a lot of sugar or a lot of butter and cheese and oil. This meal was no exception; a very creamy, cheesy macaroni cheese and lots of garlic bread to boot. Basic but goooood and I think it went down well too which is always nice. We finished the evening off with another game of Phase 10 which we had played before at Hoeve De Linde and remains to be a great game before getting ready for the next day.
The next morning Joon very kindly drove us to train station just across the dutch border and we were off to Amsterdam to meet up with the last family members for a while.
PS for some reason we didn't take many photos whilst we were in Aachen and I sadly seem to be missing a great one of Joon, Jennifer, Milo and the two of us. You'll just have to imagine it instead.