Trier was incredible. As Aaron said, “It will be like our Charleston while we are here.” It is a mix of historical buildings, fun events, good shopping and food, and best of all, just under an hour away.
The first thing that drew us to Trier was the multitude of Roman ruins. Founded in 4BC, it may be the oldest city in Germany. The Romans and Byzantines left many ruins there, from the Porta Nigra reconstructed by Napoleon to the Basilica of Constantine. The Porta Nigra was the first thing we saw when we walked out of the parking garage, and I suppressed (almost) all of the Lord of the Rings references that sprang to mind. The gate was colossal, and must have been even larger at the height of the Roman occupation of the area. The stone was dark and sooty-looking, meriting its name. It was truly the gate-way to our experience in Trier, and we walked beneath its massive opening to make our way toward the hauptmarkt (main market) and the buildings beyond.
The buildings that surround the main market -all half-timbered houses painted bright and pastel colors – were built in the 1600s, but the market cross and fountain date much further back from that. I felt as though we were passing back in time as we continued through the town, going from Renaissance through the Middle Ages to the Roman times.
The beautiful Trier Dom (cathedral) dominates the center city. Built on ruins from Constantine’s time, the current building dates from sometime after the 9th century. The inside was much more ornate than Maria Laach, reminding me more of Westminster Abbey in London. Gothic windows filled with stained glass poured light across the marble floors and carved wooden pews. Music was floating quietly through the building; whether it was a recording put on to quiet the otherwise chatty crowds of tourists, or the sounds of a distant group of monks practicing for mass I never could determine.
Besides being an impressive architectural structure, the dom also contained a treasury of articles of immense antiquity and value, including the drinking vessel of St. Helena (Constantine’s Christian mother) and a nail supposedly used to crucify Christ.
After touring the dom, Aaron and I walked across the street to Zum Domstein, a restaurant specializing in Roman recipes from 30AD! We both tried the pork and fig dish, and I also had the Roman “mulsum” cocktail: honeyed wine and herbs. They were definitely different from what we were used to culinarily, but we enjoyed the restaurant and the food immensely.
After lunch, a walk through a street or two of shops brought us to the Basilica of Constantine. The massive brick building was impressive, and I longed to go inside. The building was locked however, so we contented ourselves to listening for a few minutes to the organ music we could vaguely hear playing inside.
A walk around to the other side of the building brought us to the Baroque palace built alongside one of the Basilica walls, and the combination building -Roman and Baroque – served as such a perfect image of Trier as a whole that I had to stop and snap a picture.
We spent a few hours in the nearby museum, which once again reinforced our desire to learn German. Aaron Sanders in a museum where he cannot read about the displays is truly a sad thing! We had coffee and cake in the little cafe attached to the museum, and discussed the merits of modern architecture while the sun slanted down through the large glass windows.
We walked back to our car, stopping into a few antiquaries and home-goods shops on the way.
In the few hours we spent there, Trier already began to feel comfortable and homelike. “You know,” Aaron said as we walked along the stone streets. “There is still one thing that Trier doesn’t have that Charleston does.” I nodded, knowing already what he was going to say. “The sea.”
So it is. Trier was wonderful, Germany is incredible. But some part of my heart still remains in the States. We enjoy our time here knowing it is just a brief time in the span of our lives, but I look forward to the day when we can walk not along the stone streets of Trier, but the cobbled roads of our own beloved Charleston once again.