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August '19 - Trier and Luxembourg

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

I had never heard of Trier before, yet it turns out to be one of the most significant historical cities in Germany and played a critical role in the Roman Empire, evidence of which can still be seen today. After reading a bit more about it I knew I had to go.

I was dropped at nearby Bullay and caught the train to Trier, which crosses the Alf-Bullay bridge, also known as the Guns Railway Bridge. It's a double decker iron bridge built in the late 1800s that carries cars on the lower deck and trains above. It was an important link in World War 2 and despite repeated bombing efforts, it was too strong to be destroyed and thus remains operational to this day. It still has explosion craters in the concrete.

Train passing over the Guns Railway Bridge at Bullay

Some interesting facts about Trier:

  • Founded in the 4th century BC by the Celts, it's considered Germany's oldest city.

  • The Romans took over around 16 BC and by 400 AD it became one of the biggest cities in the Roman Empire with a population of up to 100,000, the same as what it is now. The Roman Black Gate (Porta Nigra) dating to 400 AD is still standing today.

  • In the 16th century, Trier held the largest witch trial / hunt in European history, leading to the biggest mass execution in Europe during peacetime, up to 1,000 were executed.

  • Karl Marx was born here in 1818.

  • In June 1940, 60,000 captured British soldiers were sent to Trier as a staging place for distribution to prisoner of war camps. The city was subsequently heavily bombed.

  • The UNESCO Trier Cathedral is the oldest church in Germany, dating in part back to 400 AD.

Trier old town centre

I quickly realised there were far too many things to see in Trier than my 5 days allowed for, but I got a good feel for the place and it ranks as one of my favourite cities. Highlights were definitely the old town centre and the enormous cathedral (so imposing it almost brought me to my knees). Rarely have I re-visited a church but I went back to Trier Cathedral three times.

Rainbow over Trier old town centre and Trier Cathedral

While I was in Trier, I found out there is a cheap day return train ticket option (7 euro) to Luxembourg so I decided to also spend a day there. Turned out it was the most significant public holiday of the year in Luxembourg and everything was closed, except the one thing I wanted to see, the Casements of Bock.

The old part of Luxembourg City is built up on top of a small rocky outcrop (the Bock), ideally positioned for defense. Soon you will realise everything in Europe was built with war in mind! A castle was built on top of the cliffs in 963, which in turn developed into the town of Luxembourg. The city became one of the most powerful emplacements in the world and called the "Gibraltar of the North". It had 3 fortified rings with 24 forts and 23km of passages (casemates) carved inside the rock that could be used to shelter thousands of soldiers and their horses as well as kitchens, bakeries, slaughterhouses etc.

Inside the Bock Casements, Luxembourg

Many armies tried to take the fortress given it's strategic location and it was only in 1867 that warring over it stopped. As part of this 'ceasefire' treaty, part of the fortress had to be dismantled. You can visit parts of the old castle and 17km of underground passages. I was happily lost inside these for a few hours.

A collection of photos from Trier and Luxembourg is in the gallery below.

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