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Aachen


Map of Germany showing Aachen

German Aachen (AH-khn (SAMPA: "ax@n) or Anglicized AH-kn ("ak@n)), French Aix-la-Chapelle (EKS lah-shah-PEL ("Eks la Sa"pEl)), Dutch Aken (AH-kn ("ak@n)), Spanish Aquisgrn, Italian Aquisgrana. In the local dialect it is called Oche.

Aachen is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, 65 km to the west of Cologne, frequently referred to in English by its French name Aix-la-Chapelle. Population: 255,000 (2001). It's located at 5046' north, 66' east, 43 miles west of Cologne.

The RWTH Aachen University of Technology (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule) is one of the major universities for technical studies, especially for mechanical engineering. As a part of it, the Klinikum Aachen is the biggest single-building hospital in Europe. Around the RWTH a cluster of computer and software industries has developed.

History

The Romans named the hot sulphur springs there Aquis-Granum after a Roman General called Granus. And since Roman times, the hot springs have been channeled into baths (which are still in use). h- is an Old German cognate with Latin aqua, both meaning "water". In French-speaking areas of the former Empire the word aquas was turned into aix, hence Aix-en-Provence is an old Roman spa in Provence.

After Roman times the place was abandoned until the 8th century, when it was mentioned under the name Aquis villa. In the year 768 Charlemagne came to Aachen for the first time. He liked the place and began to build a palace twenty years later. The magnificent chapel of the palace later became the Aachen Cathedral. Charlemagne spent most winters between 800 and his death in 814 in Aachen in order to enjoy the hot springs. Afterwards the king was buried in the chapel, where his tomb can still be found.

In 936 Otto I was crowned king in the cathedral. From then on the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned in Aachen for the next 600 years. The last king to be crowned here was Ferdinand I in 1531. During the Middle Ages Aachen was one of the largest cities of the empire. Afterwards it had regional importance only.

By 1880, the population was 80,000. Several important railways met there. Aachen became a site for the manufacturing of railroad iron, pins, needles, buttons, tobacco, woolen goods and silk goods.

Badly damaged in World War II, on October 21, 1944 Aachen was the first German city to be overrun by Allied troops.

While Charlemagne's palace does not exist anymore, the cathedral is still the main attraction of the city. After its construction it was the largest church north of the Alps for 400 years. The tombs of Charlemagne and Otto III are in the church. The cathedral of Aachen is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage.

Miscellaneous

Aachen is an industrial centre in a coalmining area and a major railway junction, including the Thalys high-speed train network.

Robert Browning's poem "How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix" refers to Aachen.

The annual CHIO (short for the french Concours Hippique International Officiel) is the biggest equestrian meeting of Germany. Aachen will also be host of the 2006 World Equestrian Games.

The local football team Alemannia Aachen plays in Germany's second division.

Since 1950 the city annually awards the Karlspreis (german for Charlemagne Medal) to persons who did extraordinary service for the unification of Europe. In 2003 the medal was awared to Valry Giscard d'Estaing.

See also: Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle