Jared and I are both big history enthusiasts (Jared even liked it so much he got a degree in it), and we both have our areas of preference. I tend to gravitate towards World War I and World War II with a dash of Tudors and Golden Age. Jared, however, is all about Alexander the Great and ancient Roman history. And this is how Jared ended up geeking out in Trier.
Trier is the oldest city in Germany – founded in 15 or 16 B.C. by Augustus – and it is nicknamed the “Second Rome” which we discovered is extremely fitting. This city is flush with Roman ruins – some dating as far back as the 1st or 2nd century (UNESCO World Heritage sites) including the Porta Nigra, Dom St. Peter, Constantine Basilica, Roman bath ruins, and Roman amphitheater. We made sure to hit them all.
Our introduction to the city started with the Porta Nigra (black gate). The Porta Nigra is the one gate remaining of the original four and it survived only because St. Simeon turned it into a church in the 10th century, and then later it became a monastery.
We strolled up the Simeonstrasse towards the main market square (Hauptmarkt). The clock on the Church of St. Gangolf may be my favorite: the bells have run nightly at 10:00PM since the medieval ages to remind the drunks to go home. When the bells broke down a few years ago, the mayor received a flood of calls from concerned locals.
Just off the Hauptmarkt is the Dom St. Peter, which is the oldest Christian church in Germany. In honor of the 20th anniversary of his reign, Constantine started construction of two churches: St. Peter’s in Rome and Dom St. Peter in Trier.
After the Dom St. Peter we wandered over to the Constantine Basilica. Originally used as Constantine’s throne room, this basilica is the largest intact Roman structure outside of Rome. Remember the Porta Nigra? That whole building can fit easily inside the basilica. During WWII, the Basilica went up in flames after being hit during the bombings. Since the Trier Protestant congregation chose not to join the anti-Nazi Confessing Church, the congregation apparently perceived the catastrophe as a judgment.
With the sun now shining we headed over to the Roman Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen). These were meant to be the largest of Constantine’s three Roman baths; however, after Constantine left Trier the construction stopped and the baths were never finished. Now it’s about a mile of underground tunnels that you can wander through and imagine what the baths would have been like.
A brief statue stop and some words of advice passed on the way to our last stop of the day. Don’t let the smile fool you – I hate feet I think more than anything, even large sculptured ones.
The amphitheater was built around A.D. 200 and seated 16,000 people. Trier’s amphitheater was mostly used for assemblies and religious festivals instead of the gladiator battles found in the Roman amphitheaters. You can head down below to see where they used to store the props used in their festivities. Notice the grape vines trailing up that steep hill behind the amphitheater. The prospect of walking up that large hill was too much for our tired feet, even with the promise of a glass of wine at the end of the road. A cold beer back in city center would just have to do.