Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Germany's oldest city, Trier

A couple of weeks after returning from honeymoon in August 2009 we visited this lovely German city. Trier is a historic city in west central Germany, just six miles from the Luxembourg border. Trier is Germany's oldest city. Legend has it that in 2000 BC the Assyrians established a colony here. The Roman colony of Augusta Treverorum (Trier) was founded by Augustus in 16 BC. Trier became a favored residence of several Roman emperors, including Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. The cathedral Constantine built in Trier in 326 AD is Germany's oldest. After destruction by Germanic tribes in the 5th century, the great city of Trier became a small town. It still feels pleasantly small today, despite its population of 100,000. Trier's market square (Hauptmarkt) is one of the nicest in Germany, filled with fruit stands, flowers, painted facades, and fountains. Catholic pilgrims still come to Trier in large numbers to honor the relic of the Holy Robe at the Dom St. Peter and the tomb of St. Mattias in the Benedictine church named for him.

Porta Nigra
Trier despite being tiny has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites which is what makes it really worth a visit. We stayed in the Hotel Mercure which is situated opposite the Porta Nigra making it ideal for a city visit, it has its own carpark reducing hassle even more. The impressive Porta Nigra,  "Black Gate" is a 2nd-century Roman city gate. It owes its survival to its use by a revered hermit monk and subsequent transformation into a two-story church. Below some of the other more famouse sites of Trier.

Trier Cathedral
The Electoral Palace

Roman Baths

Roman Amphitheatre

The history of Trier's Cathedral, or Dom, begins when Roman Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, donated her house to the local bishop so that he could use the land for a church. Underneath the present day Cathedral, excavations uncovered the large, muraled ceiling of a stateroom, believed to be Helena's, which is now displayed in the Bishop's Museum.

The Electoral Palace, or Kurfürstliches Palais, is built onto the east side of the Basilika. The three wings of the palace were built between 1615 and 1756 in a Rococo style that is accented by a peachy-pink paint color against the white plaster details.

The Imperial Baths, or Kaisertherman, were constructed circa AD 293 and they are one of the largest Roman baths ever built. The main reason they were built is because the nearby Barbara Baths of Trier were the second largest baths in the Roman Empire at the time, but they were too small to accommodate the local population.

The Roman Amphitheater was built in the second century and seats 20,000 people. It was used for entertainment in ancient times, with the doomed prisoners and the exotic animals that were to carry out their bloody death sentences kept in the cellar until show time, and it is still used today for summer festivals because of its great acoustics.

If you are lucky with the weather as we were, walk down to the river and join one of the trips along the Moselle and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the valley. 

There are some lovely restaurants just above where the boats depart for the river cruises, be warned they get very busy at the weekend during the summer so be sure and book a table. 

If you are planning a trip to Trier, consider taking a couple of extra days to visit Luxembourg and in particular Luxembourg City.