Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Roman holiday in Germany

Those Romans got around didn't they?

They moved through Europe like the Kardashians move through men, leaving small reminders that they were once there.

Though in the German city of Trier, just over the border from Luxembourg, there's more than just a few signs that the Romans were once here.

Trier's Old Town
Trier, on the banks of the Moselle River
Forget the occasional ancient foundation or artefact, Trier is brimming with some more impressive signs of Roman times.
Roman bridge over the Moselle River

I've stepped off the train a little a more than five minutes and searching for my hotel before I hit one of Trier's most impressive sites, the Roman city gate called Porta Nigra.

Named so in the Middle Ages because of its dark stone, it's a three-level structure that looks like it should be standing in Florence rather than in Germany.

Porta Nigra by day
Porta Nigra by night
It's the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps and in Roman times was one of four gates that stood on each side of the rectangular Roman city.

View into the old town from Porta Nigra
It's remarkably well preserved given it dates from about 200AD and I'm also surprised to learn I can roam through it.   Not just to be admired from afar, I work my way up to its upper levels where I am treated to a great view into Trier's old town from the many arches.

View down the middle of Porta Nigra
With the autumn afternoon sun beaming in I could easily sit here all day, but my hunt for the city's other Roman treasurers keeps me moving.

The archways of Porta Nigra

Sitting on the banks of the Moselle River, Trier is often touted as the oldest in Germany.  It's surrounded by vine-covered hills and the temptation to stop and savour some of the local wines (all in the name of research mind you) is never too far away.  But I press on.

Trier Cathedral
The vine-covered hills around Trier

My next stop is the Roman Amphitheatre on the outskirts of the old town.  It dates back to about 100AD and was used for gladiator fights and animal contests.

Trier's Roman Amphitheatre
Today, it's just me and an American couple trying to enthuse their two children about their amphitheatre visit by talking loudly about the movie Gladiator and Russell Crowe.

The Amphitheatre's entrance

What's most impressive here is that you can go under the arena to explore the caverns where animals were kept before being hoisted onto the stage.  I escape the loud and whiny American children by stepping down into the dark, damp and gloomy labyrinth.   I'm temporarily transported me back in time... until the American family join me.

Under the amphitheatre

I linger a little longer to see if a stray descendant of one of the amphitheatre's wild animals might like to make sport of the children.  Sadly, no.

To purge my mind of these nasty thoughts, I make my way to the Roman thermal baths.  It's amazing the Romans managed to conquer so much of Europe given they seemed to spend so much time in the bath.

Roman thermal baths

Trier's Roman thermal bath complex is the largest outside of Rome and is testament that you can be all conquering and clean at the same time.

All that remains of this Constantine statue is his giant foot

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