A Subway restaurant in an historic windmill? Eating a meatball sub just got a whole lot cooler. In Erkelenz, Germany.
The Cathedral in Trier is the oldest church in Germany.
The history, and Cathedral itself, is impressive. It started as a Roman palace built by Constantine. In 330 the palace was leveled and replaced by a Christian church. It was the largest in Antiquity. According to the city’s web site, it was “four times as big as the present-day church and covering the area of the Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady, the Cathedral Square, the adjoining garden, and the houses almost up to the market.”
That version of the church was destroyed in the in the 5th and 9th centuries. And rebuilt. Another part was torn down around 1200 and rebuilt as today’s Church of Our Lady.
The gothic Church of Our Lady has fantastic stained-glass windows, and you can see an excavation of the Roman ruins (thru a glass window in the floor). The Cathedral Dom has some great plasterwork and an interesting black and white pattern on the organ. And a nice garden.
Also notable: The Cathedral is home to the seamless robe of Christ. Legend says it was worn by Christ shortly before his crucifixion. There was no mention of it before the 12th century and even the church admits it can’t be authenticated. Oh, and you can’t look at it. Even during Holy Robe Days, it remains sealed up in a box (but you can enter the robe’s chapel).
I’m skeptical. Not so much because you can’t see it or that the church isn’t saying it’s the real deal—more because of the whole “seamless” thing. I’ve had a shirt without a seam before. It was called a tube top. Maybe that’s why they keep it locked in a box.
M O R E P H O T O S
The #1 reason for visiting Trier: The Roman ruins.
As the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Belgic and the Western Roman Empire, Trier experienced great prosperity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This was when the Porta Nigra, the Roman baths (there are three) and amphitheater were constructed. Trier is the best (and only) place to see Roman ruins north of the Alps.
It’s a bit of a walk to the amphitheater; we didn’t go. Honestly, after seeing the Colosseum in Rome, it would have been a let down. It would, however, be cool to see the Roman games reenacted here during the Brot and Spiele festival.
The Brot and Spiele is Trier’s annual Roman festival. It runs August 31 to September 2, 2012. And it’s tentatively on my calendar. Aug 31 is also open door days at Chimay and open weekend at 3 Fonteinen, so we’ll see…I have a feeling beer beats culture.
M O R E P H O T O S
Trier is Germany’s oldest city, founded in 16 BC. But archaeological evidence shows there was a settlement here 7,000 years ago (in the New Stone Age). To say Trier has a rich history is a bit of an understatement. Read more about it here.
Trier is an ancient Roman capital, the birthplace of Saint Ambrose, home of Constantine and Karl Marx, and the oldest seat of a Christian bishop north of the Alps. Not to mention, the best place to see Roman ruins outside of Italy (much of which were built by Constantine).
Today, Trier is an interesting mishmash of old and new. It’s unique among the villages of the Mosel Valley, which, though I love them, can be a bit redundant.
In Trier, you can walk from the Porta Nigra through 19 centuries of architecture. We did just that on a Saturday as a day trip from Leiwen. We had lunch at the Kebap Haus on the square and walked through a not-very-impressive market, the Dom, the Church of St. Gangolf and the medieval Jewish quarter. Then around to the Roman ruins and back again.
One of my favorite moments was this—seeing two girls laying out by a nasty pool of stagnant water near the Roman baths. German beach?
I like to think that Rick Steves knows his stuff, but WOW. How did this not make the “Germany” guidebook?
Sorry Rick, you totally missed the mark on this one. Bernkastel is far better than Beilstein, Cochem and (presumably) Zell—the villages featured in the Mosel Valley section of your book. (Granted we didn’t visit Zell. But then it didn’t exactly get a glowing write-up in the book, did it?)
Rumor is you have to pay to get into a Rick Steve’s guidebook. Perhaps that’s true…and Bernkastel didn’t pony up. Either way, after this (and some bad advice in the Italy book), I’m beginning to doubt the Rick Steves gospel.
I say, ignore Rick Steves. Skip Cochem, even Beilstein, and visit Bernkastel instead. Cochem Castle is worthwhile, but the rest of Cochem is blah, mediocre. Beilstein is lovely, postcard Mosel, but it’s also postcard sized. Tiny.
In Bernkastel, you’ll find all the charm of Beilstein, multiplied to the n-th degree. Bernkastel has more half-timbered houses, a castle, two lovely squares, a large pedestrian area, abundant shops and restaurants, and, of course, wine.
What’s there do? Same thing as every other wine village in the Mosel Valley—meander thru vineyards, hike to a castle, have a drink, test the limits of your credit card, eat an ice cream by the river and vow to return.
We visited Bernkastel twice on our week in Mosel, the second time to visit the castle, Burg Landshut. (Weird that it’s not called Bern Castle, right?) Burg Landshut is basically a shell—the ruins of the outer walls of the 13th century castle. It looks considerably more impressive from below, but there’s a small restaurant (and bathrooms) inside. And the view’s not so bad either.
A bit of advice: Don’t trust your GPS. To get to the castle, we went up some crazy narrow, steep road, as directed by the GPS, when we could have actually gone thru the K101 tunnel and up to a proper parking lot. Oh, Tom Tom.
Note: If you’re reading this Rick Steves, I’m more than happy to personally test your travel tips. Just send me someplace warm this winter. I’m thinking Morocco, Spain, Portugal, you get the idea.
M O R E P H O T O S
The original castle at Cochem was believed to to build around the year 1000. It, along with most of the city of Cochem, was destroyed by the French in the 1600s. The castle remained in ruins until 1868 when it was purchased by the wealthy Ravené family. At that time, the trend among the elite was to rebuild an abandoned castle for use as a summer home. The reconstruction/renovations were done in Neo-Gothic style.
The Cochem Castle you see today was built in 1871-1877. It, like most of Germany’s Rhineland castles, is not medieval, not authentic, not really very old. Nonetheless, it’s still cool and totally worth the 5€ admission fee.
Cochem Castle is accessible only by a 40-ish minute guided tour. You’re allowed to photograph the interior (yea!). The downside: tours are conducted exclusively in German. Our guide did speak perfect English; she could have easily led an English tour. But tours are in German. They do have printed info sheets in English and a number of other languages—read and follow along. (Eventually, I will scan and link to the flyer…before it gets lost.)
Somehow you can drive up to the castle. We attempted many times—with the GPS trying to take us through racks of postcards along the pedestrian route—before giving up, parking and walking. It’s a hike up. There is a shuttle bus that leaves from the town. We didn’t do that; we walked. (Like I’ve said before, I’m cheaper than I am lazy.) Nothing real interesting on the hike up, but the views from the castle are spectacular.
Cochem is the biggest village in the Mosel Valley. To me, it’s also the least charming.
Sure there are plenty of places to shop, eat and sample that great Mosel wine, but Cochem felt, I don’t know, used and tired. Maybe it was the gray, rainy weather. Maybe because it was the last place we visited. It certainly didn’t rival the bright-shininess and enchantment of Bernkastle or Beilstein.
Cochem isn’t entirely without merit. There is a very worthwhile castle (you’re allowed to photograph the interior!) and a chairlift to a scenic overlook. The two are unrelated, however. You’d think: Great avoid the climb to the castle; take the chairlift! Not so. The charilift goes up to the top of a different peak? hill? nowhere near the castle.
There’s also a little playground by the river, near the free parking. I still think: Skip the village. Spend your time at the castle. You’ll see enough of Cochem on the hike up.
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