Aalen: Idyllic landscape with an ancient Roman flair

Its domain had once extended across much of the known world: the Roman Empire. For a time, one region after another fell under its control. The Romans also conquered the lands surrounding the city of Aalen. In fact, part of their border wall still exists. Numerous traces of these former Roman occupants can still be found in Aalen today.

by Lisa Tüch

The Aalen marketplace, meeting point for many students. © Stadt Aalen
Aalen marketplace . © Stadt Aalen

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
327 €
Explore Aalen and the surroundings by bike – there’s a lot to discover!

Welcome to Aalen

The city of Aalen is situated near the Swabian Alb and the Swabian Forest in southern Germany. It is surrounded by beautiful landscapes that are perfect for hiking or biking. For the best view of the area, we recommend climbing the Aalbäumle observation tower. The tower itself is 26 metres high.

The limes thermal baths, ideal for relaxation in everyday student life. © Stadt Aalen
The limes thermal baths . © Stadt Aalen

Two large cities, Stuttgart and Ulm, are located nearby. You can reach them both by train within an hour or so. Aalen also has its own public transportation system, which you can use free of charge depending on what kind of semester ticket you have. However, most places in Aalen are within walking or biking distance, such as downtown where they hold the International Festival every year. At the festival, local associations and organisations set up booths and present their cultural activities. It features games, cuisine and dances from many different countries. Aalen is a cosmopolitan city and is home to an international community of some 120 countries worldwide.

Aalen is also known for its ancient history which still influences the character of the city. The “limes”, an ancient Roman border wall, runs right through Aalen. You can sense the shadows of the past when you visit the Limesmuseum at the outskirts of town. For example, visitors can see the actual ruins of an ancient Roman fortress. The museum is undergoing renovation until 2018, but the fortress grounds are still open to the public.

Visitors to Aalen can take a limes hiking tour or enjoy the “limes thermal baths” which are designed in an ancient Roman style. The mineral water from the thermal baths bubbles from a spring 600 metres below the surface. The thermal baths also include saunas and solariums, as well as a Roman-Irish steam bath.

The train to the visitor mine
The train to the Tiefer Stollen mine . © Besucherbergwerk Tiefer Stollen

They say that a visit to the former “Tiefer Stollen” mine can be beneficial to your health as well. You can take the mine train 400 metres underground and view the tunnels and mine shafts. The air down there is so clean that allergy and asthma sufferers occasionally visit the mine to find relief!

The economy in Aalen is future-oriented. Photonics, optical technologies and the automotive industry are among the most competitive branches in the region. New materials, manufacturing processes and intelligent mechatronic systems are the central areas of study offered at the University of Applied Sciences in Aalen. The special thing about Aalen: They have courses that are rarely offered elsewhere in Germany, such as Optical Engineering.

Living in Aalen

For those who are active and love nature, Aalen is an ideal place to study. In addition to beautiful scenery, the city also has a dense network of bicycle paths and hiking trails. For example, the Panorama Trail takes hikers around Aalen and through the Swabian landscape.

My advice

A good way to explore Aalen is by bike. There’s a “bicycle parking garage” next to the main train station which is open 24 hours a day.

There are several places to go swimming in the summertime, for example, the Spiesel open-air pool in Wasseralfingen and the Unterrombach open-air pool. The Bucher reservoir in the neighbouring town of Rainau is great place to spend the day. There you’ll find a beach with a sunbathing area, grills for barbecuing and a boat rental. You can also go sailing and windsurfing there. Or if you’re more interested in rock-climbing, you can go to the Reiner-Schwebel-Kletterhalle.

Aalen offers plenty of recreational activities in the winter, as well. For example, there’s the Eispark Aalen which operates a mobile ice-skating rink in Greut.

View of the outdoor pool Spiesel in Aalen with many young people and students in the water. © Stadt Aalen
Spiesel outdoor swimming pool . © Stadt Aalen

On the north slope of the Swabian Alb, there are two ski runs and a halfpipe for snowboarders. Situated between the ski runs, there’s a barbecue area accessible from the Langert parking lot – the perfect place to have a summertime barbecue with friends.

Another fun event is the Jazzfest which takes place every November. The festival hosts well-known musicians like Gregory Porter. But there are many other clubs and bars in Aalen where you can listen to music. “Die Lola” is a club that plays mostly Hip Hop and electronic music, while “TSchillers” hosts DJs, live acts and headphone parties. Another popular spot is the “Frapé” in the former Kreuz Beer Brewery. Poetry slams are held there from time to time.

The Stadthalle is used as a performance venue for plays, fashion shows and concerts. Exhibitions, readings and concerts are staged at Fachsenfeld Castle. You can also tour the castle itself and view its art treasures. The “Kino am Kocher” is an even smaller venue. The cinema is very cosy and only seats 71 people. It features movies from every culture and continent around the world. The films are specifically chosen with the aim of promoting understanding of other cultures.

Of course, you can go shopping in Aalen, for example, in the historic part of town with its winding streets and picturesque plazas. In 2014, Aalen was officially designated as a Fairtrade City, which means you can buy fair trade products in almost 30 shops and restaurants in town. Every Wednesday and Saturday there’s a large weekly market in the pedestrian zone – a tradition that dates back over two hundred years.

Interview with Asu Rayamajhi from Chitrawan, Nepal

Asu is 24 years old and is a student in the Opthalmic Optics bachelor’s programme at the University of Applied Sciences in Aalen. She has been living in Aalen for three years.

Portrait of student Asu Rayamajhi from Chitrawan, Nepal in Aalen. © Private
Asu Rayamajhi from Chitrawan from Nepal . © Private

What made you decide to study in Aalen?

Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to work in the clinical and technical area. The university in Aalen fulfils my expectations with its innovative and practice-oriented courses. What’s more, they allowed me to start my Ophthalmic Optics programme without having to complete professional training beforehand.

How did you prepare for your stay abroad?

I gathered information from the Internet about degree programmes, semester fees and places on campus. I also bought a German pocket dictionary and took along Nepalese spices and a flag.

What was the hardest thing about living in Germany in the beginning, and how did you deal with it?

At the very beginning I wasn’t used to scheduling my time, arranging appointments for visits to the doctor or the city hall, for example, or noting dates and deadlines. That’s not normal in Nepal. That’s why I sometimes missed deadlines and had to pay late fees. Like the German broadcasting fees.

What surprised you most about Aalen?

I find the residents of Aalen friendlier and more helpful than I had expected, and I was surprised that Carl Zeiss has facilities in Aalen. I study Ophthalmic Optics, and Carl Zeiss is one of the world’s pioneers in micro-optics.

Why is Aalen a good place to study?

There’s a nice atmosphere for international students in Aalen. The International Office is always available to answer questions and helps you every step of the way. It offers many programmes, like the Buddy Programme, with which I’ve had fantastic experience making German friends. There’s also a fitness studio, shopping centre and gyms near my student hall of residence.

What is your favourite place in Aalen?

I like the Aalbäumle observation tower the best. When I’ve got a lot to do or when I’m homesick, I take a walk there. You get a great view of the beautiful scenery from the tower. When I return, I can go to the thermal baths and relax.

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