“I have not told half of what I saw!”…Marco Polo
So there I was, in Trier – on a bright and sunny Saturday of September 2011.
As the saying goes, “All roads lead to Rome” – the road from the train station led me straight to the symbol of Roman Trier – the Porta Negra – which you can see on the top. It was made of sandstone and not always black but the hands of time have colored it so and thus the name. And of course, it is only a part of what one can imagine would have been a huge wall around the city.
The good thing that I noted the previous night was that there is a guided tour of the city in English on Saturdays. And I was just in time (having managed the delay in trains and what not on the route).
The tour started below the Porta Negra. There were four others beside me in that group – a couple from Luxembourg, one guy from somewhere close by whose grand-daughter was participating in a drawing competition at the market place, and one girl from Canada who was on some project in Luxembourg.
Our guide was a lady from Trier who took us from one part of the city to the other, giving the history, showing us pictures from a guide’s album and giving her opinions about what could be the reason behind certain things.
That weekend there were supposed to be some Roman style dressing and food festival. Our guide told us that she also would dress up later as – I guess – Calpurnia!
After Porta Negra, we started walking from through the market place which was very crowded that day as there were lots of things happening for the kids – competitions, stalls, games etc.
Our guide informed us that the city used to be a very important trading place in the medieval times. The building which you see on the left used to an office and a rest-house then. The traders who needed to pass through Trier were supposed to stay in the city for two-three days so that the people of Trier could buy what they liked. So the merchants stayed in this building during that period. Now it’s a bustling restaurant.
She also gave us the details of the fountain in the center of the marketplace,showed us one of the oldest apothecary in Germany besides many other minute details of the buildings.
On the way, she turned into a lane and there we were inside the Judengasse – the Jew street.
The history of Jews in Trier is as old as 1st or 2nd century. The records of this Jewish quarter are available since the 11th century. As with Worms, the Jews were expelled in the 15th century during the Black Plague. They were called back after 1600 AD but then after the Holocaust, very few Jews are now left in the city.
Now this street has lots of pubs! So much for history..
Walking further, a really huge cathedral greeted us. It is the Cathedral of Trier.
The best thing inside the church were the organ pipes – which have been arranged in the form of a Swallow’s nest. It’s really beautiful. I wonder how the music would be flowing out of that during the church services!
The guide left us there for a few minutes to explore the church from inside while she cooled herself in the shade. It was such a relief to get out of the sun! We went in and marvelled at the architecture and the motifs inside the church.
Once out of there, we moved towards a complete contrast – the Konstantin Basilica. It is a huge building which used to be the Roman throne room but now serves as a protestant church. In the days of the Romans there were lots of murals etc. inside it, but then after its destruction and reconstruction as a church, it just looks like a huge brick building – and the plainness fits with the protestant style.
You have to really stand there to admire the hugeness of the structure!
There is a mural on the floor depicting the Jordan sea and its fishes. Don’t know how old that would be.
Then came an English garden and a French garden – after which were the ruins of the great Roman Baths.
Now here we had to use our imagination. She showed us some pictures of what this place would have been like in those days.
The Romans used to have the Public baths – the precursors of the modern day spas.
Romans would come there for baths, massages, sauna etc. The slaves were supposed to work in the basement beneath the baths to pump in hot water and clean the drains etc.
Our guide took us below the structure to show the drainage and the water heating systems. It must have been really suffocating for those working there! But the whole setup is really impressive.
It was there that our tour ended. We bade farewell to each other. I went back to see some more of the cathedral and had an ice-cream! Then had some food at a restaurant at the corner of the Porta Negra and then hurried to the train station. A day well spent!
(Ah yes, someone was playing the accordion in the gardens and the music was mesmerizing. These kind of things cannot be explained but just become part of your memories. Something like what Hardy has written – here)