Neustadt -> Speyer -> Trier
Having driven from Balingen back to the camperstop at Neustadt an der Weinstrasse last night, we left after breakfast and drove to Speyer. Along the way we pass through Geinsheim, a small but pretty little village with charming houses and a beautiful and very large church. We just have to stop off and have a look at this. On entering the church we are taken aback at how lovely the interior is, there are two ladies cleaning the church and we ask as to why the church has two altars, one to the side and the other at the front? They explain that the side altar was the original and when the church became too small they made it bigger and then needed another altar at the front.The pictures and statues are beatiful and at the back of the church, outside, there is a grotto to Our Lady. One of the ladies kindly shows us up the stairs to the organ and the choir seats, the view from up there is lovely and the organ is enormous so close up. The church is the church of St.Peter and St.Paul. We thank the ladies for their kindness and make our way back to the Motorhome and carry on our way to Speyer. Parking the motorhome we walked the short walk up to the Cathedral. The sky was perfect blue against which the ornate detail of the spires showed up perfectly. The multi-coloured tiles on the roof could be seen clearly. The large entrance contains the statues of dukes and bishops, and the large, heavy entrance door leads to the interior of the stunningly beautiful, and very large, cathedral. The Stained glass windows depicting events in the life of Jesus are amazing in their clarity and detail, and luckily there was no damage done to the building in either of the two world wars. Many of the wooden pews contain the names of people worldwide who have these pews dedicated to them. The two round Rosetta windows are filled with a myriad of colours and pictures, and there is also the huge organ, the third to be placed in the Cathedral. A model of the cathedral stands in a case at the rear of the building, but this is not the design that was finally built as this was not workable. Leaving this wonderful place we walked over the road to the catholic church of St. Joseph. This is not too much smaller than the Cathedral we had just left. The church of St. Joseph is light and the interior is golden in colour. The large altar is amazing with so much detail that it is hard to take it all in. The Stations of the cross are carved and set into the walls of the church and the two side altars with their beautiful paintings sit either side of the main altar. The large organ is set up high across the rear of the church, but lit up by the huge window which sits behind it. The people of Speyer are very lucky to have two such beautiful places of worship. We go for a bite of lunch and then head towards Trier, our next destination. The traffic is quite heavy but the winter scenery is lovely along the way. We have looked up where there is a camperstop in Trier and follow the directions along the Mosel River. We find the parking area quite easily and find a barrier which gives entry into the parking area. A card is released upon which money has to be loaded to pay for electric, showers and parking. This all seems very efficient and a good idea, so we are happy and park up and head off for a nice hot shower! but what a dissappointment, there is no water full stop! the showers (which can only be opened with the card) are in total disrepair, the tiles are on the floor, the shower pieces are on the floor! I hope that by opening the door we have not been charged on the card! Oh well, not everything can be perfect and the way it should be. Time for bed.
Trier -> Luxembourg
The morning brings blue skies and wonderful sunshine, but temperatures of -14. The camperstop at Trier is along the side of the Mosel river and barges, laden with goods, pass silently along the freezing waters. We have been looking forward to sightseeing in Trier, Germany’s oldest City. We pay for the overnight stay on the card we obtained from the barrier last night (€7.90), inclusive of electric. We cross the bridge over the river and park close by the St.Matthias Basilica Abbey. There is a huge courtyard in front of the Abbey, which also contains a large fountain, now full of ice! There is also a souvenir and information shop on the right hand side. The front of the Abbey is wonderfully ornate, with statues over the doors and at the top of the building. The Abbey has a 1,750-year history, and has four functions, it is the burial church for the first Bishops of Trier, the abbey church for a community of Benedictine monks, a pilgrimage church with the relics of St.Matthias and a parish church. We enter into the abbey and first notice the high vaulted ceiling, which gives the abbey such a vast feeling. The wonderful stained glass windows behind the altar throw coloured lights darting around the walls of the abbey. At the altar there is a burial monument of St,Matthais lying in front of the altar. There are many statues around the church and two chapels set back, on either side of the building, one of these is a chapel dedicated to the ‘Matthaiser Madonna’ a wonderful, and unusaul painting of Our Lady from approximately 1700. On either side of the painting there are panel paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mother. A set of steps lead down into the crypt below, again there are the ornate vaulted ceilings, but much lower than those upstairs, and in the centre of the room are two stone Sarcophagi bearing the remains of the first two bishops of Trier, Eucharius and Valerius. This is the shrine to St,Matthais and it is in here that his relics are contained. This is the only grave of an apostle north of the Alps. Going out of the Abbey, we walk around the side of the building and enter into the graveyard, here there are two more chapels used for funeral masses. The Abbey has many pilgrims visiting every year and has done for many centuries. It is part of the German pilgrim route which includes Cologne and Aachen amongst others.
We leave the Abbey and take the motorhome closer to the town centre. Parking close to a brewery and Wine producers, we walk towards the Basilica on the opposite side of the road. The building is enormous, and all built from very small blocks. The windows are narrow and high up. We try all the doors but they are all locked, then we see that at this time of year it is only open between 11.00 – noon and 15.00 – 16.00. Walking to the far end and up some steps we realise that there is a palace atached to the Basilica. It is the Electorial Palace, the rococo facade is from the 18th century and is completely in pink with white detail and statues guilded with gold at the gable, and the whole building overlooks the large palace garden lined on both sides with white statues.The well tended gardens of the summer now lie under a frozen blanket of crisp snow. At the top of the gardens is the Rheinisches Land museum and museum cafe, the cafe was open but the museum is closed for renovation until 13th February. The museum houses some of the most important archaelogical findings in all of Germany. The mosaics, hundreds of which have been found in and around Trier, are unparalleled in quality and quantity at least in this country.
Leaving the Palace and the Basilica behind we cross the main road and begin to walk along the small streets towards the centre of town, as we believe. We pass through an unassuming courtyard, with what look like offices inside some of the lovely buildings. There is what looks like part of the old city walls and an archway, but just before reaching this we notice an entrance to the side which has a sign saying school for church music, but through the open gateway we spot a garden, walking through we come into an arched corridor and on closer inspection we realise that these are almost two thousand years old and are the origins of the cathedral in Trier from the 3rd century. We continue around the corridors with large old (very old!) statues and try all the doors along the way until we find one that opens, and then WOW! we are inside one of the biggest buildings I have ever been in and how stunning! Every way you look there is something wonderful to look at, the sheer magnificence of the high ceilings, the many altars around the building are wonderful in their own right, and the enormous organ just hanging from the side of the wall high above your head, but the best is yet to come. There is a small but highly ornate altar dedicated to Our Lady and the gold shines out from the panel over the altar.
Descending some steps we find a small chapel with a statue of St. Joseph and then turning left we enter into the crypt under the main body of the cathedral, off here is another room containing the graves of the bishops of Trier. We ascend the stairs and then climb the larger staircase up to the high altar, at the top of the stairs there is a sign stating that this is the shrine of the seamless robe of Christ, going through, the beauty of the high altar with the wonderful marble statues and cherubs is just breathtaking. At the centre of this beauty is an opening into the rear of the altar and it is in here that there is a large ornate casket containing the robe of Christ. How wonderful to think that we are stood here in front of this! From this position there is a truly magnificent view of the whole of the interior of the Cathedral of St.Peter, you can see the altars, the two organs, the half circle ceiling at the rear with its wonderful carvings, the enormous white marble baptismal font, it was a truly magnificent sight. We started to make our way back and as we passed through the small souvenir shop we noticed the entrance to the cathedral treasury, there is a charge of €1.50 per person and so paying this we went in. The contents of the room are so amazing, there are bibles from the 7th century, Bishops mitres and staffs, there are chalices made of gold and silver decorated with precious stones, a silver cast of the hand of St.Helena (who brought the Holy Robe to Trier), and in a case in the centre of the room is a golden cast of the foot of St.Andrew (this alone is estimated to be worth €12 million) it is all so amazing! At the side of the room is a display case which contains two links from a chain which bound St.Peter, this was a gift from Rome to the city of Trier. The whole room is just full of wonderful and priceless pieces, it was an honour to see them. We returned downstairs to the main body of the cathedral and wandered around admiring, at close hand, all there was to see. On leaving, by the main front doors, we found ourselves in the square in front of the Cathedral and from here we can see the church of Our Lady, right next to the cathedral. On entering the light from the beautiful stained glass windows darted around the church, throwing colours over the walls and pillars inside. There are many wonderful statues and paintings, although the one of Jesus, set into an alcove next to the side altar, is so sad in his expression that it makes you very sad and pensive just looking at it. The church sustained a lot of damage during the war and much of the building had to be rebuilt, but it has retained its original beauty. The stations of the cross are unusual, not statues but small pictures hanging on the walls and pillars around the church, they are all the same colours, a wonderful clear blue all edged with gold, they are exquisite.
We leave this beautiful church and walk across the square towards the bustling town, complete with its many shops and cafes. The streets are full of people wrapped up against the cold but enjoying being out in the sunshine. The buildings around the city are very varied in design, some are half-timbered houses,some have ornately decorated facades and there are statues set into corners or over the top of the doors or gables, it is very interesting to look at. We treat ourselves to a well earned cup of coffee and slice of cake, just to warm us up of course! It is a good vantage place to sit and people watch and we see some very interesting people walk by. We follow the main street along to the Porta Negra, one of the five, old gateways of the city wall and dating back to the late second century AD. The stones were originally light sandstone but by medieval times had already turned black, hence it’s name ‘Porta Negra’ (Black Gate). Just to the side of the Porta Negra is the Tourist Information Office, we go in to try and find out if there is any information on the city that we do not have, we wait our turn but along with others have to wait a long time as the two ladies there do not seem to be in the mood to be helpful today! We leave. Walking through the huge gateway the road is full of very fancy, tall houses and from the plaques on the outside they are are mostly doctors and dentists. We do not seem to be going the right way, so when we can we go down a small narrow street which brings us out back at St.Peters Cathedral again! After all that walking we have completed a circle and returned to where we began. Not to worry this is how you get to know a place. We turn back towards the Bascillica, now closed again (it is 4.30pm) and walk past the palace and gardens, past the museum and here we pick up the old city walls again which head towards the Roman baths. Spotting a sign for the Amphtitheatre, we follow that but it is quite a walk away. We do eventually reach it but, surprise, it is closed,Too Icy!. A poster on the wall informs us that from April to October Gladiator Valarius comes here every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays, but we are not seeing him today!
There is so much to see and do in Trier, we realy must come back again, and for longer. Crossing the river we start to climb the steep road that leads to the motorway. We cross the border into Luxembourg and stop to fill up with deisel, running a bit low now. The price per litre in Germany was averaging around €1.47 – €1.49 here in Luxembourg it is €1.23, Great! It is starting to get late now so we have our dinner at the Service Station and decide to spend the night here. What a lovely day we have had!
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