Our Barge, Odysseus

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Trier Sunday, Aug. 15

We were not going to visit Trier; it was further down the Mosel, we were turning off at Konz to head up the Saar River and there is no city marina; the closest tieup is several kilometers outside of town. When we were in Schwebsange, however, we met an Irish couple, Mike and Rosaleen Miller from "Aquarelle" (Just back down the Danube River from Serbia and Hungary with their boat. They let us try some of the distilled spirits they brought back in unlabeled bottles. That's another story!). They told us that there was a train station a five minute walk from the Konz marina and it was a 15 minute train ride to Trier. They said we shouldn't mss it. We're very glad we took their advice.
Off in the pouring rain we went. Usually I just toss off the fact that the weather prevented many pictures but with Trier I really am sorry. It's a remarkable place and I was only able to get a couple snapshots.
Trier was founded by the Romans in about 16 BC as Augusta Treverorum. By the 2nd century it was the capital of the Roman's Belgian provinces. It was the capital of the Gallic Empire in the 3rd century and Constantine the Great made it his residence in the 4th century. At that time it was the second largest city in the western Roman Empire, after Rome itself. It's had it's ups and downs since then, losing major populations to war and famine, then rising again. Somehow I just never thought of Romans strolling the streets of Germany but the evidence is right under your feet or before your eyes.
About a ten minute walk from the train station is the Porta Nigra, the old Roman gate so named because age has blackened its stones.

Right behind is the Stadtmuseum Simeonstift that houses about two thousand years of artifacts from the town.
A little bit further into town is the The Haupmarkt.

Of course Trier has several huge churches and old palaces and the remains of some large Roman baths, one found accidentally in the 1980's during excavations for a parking garage. There's also the ancient amphitheater that could seat 20,000 people, watching gladiator contests or animal fights held for the Roman Emperor.
One amazing building is Constantine the Great's throne room. It's not that impressive from the outside, except for it's sheer size. It has none of the gothic embellishments like towers or flying buttresses and no windows on the sides, but you walk inside to one giant chamber about 220 feet long and 130 feet tall. The hall was used by the emperor for state events and since the Romans were used to a more Mediterranean climate and winters in Germany can be quite cold, they were faced with the task of heating this gigantic building. They created a basement; the ground floor of the hall is held up with stone pillars. Giant fires could be lit in three separate chambers, warming the floors. Once they had the building warm, they used about 2 cords of wood a day just to maintain a reasonable temperature.
Over the centuries the building has been much modified, parts of it torn down then rebuilt in a different configurations, but in the 1800's it was decided to rebuild the hall in its original shape to be used as a protestant church. Along with the new, major parts of the old structure remain. That's what we see today.
Sundays in Germany are even quieter than France. No shops are open, just restaurants. The only people on the streets were tourists carrying umbrellas and maps.
We caught the 3 pm train back to Konz, hustled back to the boat and prepared for the next leg of the trip. We would be turning up the Saar River, heading south for our return to France.

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