Poor Trier. The city in the west of Germany was once one of the greatest in Europe. Now it’s just been relegated to a transit stop on my journey, a quick bit of sightseeing squeezed in between trains.
In the early part of our modern calendar, in the third and fourth centuries, Trier was known as “the second Rome”. Such was the importance and grandeur of the city that successive rulers would make it their base as battles for territory raged across the region. Impressive buildings were constructed – a basilica, an ampitheatre, baths, and fortified walls to protect them all.
I pull my luggage along behind me through the cobbled streets of the old town and it clacks noisily as the wheels hit the stones. Poor Trier, I had decided the city wasn’t even worth me leaving my bag in a locker at the train station.
That’s not to say the city is not worth the visit. Quite the opposite, in fact. The ancient roman monuments have been well-preserved and around them charming examples of traditional German design have been built. The reworking of some of the religious buildings in the 11th and 13th centuries have also stood the test of time and are highlights of the city centre.
The interesting part of Trier is not large, though. At the train station I had picked up a map with a suggested walking route to see the main sights. It was less than two kilometres long. Hence I had decided to lug around my bag with me.
It is like an anchor, though. My arm strains to pull it along and my mind is unable to forget that this is just a quick stop. I want to climb the Roman ruins at one point but feel too weighed-down. I want to explore the little paths through the trees of a park but don’t have the energy to shift the bag onto my back. We trudge through together, my luggage and I, never truly committing to Trier.
Would I treat Rome the same way? No. So why be so dismissive of “the second Rome”?
I suppose it’s not a matter of being dismissive. It’s more about not taking the time to delve beneath the surface. The facade of Trier is impressive and shows the evolution of the city through the Romans, the Gauls, the enlightenment and, most recently, the Germans. To get beneath all of that, to understand the history this place has seen, is not a task for even a whole day. It has taken two millennium to become what it is now… who am I to think I can appreciate all of that.
Poor Trier? No, poor me.