04 May 2020 - Day 23 – Trier
Sunlight suffused the room when I opened the blinds. It looked like the perfect day. Repacking my bag and preparing the smaller backpack for the trip to #Trier, I cleaned up, checked out and returned to the Gare de Luxembourg to await my train at 9:30. After boarding, it was 6 stops and less than a hour before I alighted and rolled my bag through the Trier Hauptbahnhof.
Bahnhofstrasse, out the station doorway, runs perpendicular to the tracks. It changes name to Theodor Heuss Allee as it parallels a small greenway to the south and a series of store fronts to the north. At Porta Nigra, the old Roman gate ruins, my Mercure hotel sat opposite. I was a bit
early for check-in, but I had all I needed on my back, so left the roller with the front desk. My itinerary sent me to the Tourist Office to collect a 1pm tour ticket, which had to be done at least 15 minutes prior to the start. Get it done! And may the fourth be with you!!
So, crossing Nordallee, as the street I’d walked down was now known, the tourist office sat two buildings from the #PortaNigra. Inquiring at the front desk, the woman smiling at me turned out to be Claudia, with whom I’d chatted via email in December. She sold me an 8€ English tour ticket and marked my reservation. As there was no one queued behind me, we had a few minutes where she gave me a few flyers and directions to the Dom, or cathedral. Finding a hat pin, I bought it as well and then thanked her and left.
Continuing around the old Roman gate, I turned on Simeonstrasse and strolled through the shopping district. Reaching the Hauptmarkt, one corner was lined with canvas umbrellas protected diners, while across the square into the corner, awnings protecting flower sellers. Caddy-corner, a similarly covered booth hosted a local winery. It seems that free tastings are offered daily al fresco! Making a right on Sternstrasse and heading east, the cathedral was directly in front of me.
Hohe Domkirche St Peter, and the adjoining Liebfrauenkirche are two of the religious landmarks in Trier. The cathedral is the largest religious building in Trier and oldest church in Germany. Early stonework of Roman brick still exists in the central nave, with portions of the north façade showing these bricks. Potentially dating from the reign of Constantine, the four crossing piers date from that period.
The cathedral and the adjoining church, plus multiple other church buildings occupy a large oval “block” which I discovered when attempting to circumnavigate them. With an organized tour at 1, I didn’t want to get too involved, since I had to return to the Tourist Office to take the tour. So I concentrated my viewing on the north and west faces of the cathedral, and the front of the adjoining Our Lady Church. It was evident that different styles had been applied, and that there had been numerous additions.
Returning to Porta Negra for the tour, six of us were joined by Gretchen for the “Trier – Short and Sweet” tour. She explained that we would not visit any building interiors, and “During the walking tour, you will learn what makes Germany's oldest city unique.
Our route: The tour begins at the Porta Nigra, crosses the Main Market, passes the Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady, the Roman Imperial Throne Room (Konstantin-Basilika), and ends at the Electoral Palace.” After introductions (the other 5 English speaking were Anglo-Irish) we learned that Gretchen had recently finished university in Berlin, and has returned home to Trier to work in marketing at a local wine cooperative, except on Mondays. She speaks German, French, English and Mandarin, and was learning Arabic. And she is engaged.
Turning around, we faced the Porta Negra with the sun at our backs. The sandstone used to build it about 200CE has darkened with age, hence the name “Black Gate”. It was one of four gates into the Roman city, at cardinal points. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the stones and metal strappings were sometimes removed for other purposes, until the eleventh century when a monk lived in this pile. On the death of Simeon, he was canonized, and a monastery was built next door, with the gate structure turned into two churches.
Napoleon, who dissolved the church in 1801, then ordered the Porta Nigra to be restored to its Roman appearance. We walked through one of a pair of arches at street level, returning through the other as we then walked down the street to the HauptMarkt.
The square is now a pedestrian mall with the #Marktkreuz in the center. Produce is sold there every day but Sunday, restaurants expand to offer open air seating in the warmer weather. After a talk at the market cross and then the fountain, Gretchen point out the different ornamentation on the exterior of the buildings. Then she took us by the stall which was pouring samples of local wine. She insisted we try the two samples, both dry whites which I enjoyed.
Turning to face east, we walked to the west façade of the cathedral. Gretchen pointed out the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements of the structure. She covered the 1700-year history, emphasizing the cathedral’s importance throughout that period. To the south is one of the four additional churches which were built as part of the structure (there are 4 high altars), the #Liebfrauenkirche. Reportedly building began in the early thirteenth, and with the cathedral of Magdeberg, is considered to be the oldest French Gothic church in Germany. A round floor plan with cross vaulting, it is also a basilica, a designation granted by the Pope.
Off to our final stop, we walked a bit further south and stood outside the Aula Palatina, or #Konstantinbasilika. Originally built by Constantine in 310CE, the former throne hall is used today as the Evangelical Protestant Church of the Redeemer. Along with the Roman emperor, the building has also been used as the bishops’ residence. It is the largest extant hall from antiquity.
As Gretchen moved to return to the Tourist Office for a 3pm tour in German, she did point out that much of what we saw on her tour are World Heritage Sites. She admonished us all to return and visit each during our time in Trier.
First on this list for me was to visit the inside of the Aula Palatina. With a 33m vault ceiling, the Roman bricks are exposed to natural light through two ranks of arched frosted glass windows. The interior as a church is very simple and extremely moving. And on the rear wall hang three ranks of modern organ pipes, with the console in the center. It is reached by a spiral metal staircase.
Walking back, next was to enter the basilica church of Our Lady. I found it a bit disconcerting to stand in a circular church where all the columns were rectilinear. I’d expected it to be closer to the form of the sanctuary in the Aachen Cathedral built by Charlemagne. The interior felt very gothic, with the pointed arches and supporting keystones. Beautiful stained-glass windows, many contemporary, fill the nave with colored filtered sunlight. Paired with the cathedral in Magdeberg, which I’d seen in 2017, I had difficulty aligning the two; Magdeberg is a huge building, while the circular church here is subtle.
Arriving back at the cathedral, I was able to join a tour of the cathedral in French. The only English tour had been at 10, and my French is better than my German. Natives will usually have at least three languages, as Trier is on the Moselle River, and just downstream, the river forms the border of Luxembourg before it crosses into France. Dutch and German are supposedly quite close, but you couldn’t prove it by me when I was in northern Luxembourg.
In any case, the half hour tour of the cathedral took us around the various older segments of the building, and the guide talked (machine gun French) about several of the lovely chapels. We stood in front of the main altar for several minutes, as the discussion dwelt on the ceiling, and the tower above it. I will admit that I probably got very little out of this tour. I returned to the desk and asked for a printed handout, so I was able to self-guide my way around. With the thick columns and walls, the space feels closed in, and there are few brilliant lines-of-sight. Impressive, but not high on my list. The treasury is accessible, which includes several important Christian relics, including the seamless tunic worn my Christ to His crucifixion. It is rarely displayed, and wasn’t today. I did see the reliquary containing the skull of St Helena, mother of Constantine, who brought the tunic from the Palestine, along with a nail from the True Cross. One more of significance is the sandal of the apostle Andrew, brother of St Peter, the patron saint for the cathedral. No photography in the treasury. Then the cloister! A period of peaceful reflection surrounded by quiet.
While walking, I’d noted that there was a mini-train providing a tour of the city. For 9€, one sat and rode for 35 minutes with a recorded guide through headphones. Not usually my thing, but I knew there was a lot more to see, and I was looking for an excuse to sit! So back through the market and shopping district to Porta Nigra where I got my ticket, and after 10 minutes, I was seated in a red and yellow tourist train as we rolled through Trier.
First up, the Roter Turm, a clock tower for the former Kurfurst Palace at the St Petersburg Gate. A run up to and u-turn in front of the cathedral and Lady Church followed. A diversion to pass around the Sankt Georgsbrunnen, an ornate fountain. Down to Constantine’s Throne, the Electoral Palace and then after passing the Rheinisches Landesmuseum. On to the Imperial Baths, one of at least two bath ruins. Rounding a corner and heading towards the river, we turned north as we approached the Judische Kultusgemeinde (synagogue) to pass the house of Karl Marx. Continuing north, the Trierer Petrusbrau Brauerei, a Petrus brewery, caught my eye. Down a narrow street, we came to the Frankenturm, an eleventh century brick tower built for defensive purposes. Finally we went past the Simeonstift next to the Black Gate. We had passed about a dozen parish churches in total.
Knowing that Trier boarders the #Moselle River, I decided I would walk towards it. Probably a 15-minute walk, I was looking at a bridge crossing over an island to the other side. To my right was the Kolb boat tour agency, so I headed there. If I could get a ride on the river, great. Otherwise, I’d walk across the river. I lucked out. At 4, a two-hour excursion was scheduled to depart and there were places available. We would head down the Moselle to the sixth bridge at Thõrnich and return. Sounded like a plan to me, and it was a relaxing scenic trip that only required me to stop sitting when I wanted to take a picture or I wanted another beer.
Heading back “inland”, I walked to the hotel and collected a keycard and my roller. Up the lift to the fourth floor, I did look out over the Black Gate and could see the spires of the cathedral in the distance. Two twin beds in the room, I took the one closer to the bathroom, putting my roller on the other after putting a large towel down first. I put the first camera battery on charge, washed my face, and spent about an hour writing this post. I’d done much of my journaling while cruising.
By eight, I was really getting hungry, so I got a recommendation for früh bis spat, a bistro type restaurant. A few years ago, the owners, who have a restaurant in Schilling near Cologne, decided to expand to Trier. So I chose from the specials board, and got the original Schilling Spieszbraten, a kabob. As I’d had beer on the boat, I continued with a pair of Kolsch, a bit too pale for me. The entrée was served removed from the skewer, with the boiled potatoes sliced and all placed on a bed of salad vegetables. More than enough food, the desserts really didn’t appeal anyway.
Walking back to the hotel, the coming full moon lit the dark stones of the Porta Nigra eerily. I crossed to the hotel, heading to the room to finish this post, get all the photos off the phone and out of the camera, and will eventually upload and send out this blog posting. Back to France in the morning.