Germany’s oldest city
We were originally supposed to visit Trier (our friend Flo’s hometown) back in November so that we could take the kids to see the Christmas markets there. However, rising Covid cases and changes in Germany’s protective measures kept us from making the trip and staying with Flo’s mom and stepfather, Wolfgang, who we’ve known for many years. Once the cities reopened and travel restrictions eased, we all compared agendas and settled on a visit in late June. All along, the plan was to bring our boys, but in the week leading up to this trip, the kids became aware of summer and birthday parties taking place and begged us to let them stay in Maastricht. Lucky for us, a wonderful babysitter (who is returning to Italy this month) and awesome friends pitched in to make sure the boys were looked after and able to attend all their social things. We certainly missed them, but we were also excited to get to revisit Trier without worrying about how long we could spend walking around the city center before a meltdown began 😉
We left Maastricht around 4:45 on Friday, as Trier is normally a 2 hour trip from Maastricht. Traffic jams and a pretty slow German border checkpoint due to the G7 summit taking place in Munich delayed us a little bit, but we were still able to arrive in Trier a little after 7:30. Christiane and Wolfgang live in a beautiful home up the hill from a vineyard, overlooking the city center of Trier. Christiane has lived in Trier since 1970 and Flo grew up in this city. Trier is incredibly old, and was once the Western provincial capital of the Roman empire. Despite some damage from WWII, the city maintained much of its character and old charm, as well as an incredible amount of Roman ruins.
Since we arrived in the evening, we saved the site seeing for the next day and made our way to dinner with Christiane at Biergarden Blesius. Wolfgang was away on a business trip so were weren’t able to see him this time. Not only a beer garden, Blesius is also a hotel, restaurant, and brewery with a really nice outside atmosphere and menu. This particular night the venue was quite crowded and it was clear the restaurant was suffering from the same thing as service industries in most places around the world – limited staff. That said, we enjoyed the company and the food and the longer wait did not hamper our evening. On the drive up the hill back to Christiane’s house, we stopped at a lookout over the city. Apparently this is also a common “make out” spot for youngsters and we had a good laugh trying to teach Christiane (who is fluent in English) that term.
We ended the evening with a bottle of wine and great discussion before calling it a night.
Saturday morning we planned a leisurely start. We had a European breakfast in the garden that culminated with a champagne toast before we “kids” headed out for a stroll.
Melissa walked us through a gorgeous multi-use trail alongside some of the vineyards, to the Luxembourg tower that supposedly looks toward Luxembourg when you climb to the lookout. We had a perfect morning for it.
We walked the long way home around a restaurant, park and playground, back by some of the vineyards and all piled in the car for a trip to the Trier city center. Trier is known for Roman ruins, large and old basilica and cathedrals, and also for being the birth place of Karl Marx. The center is wonderfully pedestrian-only so we parked just outside and made our way to the basilica and gardens there. Unfortunately there was a ceremony taking place in the basilica (Constantine’s throne hall) and we weren’t able to enter – only admire it and its longevity from the outside. Just beside it is a newer (but still pretty old) palatial building that was called the Electoral Palace. It is decorated in a Rococco style with lots of gold filigree and stands in stark contrast to the red brick basilica beside it. (You can thank Josh for these architectural notes).
From there we walked more into the center and found our way to the Dom Trier and Liebfrauenkirche, two side by side cathedrals. The Dom Trier is officially called Trier Saint Peter’s Cathedral but it is usually referred to by its shorter name. Here it is believed to house a tunic that Jesus wore during or shortly before his crucifixion. Occasionally this relic is brought out for viewing and people make a pilgrimage from around the world to see it. While we were there, it was behind a glass door and in a large box. The church is really ornate in its decor and interesting to check out, even if you aren’t religious.
Leaving here we walked towards the famous Porta Nigra (black gate), built in the 2nd century by the Romans. Before we got there, though, we stopped for ice cream. Flo was specifically interested in “Spaghetti Ice” that seems to be particularly German. This ice cream shop had a large variety of ice cream dishes, but I went with the “spaghetti ice” that Flo recommended. Essentially, ice cream is pushed through a tool similar to a pasta maker or garlic press, which squeezes out small skinny tubes of the ice cream and it is put around whipped cream that partially freezes under the ice cream. It is topped with a strawberry sauce and crushed almonds (apparently could also be crushed white chocolate in some places), so it looks like pasta with red sauce and parmesan cheese! Kids grow up eating this, and I guess some never outgrow the love for it. I enjoyed it, and would eat it again, but I think a dame blanche is still my favorite.
After our treat we got a closer look at the Porta Nigra, appreciating its age and ability to still be standing after all the city has been through over the years. It was built of sandstone and had an original name that was not preserved because it became known as the “black gate” due to the darker color of the stone. I think now it is darker due to the algae growth on it over time, but it must’ve been darker before, well before the Middle Ages as even then it was known as the Black Gate. This is one of 4 gates to Trier built by the Romans and the only one to survive – though even this gate went through some reconstruction and destruction over the years. In fact, it was turned into a church for some period of time.
We wound our way back through the center. Admiring some of the architecture and festive weekend atmosphere. On our indirect way back to our car, we stopped by a museum, The Thermen em Viehmarkt museum, showcasing more Roman bath ruins that were discovered during excavations in the late 1980’s. This small museum allows you to go below street level and walk among some of these ruins that have been around and then built over in subsequent time periods. There are ruins and artifacts from medieval times and also from a monastery. You don’t need much time to explore this – maybe half an hour but it’s pretty well done with video exhibits, maps/drawings, and simulations.
We took a short break back at Christiane’s house and then walked 30 minutes to our wine tasting at Weingut Deutschherrenhof. Here they offer wine tastings as well as dinner in their nice garden area. You’ll find mostly white wines, but with climate change, other varieties, including reds, are becoming possible. Sebastian is the current owner and this winery has been in his family for many generations. Currently there are four generations living in the main family home on the property. This place was also incredibly busy – I think 10 wine tastings were going on along with others there just for dinner. Once again, we were happy and relaxed to be in good company, eating good food, and in no real rush.
We taxied home and ended our evening at the house with more wine from Wolfgang’s collection. Josh was like a kid in a candy store perusing the various bottles. Sunday morning we enjoyed breakfast again with Christiane and then made our way home, first stopping to see some other Maastricht friends who were also in Trier for the weekend.
There is a coziness to Trier that I attribute mostly to Christiane’s hospitality and Flo’s familiarity of the city. While we enjoyed having a kid free weekend, I hope to take them there in the near future and show them what they missed.