On a long weekend back in May 2002, the Monkey took a circuitous route around the edges of the greater Ardennes region, at the borders of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. His foray into Germany included some time travel back to ancient Rome, in the form of Trier. Did you pack your toga?
Trier is Germany’s oldest city. It was founded in the 15th Century BC and underwent major development as the site of a Roman imperial outpost. Today it boasts a wealth of remains from its Roman past. Here the Monkey visits the ruins of Trier’s 4th Century Roman bath—one of the largest in the entire empire—on a beautiful sunny day. Another claim to fame for Trier is that it was the birthplace of the 19th Century’s most influential political thinker, Karl Marx, who set forth the economic theory of Communism in his 1848 masterpiece, The Communist Manifesto (with Friedrich Engels).
The Monkey stops for a moment of repose in the shade of Trier’s Palace Garden. The pink building behind him is the 17th Century Elector’s Palace, now used as offices by the local government. The taller brick building to the left is the 4th Century Aula Palatina (today called the Basilica). It served as part of a Roman imperial palace in the era of Constantine the Great, who became the undisputed Emperor of the Roman Empire and converted to Christianity, thereby establishing it as the dominant, or at least favored, religion throughout the empire. Another of Constantine’s accomplishments was his 324 decision to begin the conversion of the small town of Byzantium into the new capital of the Roman Empire. Six years later, in May of 330 Rome was replaced by the New Rome, Constantinople (today’s Istanbul, Turkey).
A quaint display outside a restaurant in central Trier. The Monkey couldn’t resist stopping for a photo by the bottles. The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region around Trier is renowned for its white wine varieties, including the famous Riesling.
Trier’s Roman amphitheater was cleverly built into a hillside on the city’s outskirts to take advantage of the incline and provide for easier construction of seating. Work on the amphitheater began around 100, and for years to come decorative touches were added. After Rome’s fall, in the middle ages the amphitheater’s impressive vaulted entrance portals and other features were quarried for new constructions. Despite this dismantling, the Monkey was still able to get a clear sense of the amphitheater’s dimensions. In its day, Trier’s amphitheater held an estimated 20,000 spectators.
The Monkey is blinded by Trier’s midday sunshine as he inspects the Porta Nigra (Black Gate), the city’s most famous Roman remnant. The Porta Nigra was constructed in the 2nd Century and served as a gate in the 7 meter-high city walls that went up along with it. In the 11th Century the Porta was reconfigured as a church. Today, it stands at one end of a pedestrianized shopping street and serves as a focus of attention for visitors and locals alike.
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