When we learned that we were moving to Germany, I remember I looked at Husband and asked him what he thought about doing Paris for Labor Day weekend. After all, it would be our true first long weekend and really, spending one’s 37th birthday in Paris sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Yes friends, I’m old. So is Husband (he’s only 5 days older than me…and yes, I give him grief every year for those five days). We both just turned 37 this week. Husband kept saying that it reminds him of this scene from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’:
However, life being life and making certain choices (yep, totally being vague here…you’ll see why later on…not today per se, but just catch the drift I’m throwing here, k?), we decided to save Paris for a different time. So what we were to do? Why hit up something a little (a lot) closer to home, of course! The choices came down to Trier, Germany; Strasbourg, France; or Burg Eltz–a really nifty looking castle not far from here. I made the executive decision (I sense a theme here) to check out Trier.
Trier is located on the border of Luxembourg and Germany, along the Mosel (Moselle) River. You say tomato, I say tomah-toe, Mosel/Moselle…same river. What’s so special about Trier, you ask? For starters, it’s the oldest city in Germany. Second, it’s home to some of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome. Put down the cheeseburgers, kids…we’re off to check it out! When we woke up, it became very evident that the Weather Channel Gods didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be nice. Gray, gloomy, overcast skies greeted us. But seriously, when has rain ever stopped us? If anything, it just adds more fun. We hopped in Husband’s car and headed off. It took us a little over an hour to get there. Along the way, the scenery was beautiful. Lots of lush green forests and seas of vineyards. The cool thing about the vineyards is that they tend to plant them wherever they can. No flat rows of soil? No problem, let’s go ahead and just plant them almost vertically up the hill. I originally hail from a town about 40 minutes from the Napa Valley area. I’ve seen tons of vineyards, but nothing quite as unique as this. As you drive in toward town, the view opens up into a valley and a city is seen at the floor of the valley. It was really an awesome sight. It would have been even better had the rain not been blocking a good chunk of the view.
We decided to park at the Trier hBf, since we knew that there would likely be a lot of parking, it would be easy to get in and out of and it would be fairly centrally located to all of the sites that we wanted to see. It was raining, but it was more of a misty rain rather than a downpour. Forget all of the whining I did in earlier posts…I’m pretty sure Fall has arrived and is here to stay. We noticed that there were a lot of people milling around and heading into the same direction that we were. We ended up downtown in the Hauptmarkt, which is the main square or market area. The architecture was beautiful and there were some fountains. There were a lot of fences and barricades, so obviously something had to be going on. Girl Child was beginning to get a little hangry, so we offered her McDonald’s as a peace-offering. She happily accepted. Boy Child, Husband and I weren’t too hungry, so we sat and tried to figure out what was taking place in town. Turns out it was the beginning of Fashion Days (be sure to hit your translate button on the link).
After making sure Girl Child was good, we headed off toward the Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths). You can see the ruins from the street, but I highly, highly recommend paying the entrance fee to check them out. They had a special family ticket: 2 adults and up to 4 kiddos for only €6 total. They have written guides in many different languages. After we grabbed our English pamphlet, we walked into the ruins area. They are doing some restoration work, so part of the main area was cloaked in scaffolding. But what you could see was simply amazing. To know that these are close to 1800 years old and still standing = mind blown. I’m lucky if a piece of furniture that’s 10 years old makes it through a move without collapsing. On the surface, it doesn’t look like there is really a lot to see. That’s because a lot of what you see is below the surface. You can walk through the tunnels that were designed as service passages and also as heating ducts (just hopefully used for both at the same time). Interesting story about the Kaiserthermen: The area had been rebuilt and added upon so often that archaeologists weren’t able to figure out the scope and scale of what this site truly was until the destruction and inevitable excavation from World War II.
After meandering around the Kaiserthermen for a bit, we started making our way back toward the Hauptmarkt area. We took a slight detour on the way back and discovered the Electoral Palace. I’m guessing that September is the time of year when the tourists aren’t as plentiful, so they tend to do restoration work before the winter months kick in. The Electoral Palace was also enveloped in a lot of scaffolding. We just stayed on the outside grounds and walked around the gardens a bit. The detailing on the outside of the palace was so ornate and meticulous.
As we kept walking, we saw the Konstantin Basilika (Constantine Basilica). This bad boy was built back in 310 AD by Emperor Constantine. Dude wanted to use it as a throne room, but it is now used as a Protestant church. Husband stopped and took a look at some of the detail on the exterior of the basilica. He noticed what appears to be either strafing, shrapnel, bullet or artillery markings within the bricks. When we lived in Hawaii, one of the remarkable things about the buildings near our old house was that there were strafing marks on the sidewalks and bullet holes still in the building and a few stairwells. Our old house actually had a bullet hole inside as well (different story, different day). The resemblance between the basilica and the buildings in Hawaii were almost identical. After conferring with my internet BFF again, it appears that the basilica was gutted by fire and destroyed inside during WWII. However, the exterior remained largely intact. If you happen know more to this story and can either prove or refute our theory, please feel free to let us know. We won’t flame you, I promise.
As we made our way back to town, we also discovered two cathedrals: Dom Trier and Church of Our Lady. The funny thing is that they are literally built right next to each other. Church of Our Lady is a catholic based cathedral and was built AFTER Dom Trier. Church of Our Lady was beautiful. It wasn’t as ostentatious as the Metz Cathedral, but it was stunning in its own right. The stained glass told their own stories and let in soft light. We had arrived while the string quartet was warming up for the 1:00pm mass. They started playing ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele. it gave me chills to hear it. I sat in a chair and just closed my eyes. Once they finished, we saw the priest getting ready for mass, so we made our exit and went next door.
Much of the bricks used in the construction of Dom Trier came from the Roman ruins. Dom Trier is actually the oldest church in Germany. Pretty much a given considering Trier is the oldest city in Germany. It’s amazing how incredibly different this church is compared to its counterpart next door. There are altars everywhere and in the words of Husband, it seemed to be almost a “hot mess”. Yes. It’s a historic and archaeological treasure and I’m sure that our assessment would be considered borderline blasphemous. It just felt very jumbled inside. The altars were beautiful, but there were so many and they just didn’t seem to fit within the spaces they were given. Our verdict? Church of Our Lady was the clear winner.
Husband, Boy Child and I were getting hungry and we had made it back to the Hauptmarkt. By this time, it was early afternoon and the place was humming with people. There were stages and a red carpet rolled out along the square. People had started lining the red carpet in anticipation of the fashion shows. We found a great little frites and wurst (fries and sausage) imbiss (pop up shop) right next to the McDonald’s. The brats were fabulous and the fries were awesome. The fashion show began, so we decided to avoid the crowds and head down to our last site du jour–the Porta Nigra.
The Porta Nigra is right at the edge of the market. It translates to Black Gate and was used as one of the city gates. It was built between 186-200 AD and construction was actually never finished on it, yet they still utilized it as the city gate. The admission fee was the same as the Kaiserthermen. You could get 2 adults and up to 4 kiddos for €6 total. At this point, we looked to the sky and saw that rain was getting ready to come our way. Girl Child was getting tired, so we decided to call it. We admired the site from the outside for a few minutes and then went back to the car and headed back home.
Fun Facts About Trier:
-Oldest city in Germany. It was founded in 16 BC…which makes it approximately 2029 years old. That makes my 37 years feel like a bebe.
-Birthplace and home of Karl Marx.
-Trier was constantly destroyed and rebuilt for almost two centuries due to invasions and wars.
-8 monuments make up the UNESCO World Heritage Sites designation (Roman Monuments & Cathedrals).
Trier is a great day trip from this area. Obviously, we didn’t hit everything in this one shot, but I’m sure that we’ll go back again and maybe hit up Luxembourg at the same time. If you’re a history buff or even just a hey-let’s-check-out-an-old-city buff, it’s definitely worth putting on your list.
Here’s a little treat for you: I managed to record the music at the church and figured out how to sneak it on here. It’s not the whole thing, but enough to recognize and enjoy.