Although this was the second week of our trip, I decided to write about it first. We started in Berlin, and from Berlin took the ICE train to Cologne. We ended up finding out that we pass Hannover on the way to Cologne, so it was a bit of a backward way of going through the country, but it worked out well. If you just happen to be going to Berlin, Hannover, and Cologne, like we did, I would recommend going to Hannover first, and then Cologne from there.
Anyway, our trip took about 4 hours to get there. We have family in this area who was picking us up and showing us around the area, so we were very lucky to have our own tour guides!
The family that we had in that area was so knowledgeable about the area and its history, which was amazing for us! That also means that I have tons of historical stories about the area to share (yay!).
We started off in Cologne, since that was where our train was coming in. We walked around Cologne's Old Town for a while, and also saw the Rhine river. Cologne doesn't have a massive Old Town compared to some towns, but what it does have is stunning. We started off at the Cologne Dom, or Cathedral, which is right beside the main train station. They started building the cathedral in the 1200's, but it wasn't finished until the 1850s. They still constantly work on the cathedral because the pollution is wrecking the stones that it was made from. They use a very specific type of stone from Italy, and they employ many, many stone maisons and workers to fix up the building. The cathedral actually escaped being bombed during the second world war, and only had a few windows blown out. The Allies were trying to avoid hitting the cathedral, so the Old Town around it also escaped the bombs. The rest of Cologne, however, was not so lucky because it is a bit of an import town, with the Rhine going through the center of the town.
After walking through Cologne, the next day we had a castle day (which is very exciting for someone who lives in a place that doesn't have any old buildings left). The first one that we went to, Schloss Dyck, was built in the 1630s. I wanted to take a million pictures of it, but photos were not allowed inside unfortunately. The inside looked like a miniature Versailles. The next one that we went to was more of a typical medieval castle, though it was a little bit more touristy since there was an Easter market going on that day. The castle was on the top of a hill (like most castles are), and had stunning views from the top. The last one is still a town, but you can walk along the entire wall that held the original old town. We ended up being there at dusk, so the light was stunning.
On the last day in the area, we went to Aachen, and to the drielandenpunt, the border of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. It is very neat to see the border there because all of the countries are a part of the European Union. That means that there is no border control, you can just walk between the three countries.
Aachen is really a university town, and it has a beautiful Old Town. Starting with the cathedral, which has a pretty great back story to it. The lore behind the building is that the people of Aachen needed help from the devil to build it. In exchange for helping them build the cathedral, he asked for the soul of the first death in the Cathedral. The devil thought that this was a great deal since he believed that the first soul would be the soul of the pope. However, the people of Aachen are cunning, and they trapped a coyote in the cathedral so that was the soul that the devil got. After he came to get the soul, he was so angry about being tricked that he punched the door (you can feel a bit of metal in one of the door knockers, and people say that it is the devils finger), and ran all the way to the sea. He brought back two huge bags of sand, and he was going to cover the whole city in sand. He eventually got very tired, and saw a woman from Aachen. He asked this woman how close the town was, and since she also was very cunning, she told him to look at her shoes. She told him that she had only bought them that morning at the Aachen market, but she had been walking so far that they were completely worn through. The devil was so tired already, that he couldn't walk that far to get there, so he gave up an dumped the sand right there, right at the doors of the city. Just outside of the city are two large hills, which is what they are talking about when they say he dumped the sand there.
There is also the Lindt factory in Aachen, which we had to go over to see and get some chocolate at the store beside the factory. We also walked through all of the Old Town of Aachen, and had a drink at a beautiful old pub. The old town of Aachen was originally all wood, but it burned down in 1668, and after that laws were created that enforced each building to be made of stone.
From Aachen, we made our way (on the train again) to Hannover. Not far from Hannover is the small village that my dads grandma and family is from. We were able to see the place where she grew up, and some of the other small towns in that area. There are a bunch of villages very close together in that area, and we stayed there with family. The day after we arrived on the train was a quiet day, our first since we arrived in Germany. In the morning we walked around the little village, and in the afternoon we went to the town of Celle. Celle has the most intact old town in Germany, and it was completely avoided during the war. Celle has a Baroque styled castle there, which was actually built in the 1200s but was remodeled in the 1600s. Many of the buildings in the streets are from the 1500 and 1600s. The castle in Celle is actually the place where Caroline Matilda of Great Britain was exiled. You may know of her from the movie A Royal Affair, starring Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen.
I won't talk about Hannover very much since most of our trip there was about seeing family rather than sight seeing and learning new things, but we did still see some neat things! The great thing about going to Hannover (for me...) was that Queen Victoria was from the house of Hannover. The house of Hannover ruled until Victorias death in 1901 since her children were from the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha because of their father, Albert.
We also went to the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen. Since we were there in off season, it was lovely and quiet with no other tourists going through. Unfortunately that also means none of the plants were growing, which is pretty much the point of going to royal gardens.... But there were tons of statues and many other beautiful things in the gardens, and it was easy to imagine how lovely it would be in summer.
Thank you for reading! I will have much more information in my next post since I will talk about our week in Berlin then.