Home -> Europe -> Germany -> Travelogue Germany -> 07 February 2003
Friday 07 February, Groningen - Trier, a walk through the city
We have been invited for this weekend to Trier by Jennifer (our youngest daughter) and her friend, and everyone who has been on this website before, knows we can't resist such an invitation. After avoiding the traffic jams near the Ruhr area we arrive around 3 o'clock at Trier. The route description is not very clear so we drive through the city a bit before we find our hotel; it turns out to be very easily located on the banks of the river Mosel, near a bridge.
The hotel, Hotel zr Römerbrcke, lies next to this Roman Bridge. On this place a Roman settlement was founded in 16 BC. with a city charter. It was build on the place where there used to be a fortress of the Celtic Treveri tribe. Because it was build during the reign of the emperor August and its location was in a Treveri region, it was named Augusta Treverorum, later shortened to Treveri from which the name Trier eventually evolved.We seem to be the only guests at the hotel, but the receptionist says that is absolutely not true. But we don't see anybody else in the next few days. Althoug Elisabeth thinks for a moment to see another lady the next day, but we will tell you there.
After having picked our rooms (with view on the river, € 4 per person extra, per night, but for free after nagging a bit), we quickly go into town, so we can still see something of it by daylight.
Trier is the oldest city of Germany. Confronted with the threat of the nearby Germanic tribes, the Romans build a citywall around it with 5 entrance gates, in 180 AD. The Römerbrcke dates back to Roman times, as other buildings like the amphitheatre and the Porta Nigra. After the destruction of the city by the tribe of the Alamani's in 275, the city was rebuild and became in 293 AD. one of the most important cities of the Western Roman Empire, a well as York and Milan.
About 110,000 people live in Trier nowadays, but even in the 4th century it had already a population of almost 70,000. Trier is now a mixture of modern and old, but almost nowhere in Western-Europe (except for Italy) are so many authentic Roman buildings preserved in one city as here.
The town centre is not very large and we enjoy walking through it, although the weather is a bit gloomy. The atmosphere is comparable with Groningen (where we come from): it is a city, but clearly a small country town, without any big ambitions. That was surely different in Roman times!
Under Constantine the Great (306-316), Trier became an early center for the spread of Christianity north of the Alps. In 330 the building of the Cathedral (Dom) was started (on top of a former Constantinian Palace). After the Germanic tribal migrations and the destruction of the town, Trier (then Treveris) degenerated into a insignificant town with only a few thousand inhabitants. `Charles the Great promoted in 802 the bishop of the town to Archbishop and Trier started to grow again and get more prestige. But, like in many other places, the Vikings knew exactly how to spoil things and they destroyed the city in 882. The city was rebuild, but never recovered to its former splendour, like in the Roman days.
Although the cathedral still looks very impressive, it was once four times bigger than now and for some time even the largest cathedral of the christian world. Not much has been preserved from Roman times, though; most was destroyed by the Franks and the Vikings in the 5th and 9th century. One doesn't have to have a connection with religion to admire such an impressive monument, filled with almost tangible history. It is only a pity it is always the history of the powerful and the rich.
From the Römerbrcke we have now walked through the whole inner city and at the other site we find the Porta Nigra, the black gate from the 2nd century which is almost completely preserved. This entrance gate was part of the defences of the Romans against the Germanic tribes and must have been fearsome with its height of 30 meters. The denomination 'black gate' comes from the Middle Ages when the colour of the sandstone already couldn't be seen anymore because of air polution.
When we enter the streets again after having as drink, the street lamps have been lighted already. The sun sets at half past five (what sun?) and when we return to the hotel it is dark.We have a half board reservation, but dinner is in another hotel. Hall after hall we are being guided by the staff and they don't know exactly what to do with us. After some explanation and questions from both sides and after seeing different menus we can finally order a meal. We know we have to pay for the drinks but a signature under the bill seems to be enough. Back in the quiet hotel (so where are those other guests?) we have a drink together and make our plans for tomorrow.