Visiting the Postwagen, Aachen, Germany: quaint, stagecoach-theme wooden building

Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Postwagen, Aachen
Postwagen, Aachen | Source
Postwagen, Aachen, prior to 1925
Postwagen, Aachen, prior to 1925 | Source
Historic Postwagen at Aachen's City Hall at night
Historic Postwagen at Aachen's City Hall at night | Source
19th century German posthorn
19th century German posthorn | Source
German posthorn logos
German posthorn logos | Source
Map location of Aachen in Germany
Map location of Aachen in Germany | Source

Recalling the history of Germany's postal services

This quaint, wooden structure in Aachen, Germany is an appendage to neighbouring buildings, one of these being Aachen's City Hall (German: Rathaus). Its two storeys are executed in wood.

For Aachen, the wooden composition of this strange, little building is unusual. As a result of devastating fires, centuries back, it was from the 17th century onwards the municipally-enforced practice for new structures to be made of brick or stone.

It is therefore rather ironic that the very hub of the city's municipal life has attached to it a structure which failed to meet this basic requirement.

The basic design of the building dates at least from the 17th century, and was originally in a nearby, rather that at its actual, location. While a previous version of the building did not survive total descruction in World War Two, the exisiting building is a reconstruction from the 1940s (1).

The name of the building is the Postwagen, the German word for stagecoach. The establishment is in fact a stagecoach-theme restaurant. A painted sign depicting a stagecoach protrudes from the building, recalling its era's fastest form of travel, prior to the coming of the railroad (2). The sign depicts a coach drawn by two horses, and astride one of them is a top-hatted horseman playing a posthorn, and another top-hatted figure drives the horses, while inside the carriage a lady dressed in clothing from about two centuries ago may be distinguished. Interestingly, the posthorn played by one of the horsemen closely resembles the stylized posthorn still employed by Deutsche Post, the German postal administration (3).

Since its postwar reconstruction, this intriguing building has thus overlooked the city's Marktplatz. and has become an almost iconic, photogenic presence in guidebooks. As a theme restaurant, it is evocative of the inns which, two centuries ago and more, were staging posts which would dot the German landscape, and makes for a striking window on the past.

The Postwagen is situated at Kraemerstrasse 2, Aachen, in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia (German: Nordrhein-Westfalen) state.

July 3, 2013


Notes

(1) Readers of German may access further information re. the building's history at: http://www.aachen-stadtgeschichte.de/postwagen-am-aachener-markt/

(2) The railroad gradually took over stagecoach postal services in early- to mid-19th century Germany, then still a collection of independent states. But in the stagecoach's heyday, the Princes von Thurn und Taxis were widely known for their network of fast and efficient stagecoaches (indeed, the word 'taxi' is derived from their name).

(3) Even the former East German postal authorities used a posthorn logo similar to that of their West German counterparts; indeed, it is widely used by postal authorities on the Continent of Europe, although less so in the United Kingdom.

Also worth seeing

In Aachen itself, the ancient Cathedral (Dom) has strong associations with Charlemagne. The Carolus Thermen are thermal baths.

Vaals , The Netherlands (distance: 4.8 kilometres) is a busy border town, in some ways a suburb of Aachen itself; at the Vaalserberg is the convergence of the borders of three countries: Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. The German railroad company DB links Duesseldorf (distance: 93 kilometres) to Aachen. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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