Posts Tagged ‘Aachen’


An eery silence standing above the empty freeway, a lone bird squawking in the distance. Standing under the ever impressive twin peaks of the Cologne cathedral, waiting for the journalist to arrive. And catching up with old friends, in Aachen and Cologne. Kölle Allaaf!

Der Kölner Dom

Der Kölner Dom

The cycle path passed next to a freeway. But, there was something different about this freeway. There were no cars. Three lanes in each direction, and nobody there. I climbed up a bridge crossing the freeway and looked. There was a light breeze, and no other sound. In both directions nothing. Then a bird squawked in the distance, before the blanket of silence returned.

The empty freeway.

The empty freeway.

A man pedalled up the bridge from the other side to join me in the silence. We stood there gazing into the empty distance.
‘Why is it empty?’ I asked.
‘This is all new,’ he replied. ‘It is 18km of new freeway to replace some of the old A4 freeway from Cologne to Aachen.’
This stretch of road is finished, and will be opened in the next few days. It cost 170 million euros, and later in the day, I was shown all the technical difficulties that were addressed in the construction.
‘But, why?’ I asked.
‘Mining.’
Brown coal mining. This will be one of the biggest holes in the ground for coal mining in the world. The old A4 and some towns will all become part of the new big black coal mining hole. This has been planned since 1975. The plans continue until 2035. Now, that is planning. So, we are locking in further massive CO2 emissions. *Sigh*

Then a train passed. Bringing coal from the mine to the power plant.

Coal transportation

Coal transportation

The man joined me cycling towards Cologne. We cycled next to the new empty freeway and the new train line made especially for coal transport. He showed me the constructions to ensure proper drainage and other technical elements. It is not all bad news, though. We also passed 2km of solar panels.

Solar panels

Solar panels

Thanks, my friend, for joining me, sharing all this knowledge, and showing me the way when the signposting wasn’t adequate.

2014-09-15 14.34.04

I had an appointment with a journalist from the Kölnische Rundschau newspaper at 17:00 at the Cologne cathedral, and my timing was perfect. The cathedral impresses me every time. It is just so massive, rising vertically upwards with its amazing ornateness from the ground. The base is buzzing with tourists (like myself). The photographer from the newspaper took some photos with me in front of the cathedral, and then I sat down on one of the benches to talk to the journalist.
‘When did you live in Cologne?’
‘From 2007 to 2010,’ I replied.
‘And did you like your time in Cologne?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘It was a fun time here! I like Cologne.’

Most importantly the day was one of catching up with friends. I caught up with Hien – a friend who worked with me at Philips in Aachen, and Arnd – a friend of many years who now lives in Cologne. Good to see you both!

Hien

Hien

Arnd and me super early in the morning under an unforgiving bright light

Arnd and me super early in the morning under an unforgiving bright light


The pressure and stress of the last week was released like air escaping from a balloon. A short ride through familiar territory with Ed and Frank to Aachen before a relaxing in the beautiful thermal baths in Aachen.

Ed and Matthew at the highest point in the Netherlands. 322m

Ed and Matthew at the highest point in the Netherlands. 322m

Relaxing in the thermal baths in Aachen, I slipped in and out of consciousness. Lying in the pool, the dome high above my head, which changed colours from blue, to green, to yellow, to red. The pattern of the waves was overlaid, putting me into a trance. In the hot bath I lay, what seemed like hours, in a kind of eternal dream. The light shining from below refracted around my hand, forming a red tinge on the top of my hand, and a blue tinge on the bottom. I felt the stress dissipate. I felt at one with the universe.

Frank Thiele, a cycling friend and colleague from my time in Aachen had cycled to Schimmert to return to Aachen with Ed and me. Ed was on an old bike from his grandfather with 3 gears and the saddle way too low. And, after a few kilometres, only one brake.

Farewell at Schimmert

Farewell at Schimmert

We passed the castle where I was a witness at Ed and Judith’s wedding many moons ago.

Ed's wedding castle

Ed’s wedding castle

And we made our way up to the Vaalse berg – the highest point in the Netherlands. What better place to part ways than at the border – the border with Germany and Belgium?

Then it was downhill with Frank into Aachen, through my playground for 12 years – the Aachen forest.

Aachen Forest

Aachen Forest

And passed the old Philips Research labs in Aachen.

Old Philips Lab in Aachen

Old Philips Lab in Aachen

Looking through the familiar gate, nothing seems to have changed. But, much has changed. That was a different time – my time in Aachen. A fun time that has, with other eras in my life, been banished to being fond memories.

Thanks very much Frank and Danielle for letting me stay at their place. It was great catching up!