How I stumbled onto this little city was honestly by chance. It’s a half hour bus ride from Luxembourg and essentially just 6 miles from the country border. I had never heard of the place but when I found out it was Germany’s oldest city, the history nerd inside of me started to twitch and I decided to hop on the train (45 minutes) and explore the city on my own only to find plenty more surprises in this pleasantly small town.
As soon as I stepped out I got a feel of a historic city. There must have been so many stories to this place so I decided to look up some facts.
- Trier celebrated its 2000th birthday in the year 1984. Blimey!
- Legend has it that in 2000BC, Trier became a favoured residence of several Roman Emperors including Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor. Ooh Ooh yes I have heard of him!
- Trier’s population is only 100,000. Although I swear it felt like only 10,000 people lived here
Trier is situated on the Mosselle (Mosel) River and is a treasure trove of Roman Ruins, it is known as the Rome of the North. The first thing you notice when you reach the main district which is the Triers Market square is this big black stone sort of structure, which is known as Porta Nigra, it was essentially one of the four gates that protected the Northern entrance to the Roman City in umm well Roman Times. For some unknown reason, the construction of the northern gate remained unfinished, I like to think is because the Romans didn’t except many intruders from this particular region, and out of the four gates only Port Nigra survived making it a world heritage site protected by UNESCO. In the Early Middle Ages, the Porta (like the Germans call it) was transformed into a church and then upon Napoleon Bonaparte’s orders transferred back to its original form and here it was this fascinating piece of monument right under my very own eyes.
As I walked along the market square also known as the Hauptmarkt which is a major junction and a lively, colourful marketplace, marked by a replica of the original stone cross that dates back to 958; I came across another fascinating church. Yes Yes, churches are everywhere I know, literally every European country I must step into a church, some are beautiful and some are small but this one in particular had one unique thing about it. It was the Trier Cathedral build by the emperor Constantine and contains the holy relic, the Holy Robe of Christ. It is for this reason that this city still receives gazillion catholic pilgrims every year. History has it that the seamless robe worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion was sent to Trier by Empress Helena who was Constantine’s mother and has been deemed the authentic one by historians, However, there is another version that it was sent to France but I like to believe in the former because here it was right in front of my very own eyes. Although you do wonder that this robe just couldn’t be in such mint condition in front of you if you believed the Mel Gibson movie passion of the Christ really. But here it was, like another seamless seemingly normal robe that seemed less dramatic in front of my eyes than it did in my head (No pics allowed)
I took the city tour bus from the market place all around the city and the two sites that caught my attention apart from Porta Nigra and the Trier Cathedral and the market place were one the house of a very important German philosopher named Karl Marx, I mean who hasn’t heard of him come on, the founder of the philosophy of Marxism, as soon as I heard his name on the tour, my heart skipped a beat, I had no idea he was born in Trier. How cool was that! Like I said little surprises just around the corner. Another exciting building (well which I thought was exciting) were the imperial baths; in ancient Rome, thermae (hot) were bath complexes used by the Romans for if you will ‘socializing’, it was a place to bathe and meet people and just chill I guess because there probably wasn’t much to do in those days I am guessing. For the list of all the ruins left of public baths, refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_remains_of_Roman_public_baths. Near the imperial baths are the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, dating from the first century AD. The amphitheatre was used in the Roman imperial era (until the 5th century) for gladiator fights and animal contests. In my head I could totally picture Russell Crowe in his metallic suit charging for a fight in the middle of the hundreds of people watching and cheering or something like that. The entire structure, consisting of an elliptical arena and a stepped auditorium, was surrounded by a high wall, divided into individual stories by colonnaded arcades. The complex could seat up to 25,000 people. Underneath the arena is a vast basement where gladiators, criminals, and exotic beasts were kept prior to their release into the arena. The amphitheatre is now used for concerts and other festivals and along with the Porta and Imperial baths is also a protected UNESCO World Heritage site.
Apart from that you can admire the view from the top of the Mosselle valley and walk along the market square and do some shopping. I had learnt so much in one day. So much I didn’t know, so much to learn in the world out there. Life was short and time was just not enough to absorb it all. But for now, I had had enough of German History; I was ready to explore more parts of Europe, parts that weren’t just famous for their medieval architecture but also for their fine passion for food. A country with a fame of perfection that was proud to introduce their best and finest. Waffles, Beers, Frites, Mussels or Chocolates; Belgium had it all.