Trier, Old And Older

The next day it didn't rain much but it was still chilly and windy and the sky was clouded over. Even the statues on the pleasantly corny 16th-century fountain looked cold.

We walked around town in the periods between showers, looking at the usual sights. The ancient Roman gate looked even more forbidding in the gray light, still making its statement: We are the Romans. Don't screw around with us. A meaningless threat for a very long time now, and not altogether credible even in its day; the Germans sacked the place in the third century, walls or no walls. You couldn't help reflecting that in the end all the impressive fortifications and professional armies hadn't been enough...and it had been the ancestors, or at least relatives, of these nice friendly people here who had finally done the job on them. That was worth remembering.

All the same, the Roman show had quite a long run here - four hundred years or so - and the large and elaborate complexes of baths and ancillary structures suggest it was a pretty enjoyable life if you were one of the leisure classes. The Imperial Baths - begun by order of Constantine when he resided here in the fourth century, though apparently he had to leave before they were completed - still make an impressive sight, and must have been something to see in their day. Inside, you could relax and enjoy the luxuries of Roman civilization... unless, of course, you were one of the slaves working their poor asses off to keep the water hot and flowing for the privileged bastards above. This was Karl Marx's home town; I wonder if these boyhood sights had any part in inspiring his later ruminations.

From classical to gingerbread: near the Imperial Baths, overlooking an elaborate garden, stands the 18th-century Electoral Palace in all its rococo silliness. Behind it looms Constantine's enormous basilica, heavily rebuilt and mucked about with over the centuries but still an amazing structure. The building is now, of all things, a Protestant church.

Trier has no shortage of churches, in fact; the most famous being the cathedral, aka Dom. I am not sure what the distinction is between a Dom (or, in Italy, Duomo) and a plain old cathedral, but Europe seems to be pretty well stocked with them.

This one is about a thousand years old, depending on how you figure it; as with most of these old European churches, the construction and reconstruction went on over a period of centuries. Not all that big, compared with most of the other great churches of Christendom, but beautiful in its austere way. (At least they had sense enough not to hang a lot of statuary all over it.) Is it just my imagination, or do the lines show a certain Roman inspiration? Hardly surprising, if so, considering the location.... We went inside to have a look, and found that they were having services. We stayed for a simple and very beautiful Mass (with accompaniment by a truly awesome pipe organ) and then went next door to the thirteenth-century Liebfrauenkirche.

In the afternoon, feeling a certain surfeit of antiquity, we walked down to the river and strolled along its banks, watching the barges go by.

Coming back through town, we stopped at a kind of patisserie and indulged in some sinful chocolate cake. Phyllis asked if she could have a drop of rum in her tea. The old lady smiled and came back with a huge shot of white rum and poured it into the tea and shortly afterward Phyllis began to, um, glow. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the room and what we got up to is none of your business.