In Aachen and vicinity there are numerous hot mineral springs which have been crucial to the city’s development for the past two thousand years. The ancient Romans built bathhouses and used Aachen as a sort of R&R station for their troops starting in the first century A.D.
In the eighth century, Charlemagne’s choice of Aachen as his capital was partly because of the hot springs, so he could sooth his weary limbs between hard campaigns of forcibly converting large swaths of Europe to Christianity.
In the seventeenth century, Aachen (= Aix-la-Chapelle in French) was a fashionable place for royalty, aristocrats and celebrities to see and be seen while taking the waters.
Even today, the thermal springs seem to have retained some degree of importance for the local economy, though the “Kur” is no longer nearly as fashionable as it once was, and hot mineral baths are no longer financed as extravagantly by German health insurance companies as they used to be.
As I have noted elsewhere, I once asked my doctor in Frankfurt if he would prescribe a Kur for me, but he only laughed and said I was too healthy. I was somewhat miffed about this at the time, but have since decided that it wouldn’t have been my scene in any case.
If for some reason you would like to read about life on the Kur, there is a short book by Hermann Hesse called Kurgast, published in 1923.
The building in my first two photos is the Elisenbrunnen (Elise’s fountain), where people on the Kur can come to ‘take the waters’ in the center of Aachen. It was built in the 1820s and was named after a lady called Elise, whose official name was Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria (1801-1873). This might seem strange, since Aachen is nowhere near Bavaria, but in fact this Elise was married to the Crown Prince and later King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795-1861), and Aachen had been placed under Prussian rule by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
Archeologists digging in the Elisenpark have found remains of buildings from several epochs going back nearly two thousand years. A small section is open to the public in a roofed-over pavilion, with little signs telling which century each bit is from.
My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2019.
See more posts on Aachen, Germany.