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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.

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.

The RWTH Aachen (Rhine-Westphalian Technical University) 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.

History

All of the city's names names reflect the presence of hot springs, which since Roman times have been channeled into baths. 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.

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

While Charlemagne's palace doesn't 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.

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



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