Thursday, June 5, 2014

Trier: Germany's oldest city

Wednesday 4 June
I leave Enschede station promptly at 8:56am and speed towards Germany. As I cross the border, the colors of the countryside flying past me stay the same. The green fields, brown brick houses with burnt orange tile roofs continue to entertain me through the window even as the trains change from yellow and blue to red and white and the language of the people around me switches to German. When it all goes smoothly, train travel is my favorite. 

After 9 years, Corrie got a new car. She's very proud :)

Snack time. Love those stroopwafles. 

Since I'm traveling to Trier, which is a slightly smaller town, my train trip is fractured into four stops and train changes. Each transition gives me great anxiety until I sit down on the next train chugging towards my next destination. Just my luck, each train is arriving late, which means I have to run frantically, backpack bouncing ridiculously, through the station. At one point, with heaving breath acknowledging that maybe should have worked out before this trip, I plop onto the seat right as the train leaves the station. 

Note: No matter how frantically you're running onto a train, always make sure it's the correct train. Perhaps, since all the trains are running late, you are, in fact, jumping on the wrong train even if it's the correct platform and scheduled time. 

Two hours later I'm on a new train, this time definitely (I think) going in the right direction. Just when I think "ug this sucks I'm really tired" the train turns a bend and I see the Moselle River snaking through mountains with vineyards clinging to the rocky cliffs. Brightly colored houses and villages with grand churches in the center break up the vineyards and I can't look away. Sadly it was raining by this point so none of my pictures turned out -_- Use your imagination that these are great pictures. 

Okay they suck. I'm sorry! Pictures through a train window are harder to take than you'd think. 

I arrive in Trier 3 hours later than expected. No matter, I walk to my new friend Sabine's. We haven't met yet, but I'm sleeping at her flat for the next two nights. Thanks CouchSurfing.  When I get there her roommate lets me in and shows me 'my' room. There is a bed laid out with a note and a map that has sticky notes of places I should visit. The note says "I will meet you in the city center at 18h to show you around!" I look at my watch and see that I'm 30 minutes late. Ug. She also left her bike for me so I hop on, and bike to the Porta Nigra where she is waiting for me. It was built by the Romans and was one of four protecting the city. Sabine tells me it was converted into a church, then Napoleon switched it back "because he decided he didn't like churches". 

It was kinda rainy. 

Next we walk into Hauptmarkt, the city centre, and pass one of the first houses made of stone. Apparently the owner was paranoid that someone would steal from him, so he made the door to his house on the second floor and would just yell for a servant to put up the ladder whenever he wanted to leave or get in. 

At this point it starts raining hard so we go into a restaurant for a drink. We happened to enter a Mexican restaurant where the servers wore ponchos. It was hilarious. I had a margarita, it seemed fitting. Her friend joins us, then we leave to go to a new place which is a former wine cellar. I'm told I have to have viez, which is an apple wine, because Trier is known for it. Laughingly they admit neither of them know why because there aren't any apple orchards around. It's normally served with fanta or coke, but I have it with sparkling water. Eventually we realize we have to face the rain and get back. I'm so tired from my day that I instantly fall asleep to the sound of several Germans drinking and laughing in the kitchen. 

Thursday 5 June
My alarm goes off at 9, but I can't seem to drag myself out of bed until 10. I slept like a rock. I go into the kitchen and see that Sabine has left her bus pass for me, and a note that says she will meet me in the center at noon. The note is on top of a plate with a cup with juice, bread and cheese all sitting out for me to use. Ridiculously nice. The only thing I'm missing is coffee. I need it ASAP. I get dressed and walk to the bus stop. It's a quick ride to the city center. 

I have to pass under the Porta Nigra again, and take some photos without the rain. 

From the middle of the gate 

In the daylight, the colors of the buildings in the square and wonderfully bright and cheerful. I wander the square for a bit looking for a café with wifi but none seem to have it which is disheartening. I have to make a choice, which is more important: coffee or wifi. Coffee wins. I settle for a café in eyeshot of the pillar I'm meeting Sabine at. 

I finish my coffee at 11:59 and sit down at the pillar to wait. I'm slightly worried because I'm not positive this is the correct spot. After 20 minutes I decide I need to find wifi so that I can text her to make sure. I can't find it anywhere so I go back to check again and she's waiting for me. She was doing an interview for school and it took longer than expected. 

She takes me to see St Peters Cathedral aka Dom, one of the two churches in the square. Apparently it was originally built by Augustus' mother Helena and she was very pious. She donated her house to be converted into a church after her death. She allegedly went to Israel on a pilgrimage and came back with a robe worn by Jesus. Sabine says that on days it's available for viewing the church is full of people from all over who pray and weep over the cloth. 

Next we go into the courtyard for the monastery also attached to the church. 

Then into the church connected to it, the Church of Our Lady. Lots of churches. 

We walk to the Basilica made during Roman times to welcome guests into the emperors home which is now a Lutheran church.  

Some Duke decided to use the wall of the Basilica to aid in the construction of his own home. I love the contrast of architecture. 

The Dukes gardens. 

Trier was incredibly important during Roman times since it was located more ideally than Rome for sending troops out into France and Great Britain to expand the empire. That said there were way more ruins than I was expecting to see in a German city. 

I'm struck by this when Sabine takes me to Kaiserthermen, the Imperial Roman Baths. She has to go to school so I'm on my own for the rest of the day. 

The tunnels under the Imperial Baths - timer pic!

They were incredibly big with lots of different paths going everywhere. I kinda thought I'd get lost and die in the damp cold cellars, but then realized I was just being melodramatic. 

Next on my sightseeing to-do list is the Amphitheater which was a bit of a walk. I'll admit, I was getting kinda sweaty. 

The view from the top of the Amphitheater, vineyards everywhere. 

From here I walk over towards the oldest bridge and see more of the old walls that used to surround the city. 

The view from the bridge. 

I make my way back into the city center and pass Karl Marx's house...

... And end up back in Hauptmarkt. 

Time for another coffee... And some wifi. 

By 7pm I head back to the flat, Sabine and her roommates are having people over for a burger night. We eat burgers and drink beer and hang out. I'm mostly oblivious to the conversation around me, but I know as soon as the cards and jäger come out I probably need to go to bed. Also I spend the next several hours trying to arrange my trip to Zurich tomorrow morning to meet mom. The trip ends up going very smoothly, which is not what I expected since trip arranging it was a huge hassle, but that's another blog. 

I had a lovely time in Trier and wish I could have stayed longer, but now on to Zurich :)

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