Friday September 29th – Day 7, Trier
We’d promised ourselves a second day in Trier, and having discovered that there were some interesting events going on on Friday we figured that would be the best day to do it on. Instead of heading out on the riverside road, we opted to take the quick route along the autobahn, a process that took less than half an hour. We managed to park up by the Electoral Palace, and then started working our way through the items left on our Antiken Cards, which meant three more Roman sites, starting with the Imperial baths complex at the other end of the park where the palace is located, the gardens themselves looking very lovely in the late summer sunshine.
A short walk took us to the baths, where there were again very few tourists, and quite a lot of the site was behind scaffolding. We went in, sat and watched a short film that showed the development of Trier in the Roman period, and then we wandered around the site. There’s a brick tower that has been built on one corner, which provides a great overview of the complex. The baths themselves are most impressive. It covers a massive area, and even scaffolded over you can see how impressive it must have been.
The baths themselves are well preserved at one end because the walls were used in the middle ages as part of a small castle, which meant they weren’t quarried out. Between the Alderburg castle, and two churches also built into the walls of the caldarium, it wasn’t until after World War II that the later additions would be cleared away and the extent of the Roman remains would become apparent, with extensive excavation work taking place from 1960 to 1966. Needless to say it’s still being worked on, mostly with a view to preservation of the ruins now.
Underneath the visible structures, there is a rabbit warren of tunnels used by the service staff to keep the baths running and you can get seriously lost down there between all the different levels and the various corners you can end up turning.
When we’d done in the baths, we decided it was too hot to go straight to the next attraction. A cold drink at the museum cafe, which also borders on the Electoral Palace gardens, was essential.
Our next stop was at the recently reopened Treasury of the Trier City Research Library, which holds a splendid collection of fabulous rare books, including the Codex Egberti, , the Ada Evangeliary with its stunning (though much later) 15th Century cover, and the Trier Apocalypse. There is also a selection of printed works including a Gutenberg Bible, original manuscripts of Nicolas of Cusa, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Karl Marx. It’s basically a bibliophile’s idea of heaven, and the Hundred Highlights exhibition is well worth a visit. As is explained in one of the handouts: “The Trier city library traces its origins back to the year 1804. It can be seen as a by-product of the French revolution. Towards the end of the 18th century the city of Trier fell to the French, together with wide swathes of territory on the left of the Rhine. Secularization led to the dissolution of many monasteries and collegiate churches. Parts of the ancient libraries were scattered, parts came to Trier. The city library which was being formed here became a gigantic catchment basin for the book treasures of the region which had become ownerless. With around 3.000 manuscripts and the same number of printed items, the city library of Trier is now one of the most important in all of Germany.” I am very glad it exists. Needless to say, photography is not permitted for fear of damage to the exhibits, so here’s a photo from the library’s website.
I cannot understand why the place was completely empty on a Friday afternoon, but Lynne and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I left with a copy of the catalogue so I can continue to enjoy it later. It was stunning stuff and it made me very happy.
Next we walked to the Barbara baths, which is another fine collection of Roman building remains, on a slightly smaller scale than the Imperial baths (at least what can be seen of them). They were built in the second century, used as a castle in the Middle Ages, and finally used for building materials, including a Jesuit college. The site shows off the foundations and more service tunnels, with the general heating and sewerage systems plain to see. We weren’t alone there; there must have been three other people there, and again you have to wonder why it’s so quiet. This is fascinating stuff and it ought to be rammed with tourists.
Our next stop was the Roman bridge which spans the Moselle to this day. Needless to say the top layer, over which the road goes, has been replaced more than once, but the 2nd century pillars remain, and they do appear to be doing a proper solid job.
We walked back into town and settled in for a much-needed beer at the improbably named Astarix and Miss Marple‘s cafe. It was just what was required there and then.
We were just opposite the theatre where they were readying for the premier of their latest production, “Die Dreigroschen Oper” which seemed to involve lorries failing to park up properly. It was also just across from the massive World War II bunker.
Our next destination was the final set of Roman baths, the Forum baths. We tried to sort out using our Antiken Card but were waved in anyway, unfortunately without being given any information, and then couldn’t get too close to anything as there was an event in full flow, the 2017 Trier University Nacht der Wissenschaft, or the Long Night of Knowledge, and they were all busy setting out their stalls as part of the European Researchers’ Night, which was taking place across 260 European cities.
We gave up on that and headed over to the Basilica, only to find it was shut. This was a shame as I’d really wanted to see the interior of the Aula Palatina, but it was not to be, at least not on this trip. The outside is pretty impressive though, so we’ll just have to try again another time.
After a bit of toing and froing caused by a lack of sensible maps, we found our way to the Church of Our Lady, the oldest Gothic church in Germany, built in the 13th century. It replaced a Roman church on the site and it’s utterly gorgeous. It’s a church-in-the-round built in such a way that the floor plan resembles a twelve-petaled rosa mystica, and, as we found out, the twelve articles of the Apostle’s Creed are painted on twelve supporting columns, which can be seen completely from a single spot which is marked by a black stone. It’s a brilliant Gothic masterpiece and breathtakingly beautiful.
Right next door to it is the cathedral which is also magnificent, in what can only be described as Baroque insanity mode. From the outside, however, it’s not at all Baroque, with lots of much earlier brickwork, including the Roman foundations which can be clearly seen.
Inside, it’s wildly ornate, with some very fancy features, most of which are far more recent than the Roman foundations.
The original church was built, after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, adn what resulted, under the supervision of Bishop Maximin of Trier (329-346), was one of the grandest ecclesiastical structures in the West. The first set of buildings was four times time size of the present cathedral and included four basilicas, a baptistery and outbuildings.
The fourth-century structure was destroyed by the Franks, who then rebuilt it, and was again destroyed by the Norsemen in 882, with the last restoration done at the behest of Archbishop Egbert (d. 993). He clearly knew a good building plan when he saw it and there is plenty even now for visitors to nose around. The cloister garden is lovely too.
It was getting close to closing time, and so we wandered out before they threw us out, finding our way across the road where we sat with a glass of wine each and some ham and cheese to stave off starvation!
A brief study of my phone told us there was a promising restaurant just behind us. Further investigation revealed that they were closed for a private event, and so we had to search a little further. The mapping software on my iPhone proved less than useless but we eventually located the rather old-fashioned but charming Brasserie, an old-style restaurant in the heart of the historic town.
We settled in, studied the menu, and decided that this would do just fine. It would have been nicer without the nuisance child on the next table, who seemed to be allowed to run riot, crawling around on the floor, getting in the way of the waiting staff, but everything else was good. A glass of sekt helped us ignore the antics of the child altogether.
An offering of bread was soon on the table as we waited for our starters.
A portion of beef was up first and very solidly good it was too.
It was also big, as were the mains. There was a rabbit dish, the leg served on noodles, with “lots of sauce”, sugar snap peas, and carrots. It was very much comfort food, and delicious. It was also very filling.
The other dish we tried was the spaghetti “Ragout”, which was served with a venison ragout, a load of fried wild mushrooms (mostly chanterelles), Parmesan flakes, and a salad, which proved to be a dish too far in terms of trying to get through what we’d been presented with.
That was us done, even though along with the bill we were given a fluffy little chunk of poppy seed cake. It was good, but we couldn’t eat another thing.
We left the restaurant around 9pm, and headed off to take a look at the Trier Illuminale, the motto of which seems to be the very punny Wissen-Schaft-Licht which roughly speaking translates as Knowledge Produces Illumination but is also a pun on the German word for scientific (wissenschaftlich).
It wasn’t easy to find due to the annoying phone software yet again, but find it we did and took a slightly bemused wander around, enjoying the lighting effects, but not the unseasonable heat which was still higher than you’d expect for a late September night.
While it was all very interesting it was rather too busy for someone who doesn’t like crowded places, so we didn’t stay too long.
It took us a while to find our way back to the car park, but once there we were soon on our way. We made it back home in under 30 minutes, arriving well after 10pm only to find it was still very hot (around 19C) and the vineyard workers were still working down the street on our return.