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Trier: the days of wine and Romans [Mar. 3rd, 2018|11:47 am]
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They are not long, though you'd never guess that from how long this post has been in the writing. In fact, not counting the evening of our arrival, which was Easter Monday (and yes, my birthday), we had two days to explore Trier, and one of them was earmarked for the museum.

The plan for Tuesday, say my notes, was "two Roman monuments (plus the Porta Nigra) and a wine path". We set off through the morning square, bustling with stalls doing good business ("it's not about Easter, it's about the asparagus"):

Asparagus season

Our first destination was the Kaiserthermen, the Imperial Baths. It's a huge complex, remodelled more than once, much harder to envisage in use than the familiar military bathhouses of the northern frontier. There are surviving walls standing high, but more impressive still, there are service tunnels, an underground labyrinth running under the whole site:

Underground passage

When we'd had our fill of these wonders, there was a major road to be negotiated. Luckily, there's a series of underpasses, enlivened by a very comprehensive coverage of murals. Here's a tribute to Charlie Hebdo:

Je suis Charlie

This may seem incongruous, but that road must have been there since it was one of the main arteries of the Roman town, naturally it runs between the important buildings. We followed it past the amphitheatre, because our guide book promised us a footpath through the vines to the 'wine merchants' quarter'. So we scrambled up the hillside to a metalled path, with plenty of boards explaining at some length, with much technical detail, in German, what was happening, or would be happening later in the year. For the time being, the vines weren't doing much, but the dandelions were flourishing:

Dandelions and vines

The village below looked very inviting, nestled into the curve of the valley:


So we abandoned the educational route, and found a path down into the village. We completely failed to find the alleged centre with its alleged café with possibility of wine-tasting. But there was a hotel / bar, and a late lunch (asparagus salad, I think), and then a very pleasant walk back along the valley bottom, through the Kleingärtnerverein, which turned out to be allotments, but more interested in flowers (and well-appointed sheds), less interested in growing for the kitchen than their English equivalent. This was the valley of the Altbach, and a very overgrown noticeboard indicated that there had been some sort of temple here - but it was only the next day, at the museum, that I got some idea of quite how major it must have been. And this very pleasant and easy path disgorged us right at the entrance to the Arena:

Roman arena

Which - what can I say? It was a Roman arena, very nice.

We dined at the Weinstube, where they sold wine by the glass, so the day was not entirely without opportunities to compare and contrast the different local wines, which I accompanied with a plate of herring ("better than Lidl's" say my notes, and I like Lidl's herring very much) and fried potatoes:


The next day was to be devoted to the Museum: we reckoned it would take all the time and energy we could muster. But the route there led straight past the Basilica, and we couldn't just walk past "the largest known interior from classical times" (UNESCO WHS listing), even though we had visited it in the past. It's a Protestant church, and very, very plain (the difference from the cathedral is dramatic) currently housing an exhibition of images of Martin Luther. I haven't noted the name of the sculptor, and I don't know whether my scribbled "Luther as Falstaff, Luther as Sir Toby Belch" is his description or mine - mine, I suspect.

The Museum is massive, and contains many wonderful things. Labelling is minimal. You are supposed to rely on the audioguide, which as a general rule I dislike, but this was at least well done: numbers allowed you to call up information about the items you were interested in without having to hear the whole commentary. Mostly: additional information wasn't always forthcoming, and a case of Celtic grave goods remained mysterious. As so often, the museum did not allow photography, and as so often, where others cheerfully ignored this rule, I obeyed it and sulked.

We moved on from a case of Celtic coinage, some of it beautifully sharp and unworn, tiny perfect sculptures, up the steps and through the doors to a complete shift in scale. We were confronted by a massive Roman funerary monument, and then, still in shock, were shooed away by a very officious museum attendant. Eventually, but not until after he overheard us asking other visitors in our pidgin German "Was ist problem?" deigned to explain in French that the gallery was now closing so that they could show a son et lumière presentation for which there was an additional charge. What I remember us doing next is making our way through a magnificent gallery of mosaics, picking out the charming details from these huge areas of flooring - but my notes insist that we took the hint and went to the café, where we had to decipher one of those ridiculous menus to work out how best to order a large cup of coffee with coffee in it (we ended up with two macchiatos, apparently, but I have no idea whether this was satisfactory). Clearly I was already a bit overwhelmed.

Tiny (possibly lead) figures of Nike and Mercury; glassware; a model of a church incorporating something illegible. No words about my favourite thing in the entire museum, this Phallus mit Glöckchen - a flying phallus! With bells on! (and a phallus of its own, because why not?).

Another gallery, this one devoted to coin hoards (yes, plural) arranged around "the world's largest Roman gold coin hoard with over 2,600 gold coins" found - if I have this right - during the construction of an underground car park. The archaeologists had given the all clear to excavate a late Roman cellar, but the shovel of a digger ripped open a bronze pot and tossed out onto the spoil heap the thousands of gold coins it contained. Amateur archaeologists came to the rescue, and the display included their plastic bucket. The abundance of coins points to the wealth of Augusta Treverorum, Roman Trier, but also to its possession of principal mint of the Roman West. 60% (I wrote down, though with a question mark) of the Roman coins found in Britain were minted in Trier.

And before we left, there was just time to spend an evening at a winery.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.