Germany: Trier

We picked Trier as a short stopping point because we wanted someplace cheaper than Luxembourg that was on our way to where we had booked to stay along the Rhine River a couple of days later. We soon discovered that Trier had a few surprises for us.

On our way into the old town, we came across the sculpture Handwerkerbrunnen (Fountain of Artisans) created in 1984 by the blacksmith Klaus Apel. It was a striking piece in the center of a pedestrian walkway, but the level of detail invited closer scrutiny. Thirty-six different trades are represented, nestled into the trunk and branches of the tree-like structure.

On we wandered, drawn toward what sounded like live music. But first, we were overwhelmed by the massive structure that is Dom Trier, or the Trier Cathedral, the oldest church in Germany. Begun in the 4th century, it has been partially destroyed, rebuilt, added onto, and who knows what else so that there are multiple styles and buildings joined together.

In the treed plaza outside of the church, we were able to pick up a drink and find a seat in a bit of shade, and enjoy a few acts of a jazz festival. As we sat sipping our beer and wine, chatting with a local couple during a break in the music, the bells of the cathedral began to ring out. The cacophony was astounding. The next act on the stage held off playing, but after several minutes gave up waiting and began to perform, their music competing ineffectively with the bells. The audience snickered and shrugged. It was funny but fantastic at the same time. 

Another large building left us a bit confused as well. We headed toward the electoral palace, but came across an enormous brick building that could have been any number of things, but did not look at all like a palace. When we turned the corner we found an ornate pink building that did look like a palace attached to the brick like a faceplate. The 4th century brick building is Aula Palatina, and there’s plenty of architectural and political history behind the design. It was joined to the palace in the 17th century, which makes for an interesting sight. The building now houses various federal government offices. The gardens in front of the palace are filled with statuary and fountains.

As we wandered the city, we continually turned into plazas framed by decorative half-timber and other highly decorated buildings. Some still retain doors that are positioned well above street level keeping unwanted intruders out, but requiring a ladder to be dropped down in order to enter.

Another building that surprised us was the Basilica of St. Paulinus, an 18th century baroque church. Its outside was bright and colourful and its insides, in contrast to the many much-older churches we had been poking our heads into, were white and bright, with colourful ceiling frescos. The cemetery plots in the churchyard were the tidiest we’ve ever seen, many were little landscaped works of art. Throughout the cemetery were metal stands holding clusters of brightly coloured plastic watering cans–I thought this was a really cool demonstration of community spirit until I discovered that each separate can was padlocked to the stand, intended only for use by its owner.

Considered to be Germany’s oldest city, Trier is full of Roman ruins. There are two enormous thermal bath locations, both active archeological sites. The Barbara Baths have a visitor walkway straddling the site with many interpretive signs explaining how the thermal site worked and how it functioned within society. Many of the excavated sections have protective roof coverings, making it a little challenging to see. The Imperial Baths are more open and impressive to the casual viewer. Visitors can walk around the ruins though we chose just to take a quick peek from outside the fence. Along the river, you can see a 2nd century roman bridge, and one of the first land-based cranes used to load and unload ships dating from the early 1400s. A huge city gate, Porta Nigra (Black Gate) stands at one edge of the old town. In roman times, it was one of four city gates forming a rough triangle around Trier.

What was supposed to be just a few days of hanging out and catching up kept us very busy.


TripBits

  • Train: Luxembourg to Trier. Train from Luxembourg city to the German border was free. The remaining part of the trip in Germany was covered by our 9 Euro Ticket, a promotion offered by the German government. Though it is intended for citizens, it is also available to visitors. Each calendar month of the promotion (June, July, or August 2022) costs only 9 euros for all regional public transportation in Germany (trains, metros, buses, but not faster IC and ICE trains).

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