Sunday, March 16, 2014

Daytripper, ja

This weekend has been all about the return of F1, but last weekend it was all about the sunshine and unseasonably warm weather we have been enjoying (right up until, um, this weekend). I decided that I had to do something to make the most of it - while this winter has been unusually mild, it's still been winter after all - so I headed out on what was almost a 6-hour return trip to Trier, Germany. (It's not that far, but way cheaper to use my "free" train pass to go to Luxembourg and then switch trains there than to go direct from Metz.)

Often on the way to work I find myself gazing out of the train windows (if I can tear myself away from building pyramids on my phone) and pondering, somewhat reductively, about how many millions of lives were essentially lost in the battles over the surrounding landscape. If there had been no Franco-Prussian War, no occupation of Alsace and Lorraine, would there have been a WWI? Without WWI, would Hitler have ever come to power? Do we have to search even further back in history for the roots of this conflict, or was it all inevitable all along?

History is certainly ever-present in Trier, but as you stroll around, you're more likely to come across relics of a more ancient past than reminders of 20th century conflicts. Trier, founded around 16 BC, "might" be the oldest city in Germany, and it's got the monuments to prove it. I've already been to Trier once, to check out the Christmas markets (and the Karl Marx museum), but this was a chance to take in the sights (mostly) without the crowds. Strolling in past the Roman Porta Negra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps, I first checked out the cathedral, a hulking edifice which dates back to Roman times as well, and is Germany's oldest cathedral. The main chapel was supposedly laid out on the orders of St. Helen, the mother of Constantine.

Porta Negra
Town square (Hauptmarkt)

The "Steipe" banqueting house, a reconstruction of a medieval building destroyed in WWII

Palace gardens. No digital trickery by the way, the sky really was that blue!

From there, I went to see the Imperial Baths, another set of Roman ruins. They weren't the most amazing things visually, but what was quite cool is that you can walk around inside the underground tunnels originally used to supply water and drainage to the baths. In practice, this means stepping out of the warm sunshine into a cold, dark, and slightly scary labryrinth. I made it out in one piece though!

The Roman baths, later joined up to the medieval city wall (on the left) and used as a palace

Could do without the scruffy shopping bag, but I brought too much heavy stuff with me (water, ipad)!

Lunch was bratwurst (of course), where I made a dick of myself by successfully ordering in German (okay, "eine bratwurst mit ketchup, bitte" is not rocket science) but then failing to understand when the guy said "2.20€" (or whatever it cost), whereupon he switched to flawless English. Then it was time for a stroll to the (unexceptional) banks of the Moselle while enjoying my first icecream of the season. Guten appetit!

Finally, I went back to the Liebfrauenkirche next to the cathedral, which had a service going on when I was there in the morning. I'm glad I did, as I think it's my new new favourite church. Very bijou, very harmonious, and just gorgeous with the strong afternoon sunshine streaming in through the stained-glass windows. I took about a million photos and also just enjoyed sitting in there taking it in. It dates back to the 13th century, although unfortunately the original stained glass was presumably destroyed in the war. The replacements are very pretty though, especially in the bold choice of colours.

That was all I had time for on this occasion, but I feel (especially casting an eye over Wikipedia for some of the names and dates I've mentioned) there's much more I could have seen in (possibly) Germany's oldest city. Perhaps I'll be back!


  1. It's interesting what you think about on the train.

    I love looking at stained glass when the sun streams through it-- thanks for all the pictures. That red!

    1. Ha, most of the time it's less highbrow. But I do find it weird to look out at these unexceptional fields and hills and think of all the trouble they've caused...

  2. Talking of ruins did you see what happened to Man U last night!!!

    1. I didn't see, but Mum was straight on the email to inform me. Good stuff! Wish things had gone as well for Hamilton.

  3. Gorgeous stained glass windows! Lucky you had the sunshine to show them at their best. x


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