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Trier, Germany’s oldest city, lies at the head of the scenic Mosel Valley near the Luxembourg border. An ancient Roman capital, Trier brags that it was inhabited for 1,300 years before the Romans arrived. It’s famous for being the birthplace of Karl Marx, and boasts a long list of UNESCO sites.

We spent a nice night at the **Romantik Hotel zur Glocke – a large, very old, and perfectly updated place in a good location. It’s a solid choice and we’d certainly make it again, and consider eating at their popular restaurant, which looked quite good. For dinner we walked to the riverfront and had a very high-end, extremely tasty meal at **Bagatelle. I didn’t love the setting, service wasn’t perfect, and the area felt a little oddly touristy while still off the map – but the food really was very good and the wine pairings excellent.

Back to the town itself – there’s enough to fill a weekend, and it’s not a bad base camp for Mosel river touring. It’s also an easy train ride from Paris and numerous other destinations. The key sites we saw are very impressive. In late October, the large tour group volume was impressive, and I imagine it’s worse in the summer. The town sprawls quite a bit, and it’s a little gritty – certainly with some charm, but with a heavy mix of aging industrial architecture. I think it’s a place to visit but not a lifestyle destination in the style of Reims or Paris.

Key sites:

  • **Trier Saint Peter’s Cathedral, the oldest in Germany, dates back to Roman times. St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine (who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire), let part of her palace be used as the first church on this spot. In 326, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his reign, Constantine began the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome and this huge cathedral in Trier. The cathedral contains two important relics — the “Holy Robe” of Christ (found by St. Helena on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem) and a “holy nail” thought to be from the Crucifixion. It’s truly gigantic and the interior decorations are very impressive.
  • The city’s **Basilica, at 200 feet long and 100 feet high, is the largest intact Roman structure outside of Rome. We found it surprising – a gigantic throne room, certainly not a church (though it has been used as one), of a scale and austerity that feels incredibly modern. Don’t miss it.
  • **Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier: The town’s archaeological museum claims to have the best collection of Roman art in Germany. The collection is very good, the building and organization of the collection a bit chaotic. It’s worth a visit.
  • **City Library Weberbach: Trier has a highly regarded historic book collection, snippets of which are regularly shown at the City Library Weberback location (near the Landesmuseum). It’s not a long stop and worthwhile if you’re in the area.

Mosel (Moselle) River Valley

A very calm and winding river wedging between steep vine-covered slopes, the Moselle (Mosel in German) is one of the prettier areas of Germany. We drove through in late October and experienced surprisingly high crowds (I imagine summer is packed), lovely weather, and a full autumn showcase of colors. There are many castles, colorful half-timbered medieval villages, lovely villas, and wineries galore. The roadway itself is relatively flat and would make for an excellent biking destination. It’s also very popular for river cruises, and there are many day ferries.

Galen stayed at the *MoselsternParkhotel “Krähennest” Spa & Wellness. It wasn’t horrible, but not a place to return to. It was a spa hotel with 6 or 7 different temperature saunas, an indoor pool, and a very nice outdoor pool with outdoor area + a pond for nature viewing. The issues were: the restaurant was just okay. The suite (one of the nicest rooms) had shag carpet and that horrible chemical powder cleaner with a strong smell. At night the train tracks are on the west side of the river, and you hear it loudly when the freight trains pass. The pond had extremely loud birds chattering all night. All in all, nothing show-stopping, but not perfect for the price and we’d look for something else next time.

*Landhaus Zimmermann: the food was a one star, the location was a solid two. Schnitzel was the worst Galen has ever had, unfortunately. Dry and burnt. He wanted to love it because the servers were great and the setting is perfect – the terrace in particular was lovely. But there’s no excuse for a bad schnitzel in Germany.