Friday 19th April – about Aachen. Words by Iain Dawson, photos by Ian Macsporran.
With David’s bottom bracket having spent the last few miles of Belgium protesting, Philip had agreed to hook him up with the best cycle mechanic in Aachen (thanks, Connie). Rowan had apparently spotted something called “shopping” and our hosts had to work for a living so Ian, Alex and I agreed to meet back at the Elisenbrunnen after breakfast and go for a ride. This wasn’t a planned part of the programme, so can’t be classed as an official CTC ride, but we were in Germany, we had our bikes, we were going to ride.
I’d put this plan before our hosts that morning, explaining that we wanted to head east of the city, and was immediately asked “Why?”. Apparently, things are much prettier if you head due north and I can’t fault Elke’s logic on that. We rode over the Lousberg, which is as close as Aachen gets to a city park.
We then pedalled through the Wurmtal, a lovely little valley with a node network to assist in route-finding.
We got to Elke’s proposed drink stop a litle before it opened so pressed on into the town of Herzogenrath. Not the prettiest place on the map but the coffee was perfectly decent and the cake remarkable. We took a slightly different route back out of Herzogenrath to pick-up directions back into town and found ourselves riding down a slightly unusual street. Unusual only in that the bus stop signs had changed (again) and the streetname was printed twice. Once in each of two languages.
Niuewstraat, as it’s known on its northern side, or Neustraße as it’s known to the folks on its southern side, is indeed unusual. The border between the Netherlands and Germany runs right down the centre of the road. The Lidl supermarket is in Germany but to get to it, you have to navigate a roundabout which is half in the Netherlands. Apparently, when the two countries play each other on the football field, this is not the place to find yourself. It was perfectly peaceful while we were there though.
The Endomondo route of our morning ride is here – 23 miles.
We picked-up our planned route back through Bank to Aachen central and stopped for a decent lunch before heading over to meet the others in the thermal baths. It turns out, to Ian’s great delight, that Aachen’s local contribution to the culinary world is black pudding, although our waitress was somewhat at a loss to understand why a cyclist would want to order alcohol-free beer. Don’t know why, everywhere seemed to sell it.
Having fed, we belted across town, back on Alex’s GPS, to the Carolus Thermen – Aachen’s other main tourist draw – to touch base with the rest of the group. Connie had arranged a courtesy bike for David while his was in for repair so we were all still mobile! A sauna and swim-session later (so relaxing), the others had disappeared off for a bite to eat so the three of us regrouped and headed across to the main rail station (herinafter referred to as the Hbf) to meet up with Bob and Sue, and Ulrich, for a tour of Aachen’s cycle facilities. These involve a lot of the usual helpful stuff, like cycle lanes, but also some superb, secure, cycle parking at the station and, crucially, left turn lanes for cyclists at some of the busy junctions.
These allow a cyclist to come through the right-hand lane to a junction, wait safely in the junction until the through traffic has cleared, and then make the left turn with priority over vehicles now waiting to cross from the sides. Brilliant idea!
The tour was followed with a bit of food and drink and, well, we had to get back at a decent time bearing in mind that our hosts had children to consider so I have no idea what happened later on. (Sabine took Alex and Ian on a tour of her favourite flood-lit buildings in Aachen!)