The Porta Nigra, of Roman origins, dominates the down of Trier.

The Porta Nigra, of Roman origins, dominates the downtown of Trier.

This morning we are still docked in Trier and Gerry and I opted not to take the guided walk ­­­­through town, but to go on our own. The weather is drizzly again, but not continuously. From the boat we wandered through bars and eating places right along the water. They must have been lively the night before, (Saturday night) but this morning every place is shuttered and quiet. Walking into town takes about 10 minutes, and we see almost no one. It is a wonderful way to take pictures of the town. The buildings of the town are varied and fascinating – everything from half-timbered to plaster details. Our first “sight” is the Dreikonigenhaus, a strange looking Italianate façade with a coffee shop below, that looks a little like a McDonalds. But the Porta Nigra (the Roman, 4th century “Black Gate”) dominates the scene, a massive black structure that once defended the town.

The

The “Three Kings House”. Don’t you agree that the lowest level looks strange?

Trier was the capital of the Roman Empire’s northern provinces well into the fourth century and the town also has Roman baths and an amphitheater in various degrees of excavation and renovation. Generally we found the baths to be in very poor condition, but evidenced by the amount of scaffolding on everything, also undergoing restoration currently. Returning from the Porta Nigra to the Haupmarkt (the main square) we also visited the Dom (the cathedral) managing to get there before visiting was cut off for mass. The exterior is an art history lesson in architectural styles –and not in a particularly harmonious way, but certainly suitable for comparing styles through the ages.

Ruins - the Baths (I tried really hard not to get scaffolding in the pictures - that may be why they aren't all that interesting.

Ruins – the Baths (I tried really hard not to get scaffolding in the pictures – that may be why they aren’t all that interesting.)

One aspect of the cathedral I had never seen before (or at least I don’t remember having seen) is a façade that looks like the back of a church- with the semicircular form of an apse – coming out of the front. The doors were inconspicuous, set to either side, enhancing the feeling that you were looking at the back, rather than the front.

Inside the cathedral is another art history lesson, this time in decorative objects.. There are so many beautiful things – the organ and the baptismal font stood out for me.

We, nor anyone else for that matter, got to see the most precious relic of the Trier cathedral, Christ’s robe. Though there are no claims that it is authentic, the story has it that Constantine’s mother, Helena, brought the robe to Trier in the 4th century. Its existence there is documented only from the 12th century. It is kept in a protective wooden case inside a glass case and supposedly is so deteriorated from repeated attempts to restore it and poor storage conditions over the ages, that not even for the pilgrimages do they open the cases to display it.

Attached to the cathedral are a cloister and another church, the Church of Our Lady, both unfortunately closed. We wandered from here through the ecclesiastical buildings until we found the Basilika – built over a 4th century foundation of Constantine’s palace. From there we wandered through a delightful park flanked on one end by a Renaissance palace (the Palace of the Electors), finally ending up at the baths, which I mentioned earlier. One further note about the baths – they were never completed and so never functioned as baths. After Constantine died, the subsequent emperor re-purposed the building into an elaborate palace. All is in ruins now.

I have so many pictures from Trier to show you that I have put them in a slideshow:

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The town is beginning to wake up and busloads of tourists are also wandering around with their guides, signaling that we, too, must try to find the Viking buses as that is our transportation back to our ship. While we were out walking the ship has moved down river to a new port. On the way back, through the entire length of the historic center to the Porta Nigra, we took a small detour to find the birthplace of Karl Marx and a museum dedicated to him.

We had lunch on the boat, and napped while it cruised to our next stop, Bernkastel. Again, Gerry and opted for a walk in the town on our own. It is a wonderful little town, filled with half-timbered houses, tiny squares and little shops. We found the famous “Pointed House”, a painfully narrow, tall half-timbered house, free-standing among larger buildings on all sides. I would have enjoyed walking up to see the castle ruins, but still managed to get some interesting pictures from below.

Here’s another slideshow of Bernkastel:

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Cocktail hour, dinner and after-dinner on the boat are fun times we spend with our traveling companions. Everyone seems to get along well, and we are making memories!

Now, here’s a little treat!  There are wild swans here and we have seen them at every stop.  And, a first for me, swan eggs in a nest. Enjoy!

Keep reading: Next Day Five

Look how many in this shot!

Look how many in this shot!

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