Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Gidday Trev" to Trier

Roman Porta Nigra (180 AD) and icon of Trier (All text and photographs copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
"You'll like this place. It's so old you'll feel positively youthful," TH said confidently.  Yeah, right and thanks Sweetheart.  Everyone in Germany is 'a babe in arms' when compared with Trier, as it is the country's oldest town. Its history stretches back into the mists of time, supposedly as far as 2000 BC.

Trier's recorded history starts when the Romans conquered Celtic Treveri around 53 BC.  Its strategic location was recognised by Emperor Augustus and he founded a city there around 16 BC, calling it Augusta Treverorum (The city of the Emperor Augustus in the land of the Treveri).

Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths) early 4th Century
The Romans introduced new kinds of buildings and lifestyles - hot spring baths, amphitheatres, villas, temples and wine making. They planted the first grapes along the Mosel's steep riversides, although the mighty Riesling grape that has made Mosel wines famous, didn't arrive until the early 1400's.

Roman amphitheatre, dating from around 100 AD
Over many centuries and the waning of the Roman Empire, the city's name shortened from Augusta Treverorum to Trier.  It was lucky it didn't become Trevor. As such, its citizens are spared the indignity of hordes of New Zealanders calling out "Gidday Trev" when they arrive.

However, other hordes have made their mark on the city over last two millennia: Franks, Suebs (a Germanic tribe), Huns, Vandals, Normans, French, Spanish and Prussians, many of whom destroyed vast chunks of the place. With that and the bombing in World War 2 it is remarkable that there's anything historic left.

The Porta Nigra
Fortunately, the Roman legacy lives on including in the iconic emblem of the city, The Porta Nigra (The Black Gate). There are also magnificent monuments, art, statues and churches, some of which date back to when Christianity overtook Paganism under Constantine the Great (in the 4th Century).

While there might be bigger and more impressive historic Roman sites in Italy, Greece and Turkey, what is fascinating in Trier is the juxtaposition of different cultures. For instance, in Turkey you won't find whole streets of quaint half-timbered houses side-by-side with Roman archaeological remains along with Gothic and Rococo buildings.
The Rococo-styled Electoral Palais (begun in the 17th C) with the Roman Constantine Basilica (early 4th C) behind it
The State Museum (Rheinisches Landesmuseum) is now one of Germany's important archaeological museums, with 7,000 square metres of exhibition rooms. If that's too big a place for the time you have available, I recommend the compact Municipal Museum Simeonstift (located by the Porta Nigra) as an alternative. For just a few Euros you can see several of the city's smaller treasures on display (rather than the copies located in the town's squares) and listen to the excellent historical commentary via the audio guide (which is available in many different languages).

Trier Cathedral (Dom) started as Roman (in the 4th C) but was rebuilt in newer styles over the centuries. The early Gothic (1235 - 1260) Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) is next door (on the right)
The really big historic sites (such as the churches, the Roman Bridge, amphitheatre and bath houses) are not in a compact area.  You'll need a fit pair of legs to see them all or you could take a bus tour. Also check out the TrierCard, which costs 9 Euros, but allows you to use the inner city's bus transport for free and also gives discounts on various tourist sites and activities.

The Hauptmarkt

In the Hauptmarkt
Don't forget to take some time out to sit in the Hauptmarkt (the historic main market square) to absorb the surroundings and enjoy a coffee with at least one slice of Germany's many fabulous cakes (kuchen).

Important Tip: Avoid visiting Trier on a Monday, when several museums are closed.

(More of TH's photos are further below)

Find out more
Getting to Trier from Zell an der Mosel:
  • Drive: meander on the lovely, winding road by the Mosel River.
  • Bus: Zell's tourism information office can arrange a bus tour from Zell for 18 Euros per person, which includes a tour (only in German) when you get to Trier.  The bus ride is up to 2 hours each way, depending on how many stops it has to make to let other tourists on and off the bus. However, it you don't have a car it is a good way to travel the road by the Mosel River.
  • Train: Catch the train from Bullay, which is a much shorter journey than by road because it has more of a straight-line route through many tunnels. It will only take around 30 minutes to get to Trier, and will cost 23 Euros for 2 people.  Then, you can buy tickets for an English-speaking bus tour of Trier (usually around 12 noon) at the Trier Information Office. The bus tour in English will cost around 7 Euros per person.
Reminder: Avoid visiting Trier on a Monday, when several museums are closed.

Want a base in Europe where you explore the Mosel River area? Want to explore further afield and have a place to dump heavy luggage or come and go as required?

Eventful Woman recommends "My Europe Base", which has studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments.  Stay for a couple of days or for a few weeks or more. Click here to check it out.

More of TH's photos of Trier: (All text and photographs are copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)

Ceiling in the Trier Cathedral (Dom)

Wonderful sign for the Spielzeug (Toy) Museum

I wasn't the only cute Kiwi in the toy museum

One of Eventful Woman's favourite animals (as well as the gorgeous pigs)

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