The term "tucked away" seemed to describe Trier magnificently. Located in a deep Mosel River valley at the far western corner of Germany, Trier was well away from the arteries of Germany's modern commerce. But that was not always the case. Trier is Germany's oldest city, once one of the seats of the old Roman Empire, loaded with terrific Roman ruins and architecture. That, combined with the modern European market square make Trier a truly beautiful city.
In current times, Trier serves as a gateway along the Mosel River from Germany to Luxembourg and the Alsace-Lorraine regions of France, while being sufficiently isolated that it can live life at its own pace. The surrounding region is mostly rural, with the deep river sporting a number of vineyards and forests.
Trier has two main market squares, both surrounded by a wonderful mix of beautiful Renaissance and Baroque architecture with historic Roman-era buildings and ruins. I loved looking at the colorful buildings around the Hauptmarkt (first picture) and Domplatz. The colors were so bright, I could also smell the paint drying.
Trier's most dominant structure is the combination of two churches - the Dom St. Peter (second picture) and the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) next door. The Dom is Germany's oldest Cathedral, built upon the ruins of a 4th century church, and gradually added upon over the centuries. Next to the Liebfrauenkirche is a large courtyard containing a cemetary of Trier's bishopry over the centuries. Speaking of which, the basement of the Dom St. Peter contains a massive wall plaque with the entire lineage of bishops inscribed from the 8th century.
The Dom St. Peter faces a small alley leading to the city's Main Street and pedestrian zone, loaded with fabulous architecture and great shopping. The Hauptmarkt itself ("Main Market," shown in the first picture) hosts the magnificent town hall and the towering St. Gangolph Church, whose golden interior is among the most beautiful of any church we've seen. North from the Hauptmarkt, you will find the Dreikoenigshaus, a wildly deorated 13th Century residential tower. The bright pink Kurfürstliche Palais, or Electoral Palace (shown in the third picture), is located behind the Dom and has a beautifully sculpted garden.
Trier is full of reminders of its lengthy history. The city was founded in 16 BC as part of the Roman Empire, and served as an Imperial Residence and Capital under the emporer Diocletian in the fourth century. After Rome collapsed, Trier survived, then thrived as a center of commerce during the Holy Roman Empire. The evidence of Trier's Roman past is everywhere in the city. The massive Porta Nigra, or "Black Gate", was built in the third century and guards the north end of downtown. Near the Dom St. Peter is the Aula Palatina (also shown in the third photo), the emporer's throne hall, which may surprise you as it looks rather plain. This is because it has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, the last time after World War II.
Just to the south are the ruins of two large Roman bathhouses, the Kaiserthermen that sits adjacent to a major traffic circle, and the Barbaratherme closer to the river. These ruins are extensive, giving the visitor a good picture of the complexity of the structures. The Kaiserthermen is shown in the fourth photo, its bright and smooth walls suggesting that it indeed had been renovated at some point. The park behind the Kaiserthermen, with the ancient baths unearthed, encompasses a full city block. These ruins were only a few blocks away from the downtown, a ten-minute walk perhaps.
If you do head out to the Kaiserthermen and don't mind an additional fifteen minute walk, you can also visit the very well-preserved Roman amphitheater to the east of the Kaiserthermen. For just a couple Euro, visitors can walk all around the theater, and visit the dungeons below the floor. It too has been renovated a little bit. The maps available at the Tourist Information Bureau include a lay out of the original city of Trier, showing a direct line between the Kaiserthermen in the center to the amphitheater.
At the opposite end of the downtown is the Porta Nigra (fifth photo), which is the most magnificent Roman structure still standing. Trier's Tourist Bureau is right next door to it in a fabulous and brand-new facility.
The ruins really added a lot of character to the downtown it surrounded. I found it to be a wonderful constrast between the old, exposed, ragged stone and the pastel colors of the storefronts.
Like most of the towns along the Mosel, Trier is an active place. In spring, Trier is the southern end of the Happy Mosel, an annual cycling and wine festival that stretches along the Mosel all the way to Cochem. Boat rides along the Mosel are great during the summer (though the day I went, the Mosel was a tad flooded). So, if you're looking to go someplace a little different, try Trier. It's beautiful, historic, and festive. What more could you ask?
Trips taken 17 November 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2005 Tom Galvin