France, Germany and Luxembourg
June 13-14, 2013
Note on links included on the page: they are often German-language links. However, if you use Chrome as your browser you can easily translate most pages fairly accurately.
Our visiting friends wanted to see a little more than just Switzerland and the wineries of neighboring France, so we decided to take the rental car north into Germany and Luxembourg for a couple of days.
We headed out not so early and made a beeline north through France until we were about equal with Colmar and then took a left into the Volges Mountains. We stumbled upon the town of Andlau and had to stop for some delicious pastries and meats to enjoy along the way. I saw a number of motorcyclists ride through and dreamed of the day that I could do the same. Logging trucks made their way through the streets as well. But despite all of this activity, it still felt like a sleepy town as we pulled out of it.
Logging truck in Andlau
Our first officially planned stop was the German concentration camp of Natzweiler-Struthof, located in the mountains above Strasbourg. We entered the site and looked at the displays, all of which were very well laid out. Unfortunately, most of the information was only in French, so a good deal of the details were lost on me. In addition, it appeared to be Field Trip day for every school within 100 miles and the buildings were crowded with milling groups of kids.
There were also an incredibly large number of French soldiers on site. We guessed that they were there as part of some sort of “National Guard” practice day, as their actions seemed very relaxed and casual. There were probably 200 soldiers standing around outside of the main building, all talking in small groups.
From Natzweiler we drove almost directly to Trier, Germany. Dan had heard great things about this historic town and was excited to see it. Unfortunately the skies opened up just as we pulled into Trier; it was the end of the perfect weather streak that we had been enjoying for the last week. The pouring rain made it more difficult to find a hotel, but with a couple of inquiries we found a good place, the Hotel Deutschherrenhof. It was conveniently located in the historic district and, most importantly, it had cheap rooms available.
The thickest hotel room door I’ve ever seen.
We dropped off our bags and parked the car and then ran out into the rainy night, looking for a place to eat. We found the perfect place, Zum Domstein. They had a varied menu, good beers and lots of wine. By the time we had eaten our meal the rains had let up and we found another place to hang out: a bar with a friendly server and a good selection of beers.
The next morning was sunny and cool and was perfect for walking around to see the sights. The first thing I noticed is that most of the big things to see in Trier should be seen in the afternoon. The first three buildings I tried to take pictures of were all backlit by the rising sun. Oh well, there were other things to take pictures of!
Trier main square
We saw a number of churches and cathedrals, which I have dedicated a webpage linked here, if you’d like to see more. But here are some highlights:
The Dom (Cathedral of Saint Peter)
See what I mean about morning light?
Trier’s history goes back quite far, illustrated easily with the towering Roman gate that still stands proudly, almost 2,000 years after it was built.
The Porta Nigra, as it is called after organisms darkened the previously bright-colored sandstone, has had a long and varied history. Surprisingly, it is open to the public (with a small entrance fee, of course) and we could walk around, through and on this centuries-old structure.
Obviously later centuries made their own additions to the original.
Modern staircase to allow access to all levels.
Naturally there were herds of school kids there and we were “trapped” upstairs while a Roman gave them a history lesson in the room below us. After his speech he led them up the stairs where we were waiting patiently.
While Switzerland has an army of scooters, Germany uses bicycles for mail delivery!
From the cathedrals we went to a corner of the city where we saw more ancient ruins, this time in the form of Imperial Baths. There was also an ancient Basilika and a formal garden along the way to the baths.
The so-called Basilika, Constantine’s throne room from 310 AD.
From the baths we walked to the Moselle River and then back to the hotel and our car. I know that we just barely scratched the surface of what this city has to offer.
Along the river still stood a couple of ancient river cranes, still in great shape. We could see the wheels inside that were run (by people!) to swivel the roof around and raise/lower the crane.
It was time to head back to Basel and return the rental car. We took a detour through Luxembourg and hoped to find a place for lunch, but by the time we got out of the hectic neighborhoods of the airport and the city of Luxembourg, we had pretty much driven through the entire country. Instead, we settled on picking up some more picnic-type foods in the town of Château-Salins in France and then beelined our way back to Basel.
Once again, I am amazed at how close things are here, and how much there is to explore. My next posting should be from the back of my motorcycle!