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Historic Highlights of Germany from A to Z

Trier: Roman heritage and Gallic charm.

Founded as Augusta Treverorum in 16 BC during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, Trier is Germany's oldest city and an important site for classical monuments and art treasures. This can be seen at the Porta Nigra, the best-preserved city gate from antiquity and today the most famous landmark of this city on the banks of the Moselle.

Whether Augusta Treverorum or Novaesium – now better known as Trier and Neuss – is really Germany's oldest city is still a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that the Romans designated Trier as a city rather than a settlement. Roman emperors and later bishops, electors and ordinary people have made Trier what it is today. World-class architectural monuments – many of which have had UNESCO World Heritage status since 1986 – and art treasures have been preserved and tell of fascinating times gone past. Porta Nigra, the amphitheatre, the famous Imperial Thermal Baths where the Romans went to relax, remnants of the St. Barbara Roman Baths from the 2nd century and, just as old, the Roman Bridge, which is still part of a main road into the city, all bear witness to Trier's extensive classical heritage. Medieval buildings, such as the Cathedral of St. Peter – the oldest in Germany – and the early-Gothic Church of Our Lady are also deeply impressive. Trier's proximity to its French neighbour is noticeable throughout the city, especially when it comes to eating and drinking. Outstanding restaurants of international standing offer an unparalleled dining experience. Excellent wines from the Moselle, Saar and Ruwer are of course very much in evidence and delight visitors to the many wine festivals and town celebrations. The annual highlight is the Moselle WeinKulturZeit, a month-long series of wine, gourmet and cultural events, where you can sample excellence of all kinds in and around Trier – a good reason to spend a whole month here.

Trier's other historical sights include medieval Hauptmarkt square with the Steipe building, the Red House, St. Gangolf's Church, the carved stone cross, St. Peter's fountain and the nearby Judengasse lane, as well as the Benedictine Abbey of St. Matthew and the fortified residential towers such as the Frankenturm tower and Jerusalem tower. The Simeonstift museum is a good place to admire an impressive model of Trier, while the Rhenish State Museum contains historical finds from antiquity and mosaic floors. Although his followers have now dwindled in number, Karl Marx was one of the great German thinkers and philosophers. The Karl Marx House, where he was born, is worth a visit regardless of your ideological standpoint. Despite its intellectual and historical roots, Trier is a thoroughly young and vibrant city thanks to its two universities and strikes a wonderful, lively and appealing balance between its past and present. Shops, cafés, bars and bistros across the city invite visitors to stroll around or watch the world go by. A diverse mixture of music, cabaret and other entertainment is on offer at theatres, venues and trendy clubs, including TUFA, an events centre set in a disused textile factory that has gained a reputation throughout Germany. The centre was opened in November 1985 in the wake of the city's 2,000-year celebrations and since then has provided a workshop and performance space for artists of all genres. Its self-declared aim is to serve as a cultural and communications centre for everyone. The good thing about that is that visitors to the city are also welcome.

City Highlights

Originally a city gate, then a church and now a monument: the Porta Nigra, or black gate, the largest and best-preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps, is now Trier's most famous landmark. As is often the case with historical monuments, the building was never actually finished. Given the technical capabilities of the time, this is hardly surprising. For an opportunity to delve deep into the gate's past, you can take a tour with a real centurion in parade uniform to discover the Porta Nigra secret.

An enthralling show based on historical sources, Hercules and the Queen of the Amazons take place in the amphitheatre that witnessed combat between Roman gladiators some 1,8oo years ago. It will be just one highlight of Trier's Bread and Circuses' Roman festival in September. The festival presents the diversity of that age: mythology and astronomy, traditional craftsmanship, Romans going about their everyday lives and legionnaires at exercise. Taverns - of course serving 'genuine' Roman fare - provide a place to relax and watch the world go by. Children will have fun practising their archery skills, minting coins, trying on chain mail costumes and making their own jewellery.

The impressive ruins of the Imperial Thermal Baths, along with the derelict rooms and the walls of previous structures, are among the most important to have been discovered in Trier. Today a visit to the thermal baths, which can also be explored below ground, is like stepping back in time. The walls of the hot bath (caldarium) are deservedly part of this famous landmark in Trier. After the one in Rome, the Imperial Thermal Baths and St. Barbara Roman Baths were once among the largest bathing complexes in the Roman empire. The 'Betrayal at the Thermals' tour takes visitors on an exciting journey back to a near forgotten age.

The TUFA is a regional arts centre and cabaret theatre set in the former Weber textile factory. The cultural workshop association was formed by groups, bands, ensembles and solo artists who did not have access to rehearsal studios, exhibition rooms or performance venues. Tufa e.V. is the umbrella body which now represents 25 individual associations covering the entire cultural spectrum and complements the programme with its own events, mainly in the field of cabaret. This collaboration ensures that the events, courses and workshops on offer explore a wide range of themes.

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