Category Archives: History

Aachener Dom (Cathedral) and Domschatzkammer (Cathedral Treasury)

Aachen -like so many other German cities- clearly show the scars of World War II. The Allied Forces mercilessly bombed German cities of any importance in order to weaken the Nazi regime and Aachen was no exception. If not enough, Aachen also became in the frontline of an intense battle between the American and German army in October 1944, destroying large parts of the city. Luckily for us today some of the most important buildings were spared and still there to visit, among them the Aachener Dom.

Aachen Dom after World War II

Aachener Dom area during World War II

Aachen is nowadays a city with some 250.000 inhabitants and is situated close to the Belgium and Dutch border. Besides the Aachener Dom the city center contains interesting buildings like the Rathaus and the Elisenbrunnen, an 18th century center for the rich Europeans that came to Aachen for its curing Mineral Wasser Brunnen (mineral water sources). Such buidlings remind us of Aachen’s rich and important place in European history. Of those buildings the Aachen’s Cathedral –Dom as the German people name it- is the most visible and important.

The history of the Dom goes back 1200 years when Charlemagne reigned in large parts of Europe and tried to restore the grandeur and importance of the Roman empire. Charlemagne made Aachen into one of his residences within his empire. In Aachen he would settle a few months throughout the year with his royal court. In later times, during the medieval age the Dom was used to crown the German emperors.

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Charlemagne as depicted in a 14th century bust

From the outside the Dom does not immediately impressed me like for example the Cologne Dom. It clearly consists of different parts that were built over very different periods and the ongoing constructions  make it difficult to get a good overall impression of the outside  the Dom. The entrance of the Dom might appear a bit underwhelming.

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The modest entrance of the Dom

We are entering here through one of the earliest stages of the church established by Charlemagne. In the entrance hall you pass by two very ancient Roman sculptures: a bronze pine cone and a wolf. Then you enter the main hall of the Dom. This is a very impressive experience: the decorations on the walls and ceilings are truly splendid.

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The decorations of the Dom’s ceilings.

Keep remembering though that what you see are treasures from very different periods. Some of the golden relics date from between 1000 to 1400. The main foundation of the church with its beautiful columns from marble and granite dates from the time of Charlemagne. The stained-glass windows are from relatively recent dates (post World War II).

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The stained-glass windows of the Dom.

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Civitatis Dei (Home of God), a beautiful mosaic.

After your visit to the Dom I advise you to go to a close location: the Dom Information Center. Here you can reserve your place for a guided tour that allows you to visit places that are not accessible for the common visitor. The tour takes around 45 minutes and takes place every hour. The admission fee is around 5 euro. In the same office you can buy tickets for the Domschatzkammer, the treasury of the Dom. Tickets for the treasury a little more expensive than the tour tickets, buit it is totally worth visiting the treasury for there are so many beautiful paintings, sculptures, textiles and other objects to see.

Entrance to the Aachener Dom

Entrance to the treasury room

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I do not pretend to have a very extensive knowledge of European cathedrals but from the ones I have visited I can say that the Aachener Dom is among the most beautiful places to visit. The DomSchatzkammer contributes to the experience of visiting a place that clearly shows the rich and glorious past of Aachen.

Ewald Kegel, April 12th 2016, The Hague.

Review: Movie ‘Steve Jobs’ (2015)

Admitted, Steve Jobs has been an inspiration for me during a larger part of my life. I remember still vividly all the excitement before the Apple presentations after the man’s return to Apple in 1997 as ‘iCEO’. A wiser man, knowing how to avoid the mistakes during his first time at Apple but still driven in every aspect to make ‘a dent in the universe’ as he would like to say himself.

In 2010 it became obvious that Steve Jobs was starting to lose his battle with his life threatening disease, but his passing in October 2011 was still shocking and one deeply felt around the world of technology. Steve Jobs was not only the most successful entrepreneur in the world of IT technology, in the years before his passing he was at the top of his game with revolutionary  products like the iPhone and iPad and inventive new ways of distribution and sales of software (iTunes and AppStore).

Because of these circumstances it is understandable that the world saw after October 2011 a stream of products, most noticeable books, documentaries and movies to understand and memorise this remarkable person. One of the high lights of these events was supposed to be the movie ‘Steve Jobs‘ directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) and distributed by Sony Universalis.

As I entered the movie theatre (Pathe Buitenhof, Den Haag) I was surprised by the amount of visitors. From what I read in the news the movie was not really popular in The United States and left cinemas soon. This is usually a sign that such a movie is doing even worse in the Netherlands, but to my surprise the theatre was sold out at a rather irregular time (17.00 at the evening of Sinterklaas, one of the most popular times for families to gather).

The movie evolves around 3 decisive moments in the career of Steve Jobs: the 1984 launch of the original Macintosh, the 1988 launch of the Next computer and finally the launch of the iMac in 1998. This means that a visitor who is not really that much acquainted with the life and works of Steve Jobs certainly will not get a clear picture of a timeline about Job’s career: the hisotircal events literally come flashing by in seconds. Instead the movie focuses on the emotional clashes with a few important people in his life. First there is his former girlfriend that had a child from Steve Jobs, Christa Brennan and daughter Lisa. Christa is being portrayed as the cranky type , always in pursue of Job’s money. The evolving relationship between Jobs and Lisa herself is clearly one of the more interesting aspects of the movie, especially when Jobs in one of the final scenes admits that the LiSA computer was named after her and was not an acronym for ‘Local Integrated System Architecture’.

Then there is Steve Wozniak, ‘The Woz’ Job’s partner he started Apple with . Wozniak is recognised for his genius and participation for the development of the first Apple I and Apple II computer. Yet already in 1984 (!) he also is irritating Jobs as he want the Apple II team to be mentioned in the 1984 Macintosh presentation, where the Macintosh represents the future of the company and the Apple II the past, although still Apple’s moneymaker at the time . But it even gets worse, because Wozniak is still around in 1998 with the same request for Jobs (to mention some of the original team Apple II members in his keynote). This is not only completely unbelievable, but also becomes a somewhat boring aspect of the movie.

The interaction with John Sculley (performed by Jeff Daniels), the CEO from Pepsi who Jobs  invited to come and work for Apple is the most interesting of these encounters, although has very little to do with actual events that happened. It can also be confusing for the visitor who is less informed about the relationship between the two, especially when the are discussion about whether Jobs was actually fired or stepped down on his own initiative. Also is Sculley repeatedly nagging about the ‘skinheads’  that were in the famous Macintosh Superbowl ad from 1984 and there are some confusing discussions if Apple’s board wanted to cancel the airing of the  advertisement.

This brings me to the main mood and weak point of the movie. By the time we are in 1998 there are still the same people showing up with their same -often rather boring- arguments, there are only few twists to keep the story interesting and going. And remember all these events take place minutes before Job’s presentations. Knowing the perfectionist Steve Jobs it is impossible that he would even have these events happen right before a presentation. So if you can set aside all these non-historical events and are more interested in the emotional aspects and developments of Job’s character this movie might be for you. On the other hand if you want to get a picture of how Apple became the largest and most successful company in the world and how Steve Jobs contributed to that , I recommend that you go and see the 2013 movie with Aston Kutcher (‘Jobs‘), a better choice in my opinion.