While we were in the Maastricht area, we rented a car to travel the roads less taken. Driving in the area gave me a better idea of the geography and lifestyle of Europe. In just 40 minutes, we were able to go from a college center of the Netherlands and pop over into the spa town of Aachen, Germany. I can barely get from one end of Austin to the other end when there is no traffic in that time. It is wild to think that I can drive into another country in such little time.
|I'm in three countries at the same time. It is possible without the use of body doubles!|
On the way to Germany, we made a stop in Vaals to visit the point where three countries meet. On top of the hill of Vaalserberg, you can hop from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. If your arms and legs are long enough, you can be in all three countries at the same time. This point sits in the middle of what seems to be an enchanted forest with no rigid physical borders for kilometers around.
|This elephant was in the labyrinth.|
On the Netherland side of the point, there is a fun labyrinth that will give you either hours of joy or frustration. For just 5 euros, you can join many other people running around in a maze of hedges, raised platforms, and motion triggered fountains. The goal is to get to the center of the maze, and then out of the maze. The GPS claimed that I went seven miles running through this maze before reaching the center with some help. That must have burned off a Belgian Wafel or more. I’d recommend it for children and adult, especially those children with an abundance of energy.
|I'm at the center platform of the labyrinth after too much time running around in the rain.|
|The labyrinth had mazes for you to play to help you forget how long you were stuck in there. This one is the run away train concept. You at the entrance in the bottom and you can only turn in the direction of the curves. No curve = no turns.|
Next on our drive through Europe was a stop in Aachen, a border down in Germany. Aachen is know for the mineral springs and plethora of fountains, and there are a few interesting activities for visitors. We visited the Charlemagne Museum, we had a treat at Noobis including a taste of Printen, took some photos of the fountains, had some very delicious Lebanese food, and then visited the Carolus Thermen Spa.
|Here's a delicious treat from Nobis.|
Nobis is a popular eatery with many sweet treats including a printen shop next door. We had a light cake in the eatery along with some samples of printen. Printen comes in different shapes and sizes, the hedgehog being the cutest. The printen cookies are a hard and crunchy spiced with cinnamon, ginger, clove, anise, cardamon, coriander, and allspice.
|The cutest little printen I've ever seen.|
|Many more trays of pastries at Nobis.|
While in Aachen, we found a lovely Lebanese restaurant called AKL. The website isn’t in English, but you can point to whatever you want when you arrive. We ordered the grilled meat plate for two, and it might feed up to four people who aren’t quite so hungry. While verbal communication with the staff was a little difficult, I did manage to get the ingredients for the an amazing delicious sauce they served. It was an orange slightly tangy and rich sauce made of onion, orange juice, and sesame paste. My best guess is that it is a variant of Lebanese garlic sauce.
|Grilled meat platter for two.|
After the delicious meal of smokey meats and fries, we drove over to the Carlos Thermen Spa. While it says spa in the name, there are some things that are different from spa in the United States. At Carlos Thermen, you’ll need to bring your own towel. There aren’t clean towels and robes provided for you. You’ll need to bring your own sandals or flip flops unless you want to run around barefoot. You’ll also need a bathing suit of sorts. The spa areas are communal, and there are occasional youngsters around. Make sure your stuff is covered. In terms of changing, there is one very large changing room with individual stalls. The showers and bathrooms are split by gender.
|So many things here are covered in gold.|
There are several warm pools with massaging jets, one very chilly pool, and a steam room for your enjoyment in the main areas. There are other amenities too along with food and beverage service, but I didn’t use those services. I spent my time in the larger communal area that is included in the pass price (12 euros for 2.5 hours). The spa was very enjoyable, and I might even splurge to be able to use the additional services offered next time.
|One of the fountains in the center of the Aachen Square.|