A cloudy day in Trier – Roman and medieval heritage

Sunday and our 13th day in Germany. For the first time after two weeks I hear rain splashing. Today is a good day to visit Trier with its museums and churches. We take the train from Schweich to Trier and arrive in the city center without having to look for a parking lot and pay for it… good idea, Ursula.

Trier has already been a Celtic settlement. Then it was the capital of the Roman Provinces of Gaul, called Trevorum. Already around 250 AD it had its first bishop. In the German Empire it became the seat of one of the migthy archbishops that elected the emperor (Erzbischof and Kurfürst).


Roman times in Trier: Porta Nigra, Roman baths and Nero

The Porta Nigra is this “black gate”.


Somehow it is like coming home for me – I have seen this gate with my mum, when I was 15 years old.

The gate has been built for representation, not for fighting, somewhat like a triumphal arch. I learn that the Porta Nigra only survived, because Saint Simeon decided to live in this gate. Later Napoleon prevented his troops from destroying the Porta Nigra.

The Kaiserthermen or Imperial Baths are being renovated.


When constructing a park house under the Viehmarkt in the late 80-ies, Roman baths and a medieval monastery were found. This is now an underground museum, covered by a glass cubus. The ruins are numbered and well explained on the museum map. These are the remains of the Roman swimming pool.


The underground ruins give an interesting contrast to the upperworld life on the Viehmarkt.



Currently three museums tell the story of Nero. We visit the historical analysis of his life in the Landesrheinisches Museum. Great exhibition. Nero has been adopted by emperor Claudius that had married his mother Agrippina. He now was the oldest son of the emperor and succeeded Claudius, when he was 16 (in 54 AD). Well educated by the philosopher Seneca, he was a good emperor for about five years, modernizing Rome and providing games to the people. They liked him. Then he more and more showed, what we remember him for: He killed his mother and his first two wives, he accused the Christians to have set fire to Rome – and killed many of them, and he devoted more and more time to carriage racing, writing poems, singing and acting. After having spent 16 months in Greece (somewhat like a sabbatical), the senate forced him to resign and he commited suicide. He was 31 years old then. Though the senate tried to erase him from the memories of history, he is one of the emperors that is best remembered today. The exhibition about Nero is well curated, even at times with injections of humour.


Medieval churches with Roman roots

The Liebfrauenkirche is one of the first gothic churches in Germany, built on the foundations of a Roman palace.


The cathedral, just next to it, has been built integrating Roman foundations from the 4th century.


Both the cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche share the cloister.


Not far from the complex of the cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche there is the old basilica of Constantine, built in 315 AD.


Inside it is a beautiful church – its simplicity invites to pray.



Strolling through the city center with medieval houses and more

The old city center of Trier is charming.


This is the tower house “Dreikönigenhaus”. The “real” old door is far above the ground and can only be reached with a ladder. (The door on ground level has been added later).


This is a beautiful house with MacDonalds inside… the “M” has been kept “modestly” small.


Old and new meet one another – such as this rokoko building next to a Kebab restaurant in a half-timbered house.


Karl Marx is a son of Trier. The house, in which he was born, is now a museum.


Not far from here we find this travel agency…


and this hairdresser that I may not consider for cutting my hair (“Kopfsalat” is German for butterhead lettuce. The literal translation would be “head salad”).


Klein Florenz (Small Florence) is also not far.


In my memories from 50 years ago, Trier was primarily a town with remains from Roman times. Now, I am impressed, how the Roman foundations have been kept and integrated later (such as in the cathedral or the Roman Baths at the Viehmarkt). I also liked, how well kept the medieval city is and lives today. And I have learnt that with Karl Marx being born here, Trier (in a way) was the origin of the socialist and communist movements.


The 11th century church of Maria Laach and the fairy tale castle Eltz

It is our 11th day. We say good-bye to Bacharach, and direct our car north to the Mosel valley. From the motorway lookout we see the meandering Mosel for the first time.


Then we continue farther north to the Eifel mountains and to Maria Laach.


Maria Laach – gorgeous church from the 11th century

Near the crater of a volcano filled with water (lake of Maria Laach), there is the Benedictine abbey Maria Laach that is still in use. The Romanesque church from the 11th century is attached to the monastery. The church is open for visitors, but the monastery is reserved for the monks.

This is the western fassade of the church with the entrance for visitors (photo taken by Ursula).


In the entry hall we find this interesting capital. Two boys are fighting. And to the right of them there is a devil writing down our sins and freeing us from them before entering the church.


Behind the capital with the fighters and the friendly devil, the paradise welcomes us with the lion fountain (from 1936, modeled after the Alhambra). “Paradise” is the name of this courtyard.


Through the paradise, we enter the church. The nave is decorated with a cob web of “clouds and leaves” that should connect earth and heaven. In the eastern choir (reserved to the clerical people), Pantocrator looks down on to us, like in a byzantine church. The altar is a Romanesque ciborium.


The western choir was reserved for the political powers. It has been decorated with stained windows from the 1950’s.


I also like these plain grey windows, one of them decorated with a pigeon.


There are frescos from around 1500, one of them being Christopherus – former Reprobus – who carried Christ across a river and felt, how heavy his burden was – as if he had to carry the whole world (photo taken by Ursula).


The underground crypt with the Romanesque columns is adorned with sunflowers and a cross.


We walk along the lake of Maria Laach and watch the ducks and crested creeps. This one does not get rid of the reed though trying and trying.



To the castle Eltz near the Mosel – a fairy tale castle

Christa, my cousin-in-law gave me the advise to visit the castle Eltz. “Hmm…”, says Ursula, “do you not know this castle? – In many guidebooks it is noted as a must-see”. I read that the castle Eltz has never been destroyed and now belongs to the 33th generation of the noble family Eltz. It was built around 1200 on top of a customs house taking tolls from merchants traveling along the Eltz. After a twenty minute walk from the parking we see the mighty fairy tale fortress appear at the last turn of our path.


This is Ursula’s photo of the Eltz castle with the “swinging” cloud pattern.


Inside, we have to buy a guided tour. In the courtyard we wait for our guide.


The guide shows us the rooms that are open to the public. There are weapons, the dining room, the sleeping room, the eating room, the children’s room, the hunting room (with hunting trophees from Alaska, even a bear stretched out on the floor), the knights’ room (the rose says “everything we say here, remains inside this room”) and the family picture gallery. The family Eltz became one of the most mighty noble dynasties in the German empire. One of them was Archbishop and Prince Elector of Mainz and one of them was Archbishop and Prince Elector of Trier. The family split into three branches and that is why there are three house complexes in this one castle. The guide has some good humour and tells us anecdotes such as: “The current duke of Eltz sold wood from his forests to a winemaker who was of the opinion that the wine tastes better in barrels made of oak from the Eltz forests. “Oh yes, sure, I fully agree, I have also noticed the difference”, the duke said to the winemaker. And then, after having closed the door and sold his wood, he laughed: “Hm, crazy guy, but it is okay, we sold our wood…””


Along the bends of the Mosel … do we now drive north or south… or east or west?

We have reserved our next hotel room in Schweich on the river Mosel, in the hotel Gerfen. From Eltz we drive down into the Mosel valley that meanders and meanders, with vineyards once on the right hand slopes, then again on the left hand slopes. After some time, I am confused… I find it impossible to keep track of whether we are driving north or south or east or west… now that the sun is hiding between a veil of clouds and gives no point of orientation.

In Schweich we are welcomed by the family Fuchs. The husband has cooked in Switzerland (in Grindelwald, in Zermatt and in Zürich), and now he runs this hotel with his wife, daughter and grand-da. We have venison meat cut into strips  – the husband has shot the deer in the vineyard called “Annaberg” – and recommends a Pinot Noir from the same vineyard “Annaberg”. Excellent.