We’re back in Germany, in a small town in Southeastern Germany called Landstuhl. That means back into history, real history. Our morning drive was just over an hour to our first stop: Trier, a city near the border of Luxembourg and the oldest city in Germany – founded in 16 B.C. It’s still hard to wrap my brain around buildings and structures that have stood for so many centuries.
Porta Nigra (the Black Gate) was built in about 180 A.D. when Trier walled in the city and it is the oldest defensive structure in Germany. The Porta Nigra was one of four gates in Trier, but the only one to survive through the multiple wars over the centuries. We would not be able to admire the works of the ancient Romans had this remaining section not been spared by it’s use as a residence by a hermit monk named Simeon for seven years (1028-1035) during a period when other buildings were being pillaged for their iron and stone.
Most European cities were built with a large square or city center for commerce, entertainment, socializing, even punishment. The Hauptmarkt is a square that has served as Trier’s main marketplace since medieval times. On this Saturday, market day, it was bustling with tourists and locals alike. Lined with department stores, cafes, coffee shops, ice cream shops, flower and vegetable stands… the Hauptmarkt is almost sensory overload.
Trier is also the site of ruins of three Roman Baths, centers not only for bathing but also for socializing (in their day). These ancient facilities have stood for over 2,000 years, and among them are the largest Roman baths north of the Alps.
We deduced that few American tourists visit Trier, or the city has decided not to cater to those who do. No menus or signs in English, and we encountered few people in this city of about 105,000 who speak it (or care to speak it to us!). And yet, as we walked across the square in front of the 11th century St. Peters Cathedral we hummed along as a high school band played “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Strange dichotomy.