Sunday, March 29, 2009


On Tuesday, we went to Trier (wikipedia here and here). Trier is one of the oldest cities in Germany, founded in 15 BC. With a lot of history, there are a lot of sights to see. I was most interested in -- and we focused on -- the Roman stuff. Actually, I was ridiculously excited about Trier and worried that it wouldn't be as cool as I hoped. In fact, it was cooler.

This is the Porta Nigra, the "black gate." Built between 180 and 200 AD, it is essentially two towers with a narrow courtyard between two sets of gates. In the Middle Ages, the gates were saved from disrepair when it was incorporated into a church (they took down the church later).

Somewhat embarrassing personal aside: Before my trip, the presence of the Porta Nigra was the only thing I knew about Trier and the only thing on my 'must see' list. This is probably not in small part because this is the logo of the high school I went to.

The other side of the gate:
Looking up from between the gates:
Looking down from the upper floors:
Looking across:
Inside one of the towers:
The view south to the Hauptmarkt (the tower is the church in the Hauptmarkt):

Just east of the Hauptmarkt is the Dom. Standing outside, my friends were unimpressed but changed their minds after seeing the interior.

A little south of the Dom is the Konstantinbasilika built in 310 AD. It was the throne hall of Constantine and its dimensions are 67m long, 36m high (11(?) stories!). It was part of the prince-electors' residence and now it is a Protestant church.

Attached to the south side of the basilika is the rest of the prince-electors' residence.

The Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths) built in the 4th century AD are just south of the basilika. I should mention that all the Roman things we visited charged 2.10 euros for entry, and we bought a discount card for all of them for 6.20 euros (saving us 2 euros!). Okay, I don't know how the baths were organized or the history (Googling suggests that they were never finished), but this was the coolest place (possibly ever).

On one side was the remnants of the building.

On the far side, a lawn. In the middle, there were a maze of paths on the surface and tunnels just below to explore.
Here you can see some students (there aren't a lot of tourists in Trier in March) heading down.
Heading toward that dark hall.
Underneath, the halls are lit by tiny skylights ...
which you can see on the grass.

We also went to the Amphitheater.

The stairs in the center allow tourists to see the rooms underneath.

The Viehmarktthermen were discovered during construction of a parking garage. They built a big glass cube over it.

Here the remains of monastery (back) that lies over the Roman ruins (wall in foreground).

Unfortunately, we only had the one day there. There were sights that we didn't get to and definitely we could have spent more time at the ones we did see. We had dinner in Trier at a restaurant that advertised recipes inspired by a 2000-year-old cookbook discovered during excavations. I noticed that we were the only ones in the restaurant eating the "Roman" fare. But it wasn't bad.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Marksburg Castle

With some friends visiting, I took Monday off, and we went to Marksburg Castle. A little south of Koblenz in Braubach, the castle advertises as "the only hill castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed." The oldest parts of the castle date to the 12th century and it's rather awesomely medieval-y.

You have to take the tour to see the castle, but -- unlike a lot of other castles on the Rhine -- it's open year round. In general, the tour is German-only (with an information sheet offered in several different languages). A lot of English speakers happened to show up when we were there and the tour guide very kindly did the tour in both English and German. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take a lot of pictures.

The Riders' Stairway (ride your horse into the castle and straight to the stable):

Old cannons:

The walls are incredibly thick. My information sheet says 4.5m, although I thought the tour guide said 3.5m. At points, they cut into the walls to make window alcoves. This also meant that it was pretty dim inside and not so good for taking pictures.

This is the great banqueting hall. It's pretty small (maybe the size of my 40 square meter apartment). That door leads to the bathroom. In typical medieval castle style, the toilet hangs over the outside of the castle walls so the waste drops outside. The door wasn't for privacy. It was never closed unless the castle was under attack. Then, it was locked to prevent enemy soldiers from climbing the castle walls and into the castle through the toilet.

There was a lot of other cool stuff like a collection of armor from 600 BC to 1500 AD, the torture chamber, and the tiny stone stairway that was designed to be too small for invading soldiers to draw their swords.

There's a ton of castles on the Rhine. Here's a picture of what I think is a fortress right above the Koblenz train station.


Thursday, March 05, 2009


Tübingen is the adorable little town that Sean has been looking for in Germany. Bonn is too big, too modern. Heidelberg has a nice castle, but is a tourist trap. This is what wikipedia says about the charms of Tübingen: "The highlights of Tübingen include its crooked cobblestone lanes, narrow-stair alleyways picking their way through the hilly terrain, streets lined with canals and well-maintained traditional half-timbered houses."

Cute little street:

Bridge to building (not the cutest one, a couple of planks which crossed a tiny canal to what can only be described as a hobbit-sized door):

Fachwerkhaus with lots of different dates on it and some sort of clock:

Rathaus with astronomical clock:

Markt am Rathaus:

We stayed at a hotel down the street from Schloß Hohentübingen. Here's the entrance to the Schloß:

We took an excursion (conference excursion) to Hohenzollern Castle, a 40 minute drive away. Here's an awesome day/night picture of it.

From afar:

It's a pretty steep climb to the top. The view:

The coiled path (through many gates) to the top:

The chapel and some of the central courtyard:

We took a pretty cool tour, which did not, however, explain this statue:

Then, it snowed.