I feel like I’ve lived a week in the last 24 hours. Typically, I draft this blog as the day goes on. I use the pictures to guide what I will talk about. Well, the only bad thing I have to say about the Hotel Ibis in Aachen is that the WIFI in the room is not very good. It has taken me hours to upload my photos from the day. The “too long; didn’t read” version is this: I was a tourist, met and listened to some outstanding singers, and ate great food. For the full recap see below. . .
The day started earlier than planned in Dusseldorf (I still haven’t figured out how to make the u have an umlaut above it on my Mac!). I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have liked, but it was made up for by the fact that I got on the train to Aachen and had a very nice, easy trip. My first thought is to take a picture of everything I eat. One of the great things about traveling is experiencing different foods. I didn’t take a picture, but I had a very nice ham and cheese sandwich on pretzel bread, along with a bottle of wasser mit gass. I made a rookie mistake in not having my ticket stamped before we left the station. The conductor told me he would let me go this time but next time it would cost me 60 euros!
I took a chance last night and booked a room at the Hotel Ibis in Aachen for tonight. It was a pleasant surprise. Not expensive ($55), it is your typical European no frills room. Small (the bathroom is VERY small) but it is good for what I need and the people are great.
I had two hours before I was scheduled to meet Linda Ballova, the professional soprano who was Tom Nelson’s former student at the Evangeliche Lyceum in Bratislava. So, I searched for the main tourist sites in Aachen.
A city of about 250,000, Aachen has a long and rich history. Aside from the fact that it is a great supporter of the arts (the opera house is quite successful) it was the home of Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th and 9th centuries, I mean when he wasn’t raiding neighboring lands. It is also where he is buried, and every 7 years you can even view his bones (relics). The next time is 2020, so mark your calendars. Quick recap of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). . . He is known as the “father of Europe” and in the 8th century A.D. he united much of what is now that continent into one place. Of significance is the fact he unified the continent under the umbrella of christianity. He was a pretty important dude. Plus, he evidently had a pretty sweet beard . . .
Charlemagne built the cathedral (groundbreaking was in 796 and he died in 814) in the center of the city that still stands today. Aachen, situated extremely close to both Belgium and the Netherlands, was the first city in Germany liberated by Americans during the second world war. And the cathedral was one of the very few structures in the city to not be reduced to rubble.
I have visited many beautiful and very old cathedrals. This one ranks right up there and is actually the oldest in northern Europe. The design of the main portion is an octagon. The chandelier was a special gift for Charlemagne’s coronation and his throne is actually in the cathedral. The ceiling/rotunda is magnificent.
Behind the main area is where the choir sits. Of course I was most interested in that. It is a split chapel design with a beautiful, gold pulpit.
As with many European cathedrals it has various smaller chapels. The windows are especially beautiful.
After my visit to the cathedral I hurried to the Theater (Opera House) to meet with Linda Ballova for coffee.
It was nice to finally meet Linda. I have been communicating with her on Facebook and through Tom Nelson but it was nice to put a face with a name. We spoke for about an hour about the Messiah Festival, her career, singing, and other music related things. It was obvious that Tom had done a good job teaching her English years ago!
After coffee I had the opportunity to go back to the hotel and take a nap. But, I didn’t. I am fully aware that I will not likely ever be back in Aachen, Germany again. So, I went to the cathedral treasury, where relics and other treasures are kept.
There’s Charlemagne again. Handsome guy. My german is not very good but I think it said his actual skull is contained within this hollowed out bust. Wow.
I’ve seen some relics before. More often than not I am pretty sure it is wishful thinking that they are “real.” In this picture, the centerpiece supposedly contains Jesus’s belt.
Here’s a close up view of the container on the far right. The information said it contains the whip that struck Jesus at his his crucifixion.
After an already long day I decided I needed to have a bite to eat.
This is the heart healthy plate 😉
I did, however, have enough self-control to not purchase any of the wonderful sweets from this Christmas shop. . .
I ended the day back at the theater where I had an opportunity to sit in on a sitzprobe (a German term used to described a seated rehearsal, typically the first rehearsal with orchestra and singers and not staged) of a Puccini opera in which Linda Ballova is a featured performer. Wow! What a voice. Incredible really. I didn’t think a person of that stature (she can’t be more than 5′ tall) could produce that sound, and especially of that kind of quality. I could not take video and my view was not the best, but here are two pictures from the rehearsal. Linda is in the black shirt. Also, notable in the pictures (in my opinion) is conductor Kazem Abdullah, formerly assistant conductor at the Met in NYC and who has studied with Michael Tilson-Thomas. His rehearsal was extremely interesting and well run.
After the rehearsal I made my way back to Hotel Ibis where I am not sitting at a computer at 12:27 in the morning when I should be sleeping. So for now I will sign off. But, I will leave you with this cliffhanger. . . tomorrow I will not be going to Leipzig immediately. Instead, I will be attending a performance of a SVHS graduate and former Messiah Festival soloist in Hanover. Tune in tomorrow for more details!