Day 2: Luxembourg American Cemetery & Trier


I woke up about 5:40am, just a little over 5.5 hours sleep. I felt rested but needed coffee, and there wasn’t any in the room. But breakfast was included and the restaurant opened at 6am so I got dressed and made my way down. Breakfast was simple – cereals, deli meats and cheeses, a good variety of natural breads, fruit. And lots to drink – full pots of coffee and milk – both hot – and a carafe of OJ. The cereals were interesting with the hot milk: a granola-ish one that sort of turned into oatmeal, but not in a bad way, and chocolate rice crispies.

I was planning my day using TripAdvisor and re-reading my blog from yesterday. I was reminded of the American Cemetery. Since I was up so early I had enough time to still do that, take a later train to Trier and still have plenty of day left to do what I wanted there. So I checked out about 7:45 and made my way. It was about a 3 mile walk, I made it there in about an hour. I was along a busy road the whole time – plenty of traffic but not much to see, either going through woods, industrial, or something under construction. And there was no signage. I followed Google’s walking instructions with my fingers crossed. It took this weird turn down along a trench where they were building who knows what, and underneath a bridge. I was getting nervous. As I got under the bridge, I finally came across this, the first confirmation outside of Google that I was headed in the right direction.

It was another 1/3 mile or so up a road through more woods. As I progressed, the sounds of the busy roads behind me diminished and the sounds of the birds got louder and louder. Think Vivaldi, not Hitchcock. It was a nice Spring day and about 60-65 degrees at that point.  But I had worked up a bit of a sweat because most of that trip was uphill. I was appreciating a flat walk through the woods.

 Which eventually led you to this.
 This is what you saw first: “In proud remembrance of the achievements of her sons and in humble tribute to their sacrifices this memorial has been erected by the United States of America.”
 This was the left side of that monument, the steps leading up to a chapel.

 

This is the ceiling of the chapel. The words around the edge: “In proud and grateful memory of those men of the armed services of the United States of America who in this region and in the skies above it endured all and gave all that justice among nations might prevail and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace.”
Those of you who read blogs from our previous Europe trips know we’re big on WWII history. I realized this morning I couldn’t be this close and not do it. And I am so glad I did.

This is the military operations map for the surrounding region. If you’ve seen Band of Brothers, or know anything at all about WWII history, The Ardennes will mean something to you. If nothing else, you’ve probably heard of The Battle of the Bulge; the casualties from that battle and others are buried here. 5076 total.

 

 

 

It’s hard to put into words what I was thinking about while I was here. It’s impossible not to be moved, especially with the history I have in my head. Even yesterday on the train as I was traveling down from Koblenz I was thinking about it, knowing these lands were blood filled for years during both wars. I always think about that when I’m on a train in Germany. It makes all the pettiness in American politics these days seem so ridiculous. This was real evil at play, and men literally from all over the world joined efforts to stop it. The Ardennes was a long fought battle, one of the hardest of the war, and it was this victory after Normandy that eventually led the Allies to Berlin. We think we know struggle, loss, and sacrifice. We don’t.

 

 

If the date looks funny to you, it’s because he didn’t die during the war. He was the leader during the Battle of the Bulge, which is why he was buried here. He died from injuries in a car accident about 6 months after the war ended. Go figure.

Passed this on my way back.

I left the cemetery about 9:30am. If I was quick, I could just make the 10:26 to Trier, just an hour later than I’d thought I would go last night. With literally running the last couple of blocks and through the train station, I made it just after the doors to the train had closed. Crap! Then the gal in front of me – who was also running – hit the magic button and they opened again. Good to know! She jumped in and I went right behind her.

And I got the same seat I had yesterday! Time to charge my phone on the hour ride. By that time I had already walked a good 6 miles or more so I was ready for a little rest.

Trier was known as the “Rome of the North” back in the day, with origins as far back at 17 BC. By the 2nd century AD there were great temples, a town wall with several gates, an amphitheater and a huge bathing facility. Trier became an imperial residence in the 3rd century. The city is littered with ruins of this stuff, some better kept than others.

 Meet Porta Nigra, or Black Gate. This is a side view of what remains of one of the gates mentioned above, and the first thing you see as you near the city center from the train station.
 Full Frontal of Porta Nigra. It was only €3 to get in so why not?
My attempt to capture the levels and the opening in the middle of the structure.
 The city center from the top floor of Porta Nigra. Today Trier’s population is about 105,000. Those spires on the left is where I’m headed next. It was about Noon and I hadn’t eaten since 6am and was starting to feel it, so picked up a bratwurst sandwich with deli mustard from a “take away” stand and ate it on the way.

“The High Cathedral of St. Peter” is the official name of this church. We’ve been in lots of European churches. Some really impress us – Cologne of course, Westminster Abbey, any of the three in Ghent – and some are “meh” like the one yesterday. This one is up there with the best of them.

Everything about this was impressive. Romanesque architecture (of course), side altars with sculptures in amazing detail, a nice mix of materials – stone, wood, and marble. Good old pews instead of chairs – I maintain that’s a German thing. A gigantic organ (that’s the thing hanging down left of center). This one was stunning to me.

 

Opposite of where that first inside picture was taken.

OK enough of that. I headed down the little street opposite the entrance to St. Peter’s and wound up in the biggest square, Hauptmarkt.

 

 

 It’s cheesy but these squares are one of my favorite things about Europe. I have yet to go to any town that doesn’t have at least one, usually more, and I love them every time. I was charmed from the very first one I saw in Mainz in 2013.
I was tired of lugging my backpack around and to decided to see if my room was ready early. It was a little bit out of the city center, but Google got me there again (although it was questionable for a minute).

The Hotel Villa Hugel, which I found on Booking.com. My room wasn’t ready yet so I just dropped off my bag, used the restroom, headed back out.

I wish I had known about this on the way up. I nice little walking path that served as a shortcut and much easier access down the hill than the street I walked up. The guy at the hotel gave me a little map and pointed out a few tricks of getting around.

I saw this indicated on the map but it wasn’t marked so I walked a little past where I was supposed to turn to see what it was. Wasn’t marked in real life either. I decided to call it Random Roman Ruin. I have no idea how old it is or it’s purpose, but it does look old. It was just there in the middle of a boulevard.

 This is the park in the middle of the boulevard just to the left of it.

I ventured around to the other side to discover it was open – so just like a 2/3 circle – and empty. Still no clue.

Next I headed over to the Karl Marx house. He was born here in Trier in 1818. I’m always interested in political history and this was pretty interesting. Although he’s the author of the Communist Manifesto, he must roll over in his grave seeing what guys like Stalin did with it. He was the original socialist. The Nazis were socialist, too. At least based on what I learned today, there’s nothing in his original philosophies that had any room whatsoever for dictatorship – quite the opposite in fact – so it’s difficult to understand how Stalin, Hitler and later China took it there. Then, just this evening I was reading this over dinner. Interesting timing.

What to do next? It was about 3:30. Do I go back to the room and check in and rest a bit? The hotel has a swimming pool and sauna available and that was sounding pretty good. But I knew if I went there I probably wouldn’t leave again. Especially if the restaurant was open for dinner. Thinking about my TripAdvisor list from this morning, I had done just about all I wanted to do already. And there was still tomorrow morning if need be.

I decided to go to the Landesmuseum. It’s a bit of a museum chain if you will in the Rhineland. I had been to one in Mainz. I stopped for something to drink at a cafe on the way and had a nice rest in front of this pool. That building in the back is the end of the Trier Palace.

This museum was not like one I had ever really been in before. It was dedicated just about exclusively to archeology because of the Roman roots of the region.  There was lots of fossils, bones, etc., in the early part, dating back 150,000 BC, including some stuff from the Neander Valley in Germany, which is where Neanderthal came from.

Then came the Roman finds. There was rooms and rooms of this stuff.

 This piece is about 2000 years old.
 Also about 2000 years old. Go ahead: caption it. I dare you.
 Avid coin collectors on TripAdvisor were going on and on about the impressive collection of Roman coins here. There was a big cold temperature controlled room full of this stuff. I’m not all that into coins, but these were pretty cool looking I have to admit, and in great condition.

 

 Mosaics were for the wealthy and Roman Trier was definitely rich. There was a huge room with lots of intricate mosaics that had been dug up, some with missing pieces but most in extraordinary condition for their age. This one above was HUGE. Here’s the perspective: this picture was taken from a balcony of the floor above it. My guess is it’s about 16ft x 21ft. I figured that because it was about as long as our living room but wider, and I know that’s 14×21. And those are teeny tiny tiles – like 1cm x 1cm.
 This was much smaller, maybe 3×5 or something – but you can see how small the tiles are in the detail.
 Another of the mosaics I really liked. This was maybe 24″ round.
 A model of Roman Trier.
I was definitely ready to be done with my day after that, even though it was only about 4:30. My room was ready when I got back to the hotel and they’d put my backpack in it already. The guy showed me around – that picture of the front is deceiving. It goes down several levels from there. Below street level is one still for guest rooms, another for the swimming pool, another yet for the sauna and steam room.
 A little nicer than the room I had yesterday, eh? That desk in the corner is where I’m writing this.

I took a nice hot shower and went down for a dip in the pool then sat in the steam room for a while. Felt Great. I worked on the blog for about an hour then went down for dinner about 7pm.

I am usually not a food picture guy but my friend Melanie specifically requested it when I talked to her on Saturday. Since she’s the original inspiration for the blog, I figured I’d work on it. Then Art commented on it yesterday. So Mel and Art, these are for you!

Since breakfast has been included so far every morning (and will be tomorrow as well), and I spent only €4 for lunch, I decided to splurge some at dinner. This was a beef tenderloin with a couple of shrimp on top, on a bed of snap peas. Those little yellow things are potatoes. Why are they yellow? Because they’re bathed in butter. May have been the best part of the meal.
This was amazing: a scoop of chocolate ice cream with a variety of fruit on top of a perfect creme brulee. And a hardened chocolate sauce on top that was Really Hard, and a glass-blown-type-sugar-thingy on top with some mint leaves. Great coffee and a surprise bite of almond cake in the background. Lovely.
I came back and wrote a bit more, then back down for some more steam before they closed that off at 10. It’s 11:15pm now. I’d say I had quite a day.

0 thoughts on “Day 2: Luxembourg American Cemetery & Trier”

  1. Steve Haas says:

    This is probably my favorite day of the trip, but Tallinn is a close 2nd. You'll get to that soon. Apparently you're binge reading! We just got to our hotel in NYC @ JFK airport. A quick overnight and then fly out at 8am.

  2. my favorite post! the War History…my dad was just telling me this week about a book he read about Patton and some conspiracy theory about his death..my Dad needs to read your blog! And yes I love the sugarythingy picture! 🙂

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