For lunch, we stopped at a local restaurant in view of the cathedral. Most of us had traditional German food, but one group member decided to be adventurous. He ordered from the Roman menu, a selection of dishes based on the recipe book of a first century Roman chef from Trier.
After lunch, we explored one of my favorite Roman buildings, the beautifully restored Aula Palatina. Also called Constantine’s Basilica, it was built around 300 AD. The basilica is all that is left of a huge palace complex Constantine built as the headquarters of the Western Roman Empire. The basilica is impressive, even today.
It is hard to imagine how the Romans were able to build the enormous hall, complete with central heating, and then cover it with a flat roof spanning the massive space with no supporting columns – especially 2000 years ago. Inside are exposed brick walls, likely covered with marble during Roman times.
A few optical tricks make the room look even longer than it is. Because the huge hall is nearly empty, it feels austere. During Roman days, it was fully decorated with gold, colorful mosaics, and sculpture. Today’s basilica looks spartan in comparison, although I love its simplicity.
Aula Palatina has been damaged and restored twice since Roman times, first in the nineteenth century and then in 1956 after it was damaged during WWII. Since the nineteenth century, it has served as a Protestant church.
Just around the corner, and directly next to the basilica, was the Electoral Palace, a lavish building considered to be one of the most beautiful Rococo buildings anywhere.
The simple brick basilica visible behind was in stark contrast to the ornate pink mansion. We wandered through the beautiful gardens in front and were transported back to the eighteenth century when the palace and gardens were established.
Our next stop was the city’s famous eighteenth century Rococo church, St. Paulinus. From the outside, the building looks simple yet elegant, so when you step inside, the array of light and color, cupids and saints, sculpture and paint comes as quite a surprise.
We stood gazing up at the soaring vision of heaven painted on the ceiling. Then one of our guests, an opera singer, saw the huge empty space as an opportunity to test out the building’s acoustics and started to sing. Her voice bounced off the walls and high ceiling creating an otherworldly sound that gave us goosebumps.
We finished off the day with dinner at a hotel restaurant atop one of the highest points in Trier as the sun set over the city spread out before us.