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krisek Trier - A travel report by Krys
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Trier,  Germany - flag Germany -  Rheinland-Pfalz
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krisek's travel reports

Going back to meat in Germany's oldest town. Trier

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Trier (aka Trèves, aka Tréier, aka Augusta Treverorum) was founded by the Ancient Romans before 16 BC, and once was the capital of the Roman Empire. It has a few very interesting sights from the period, but it also boasts wonderful Germanic architecture.

Trier travelogue picture
Trier (aka Trèves, aka Tréier, and formerly known as Augusta Treverorum) has the longest history as a city in Germany. Other cities in the country claim the title of the oldest city, however for relatively long periods at the beginning of their existence, they were just small settlements or military camps.

Anyway, the accurate date when Trier was founded is not clear. When the Roman Empire invaded and established Augusta Treverorum in 30 BC, the city was already there. It was probably founded a few centuries before by an Assyrian prince called Trebeta. When the Romans settled, they made the city the capital of Gallia Belgica and the prefecture of Gaul. Trier fell into the French hands in 870 AD, and later became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, which developed from the Eastern Francia and a few other states, and later became the federated Germany. Yet in 1984, the authorities decided it was time to celebrate 2000th birthday.

Also, Trier has been the oldest seat of a bishop north of the Alps, and the archbishop was amongst the most powerful people in Europe in the Middle Ages. Its University opened in 1473 (and closed in 1797, only to re-open in 1975). Trier was the site where the borders of the regional territories of the Holy Roman Empire were demarcated in 1512. The city saw a few wars with the French, who sought domination in Europe, when the wars over who should take over the Spanish and Polish thrones. Of course trying to install an allied monarch.

I went to Trier during a weekend between business trips in Belgium and Luxembourg. I knew a little bit about the city but I did not expect to see so many sights from the ancient Roman times. And some in such an excellent condition! Weather was excellent and the city was packed with people, some of whom were day visitors from around Germany and the rest of the world. When I was passing by the long throne hall of the Roman Emperor Constantine, there was something that changed my life again. See more below.

Favourite spots:
Roman baths
Roman baths
The UNESCO-listed ancient Roman Baths built on the meadow in the middle of the town were my favourite spot. I remember that when I arrived in Trier and peeked into one of the souvenir shops to check the postcards (just to make sure I was going to see all the most important sights in the city), I saw the complete structure of the baths depicted on them. Not the ruined one, as it is in reality. So, when I arrived at the actual site, I was not quite sure I was at the right place. I thought that maybe there was another.

The baths were huge and I was impressed that they were erected using small red and cream bricks. Other ancient Roman Baths I had seen before had been built from large blocks of sandstone, marble, etc. I almost thought they might have been fake. But they were not. The baths were remarkable and huge. I really liked that visitors were free to wander around the site with no problem and that everything was so easily accessible.

What's really great:
The Porta Nigra
The Porta Nigra
On the first sight, I found it weird how the outstanding and incomparable ancient Roman Throne Hall of the emperor Constantine, having been converted into a church, was attached to the Baroque-Rokoko Place of Trier, built in the St.Petersburg's style. And although initially disturbing perhaps, the idea grew on me. For I began to understand that after the ancient Roman Empire fell, the world did not end. Life went on. Times changed. Several times over. So, isn't it fascinating how the grand monuments of the past instead of becoming 'sacred', actually extended their useful life.

I also liked the very laid back atmosphere of Trier. I came on a weekend day, so I expected a lot of relaxed people browsing through the old town, doing some shopping, chatting in the cafes, gossiping in the parks, and visitors admiring the stunning and rather extraordinary monuments. It was a sunny day too, which contributed to my good mood.

Emperor's Throne Hall
Emperor's Throne Hall
From the ancient Roman times the prominent sights, some of which managed to collect a rather cliché epithets of significance, included: the Porta Nigra - the best preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps; Roman Baths, one of which is the largest ancient Roman bath north of the Alps; and the Constantine's Throne Hall - the tallest and longest ancient Roman throne hall north of the Alps; the ancient Roman amphitheatre; and Roman Bridge over the Moselle River - the oldest bridge north of the Alps still in use. And I did not care. I really loved them all.

From the Middle Ages, there were: the Trier Cathedral (the Dom); the Church of Our Lady, one of the most important early Gothic churches in Germany, following the French Gothic style; the Saint Matthias Abbey - the only church north of the Alps (sic!) containing a grave of an apostle; and tread wheel cranes.

And there was more! I loved the colourful main market square with the St.Gangolf church and picturesque chocolate-box houses.

The Palace of Trier and garden
The Palace of Trier and garden
I considered staying for the night in Trier, but after having found that Luxembourg had a jazz festival, I decided to commute back across the border, so I could attend the night parties of jazz. Had the trains run all the night, I might have decided otherwise, I do not know.

When I was investigating accommodation options in Trier, I found that there was an HI Hostel (at An der Jugendherberge 4) by the river, near the centre, for about €18. The other budget option right in the centre of the old town was the Warsberger Hof (at Dietrichstrasse 42) with dorms for about €20 and rooms for about €45. I also found that there was a campsite called the Trier City (Luxembourger Strasse 81) on the western (other than the old town) bank of the river.

Trier travelogue picture
Before I decided not to go out in Trier, I investigated from the local crowd and my German friends in London, what the places to go out at night were. They had their own favourites, some of which were located outside the town, required own transport or expensive taxi ride, so not for my consideration. From six different lists of recommendations, I found three having common ground.

The Palais, near the Cathedral (the Dom) was a popular dance club with a rather conventional crowd. It could be considered a hangout for students and young people in general. It required unpredictable dress code.

The Musik-Kneipe at Bergstrasse 27 was a lounge with oldish rock music favoured by thirtysomethings. More of a late hangout for long night chats.

The Riverside was a techno music dominated nightclub with relaxed door policy. It had a few rooms with different (not that different!) music. It attracted young crowd, mainly students from the university and the US military. Not a bad place to meet people.

The Cathedral
The Cathedral
The entire old part of Trier, particularly the pedestrianised areas, was a great hangout. There were many cafes and places to sit down for a coffee or ice-cream. One was immediately opposite the Porta Nigra.

The Hauptmarkt, with the colourful facades of medieval, Baroque and Rokoko facades was great for browsing and smelling the stalls selling colourful fruit and flowers.

The banks of the Mosel River, where the famous Roman bridge and the cranes were was also great for wandering around and killing time. On a hot summer day, the river was a refreshing sight and it was somewhat cooler there.

But the Palastgarten, a carefully sculpted park in front of the Palace of Trier, was my favourite hangout. It had benches, a large fountain and a number of very interesting sculptures. My favourite was two children, one playing a trumpet and the other covering his ears.

Trier travelogue picture
There it was. A restaurant near the Constantine's Throne Hall with tables outside was serving incredible potato dishes. I could feel the smell of freshly baked potatoes, bacon, sausage and steak penetrating my nostrils. I was a vegetarian then, so the potatoes looked extremely yummy to me. I looked inside the menu and then I saw the steaks. I had mixed feelings about them. But then a couple sitting at the table and drinking wheat beer from large, tall glasses had their steaks delivered. This sight made me abandon my vegetarian beliefs. I claimed a table with a nice view and breeze, order my steak and began feeling guilty a little. Not for long. As soon as I sank my teeth into my juicy, giant, full flavour piece of lomo, I was in heaven. It has been a while, but I cannot forget about this piece of meat, which converted me back to a regular beefeater. And I have not regretted that yet. It was one of the best steaks I had had anywhere in Europe to date.

Other recommendations:
St. Gangolf church
St. Gangolf church
Trier has a train station with connections to cities across Germany and beyond. The nearest significant cities on the rail line are Saarbrücken, Cologne and Luxemburg City.

There is no airport in Trier, but there are a few airports nearby. Some larger than others. Luxemburg is the closest (about 45 minutes by car) but it has not too many connections. The Frankfurt-Hahn recently well connected by Ryanair, low fares airline, and Saarbrücken are slightly farther. But only slightly.

If you get bored with seeing Trier (if that's at all possible), you can jump on an hourly train to Luxembourg City. That takes about 45 minutes, and the scenery changes dramatically. Luxembourg claims to have the most dramatic and spectacular location of all European capitals. Its massive fortifications used to be the largest in Europe and are listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

Trier can be mistaken for Trieste in north-eastern Italy, which had also been in the Roman Empire.

Published on Friday November 21th, 2008

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Sun, Dec 07 2008 - 10:14 AM rating by rangutan

Interesting, I should see this city too, it's not far from me at all, München > Trieste 504 km

Mon, Nov 24 2008 - 06:04 PM rating by jorgesanchez

a report with a lot of history

Sun, Nov 23 2008 - 08:00 PM rating by robynallen

Loads of information to digest. Great picutres.

Sat, Nov 22 2008 - 06:56 AM rating by pesu

Hi beefeater, thanks for your gallop through European history and the pleasant description of Trier today.

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