Trier, Germany is frequently referred to as the “second Rome.”
This may seem like a bold statement until you realize that Trier has a whopping 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites consisting of Roman monuments and churches. Get your gladiator uniform on to visit Germany’s oldest city dating back to B.C. 16!
Porta Nigra (Black Gate)
Porta Nigra is the start of many tours in Trier and is an impressive Roman structure built in A.D. 180. It is built of huge stone blocks weighing up to six metric tons each. Visitors are also allowed to go inside the gate for further exploration for a small fee. Porta Nigra is also the best preserved Roman City Gate north of the Alps.
The Roman Cathedral dates back to A.D.300 and has changed over the years but the original walls standing 26 m (86 ft) still exist in places. Many of the original parts of the cathedral remain underground and are not visible to the public but an impressive display of artwork dating back to the 1650s is on display.
The Amphitheater dates back to 2nd century A.D. and was where animals and gladiators would fight until death for the amusement of the 20,000 spectators. Hmmm, reminds me of the book and movie The Hunger Games. The Amphitheater is still used today, but for much tamer entertainment in the form of open-air concerts. For me, the most interesting part of the amphitheater was the cellar underneath the amphitheater where you could see prisoner cells and where exotic animals were caged. While the amphitheater is no doubt impressive, I was disappointed by the lack of signs, making it difficult to fully appreciate the magnitude of the amphitheater. It’s also no where near as impressive as the Colosseum in Rome. For that you need to go to Rome.
Roman Imperial Throne Room (Konstantin-Basilika)
The Roman Imperial Throne Room has an impressive claim to fame – it’s the largest surviving single-room preserved structure dating back to Roman times. Measuring it at 27 m (90 ft) wide, 33 m (108 ft) high, and 67 m (220 ft) long, its huge and its depth is further magnified through an optical illusion created by strategic use of windows. It was built to show the magnificence and strength of the Roman Emperor. While its size is impressive (perhaps he was overcompensating?) the Imperial Throne Room is very simple with minimal adornment. Today it’s used as a Protestant Church, the only one in Trier. Somehow I have a feeling the Emperor would want to send someone straight into the Amphitheater for this!
The Imperial Baths were my favorite UNESCO World Heritage Site in Trier. Dating back 1600 years, visitors can enter the subterranean labyrinth of the largest Roman bath north of the Alps and see the underground heating used to heat the hot baths. The Romans used to bathe naked publicly (long before the Germans) alternating between hot and cold baths. But they didn’t just come to the baths for bathing, you could play sports, gamble, and get beauty treatments. Guests could choose from scrapers, pumice stone or… fermented urine. I know which one I would NOT be choosing, those calluses would just have to stay put if that was my only option!
Walking through the Roman UNESCO World Heritage Sites I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Germany and not in Rome. I just wish I would have brought the gladiator costume I wore during Gladiator School.
Roman ruins are not just limited to Trier, you can visit the Roman Limes in Aalen.