Monday, May 21, 2012

Trier

Modern statue of Holy Rock
The Eifelsteig ends in Trier and that was to be my next rest day as well. But unfortunately, I had not taken into consideration the "Heilig Rock". Now what is the "Heilig Rock"? Quite frankly, I did not know either. I had seen posters announcing the "Heilig Rock" before but I had not paid much attention. "Heilig" means "holy" in German und "Rock" can either be a skirt, an old fashioned word for garment or refer to rock music. As the posters had all been very modern and stylish I had assumed that it is as Christian Rock music festival - but I could not have been more wrong. Heilig Rock is the supposed garment of Jesus Christ that has been kept in Trier cathedral since the 16th century. It is always there but it is very rarely shown. This only happens every couple of decades and is then declared a pilgrimage. The last Heilig Rock years have been 1933, 1953, 1996 and now 2012. The garment is only shown for one month - and I happened to arrive in Trier on the second last day before it would be locked away again for the next decades.

I did not know about all this when I started my first accommodation inquiries. First I tried couchsurfing, but nobody was available. I really can't understand why I have been successfully couchsurfing all around the world but I never ever find a couchsurfing host in Germany. Next I tried hostels, but they were all fully booked. Then someone mentioned Heilig Rock and what it really means and it dawned on me that my peaceful rest day in Trier might be more complicated than I had anticipated.

Trier cathedral
But for once luck was on my side. The last stage of the Eifelsteig starts in a little town called Kordel which has a direct and frequent train connection to Trier. I started calling B&B places but of course they were all fully booked. One lady said I should try her neighbor and there I got lucky: I scored a whole holiday aparment for 18 EUR per day!!!! The place even had a TV and when I arrived there Friday afternoon I just took a long shower, picked 15 ticks off me, washed my clothes, went to the only restaurant in town and then collapsed in front of the TV. When hiking your standards are so low that a TV is a great event!

Next day I took a day trip to Trier and encountered one of the nicest trail towns. Already at the station there were various counters with Heilig Rock volunteers helping the pilgrims. Almost everyone in Trier seemed to be either a volunteer or a pilgrim by the way. The town was absolutely packed and I was given the advice that the best time to view the Heilig Rock would be late afternoon. Otherwise I would have to wait a long time - and a long time really meant about 2 hours and more. When I passed the cathedral the first time there were so many people queuing that you would assume someone gave away free tickets for a Madonna concert. Hundreds of nuns and priest, many of them from Eastern Europe.

Porta Nigra
But Trier has a lot more to offer and I visited the Rheinisches Landesmuseum first. Trier was created as a Roman settlement and Roman artefacts are still all over Trier - and in the Museum. Most famous sight in Trier is the "Porta Nigra", the old Roman town gate. Once there had been four of equally imposing size, but only this one had survived because it had served as a church in post-Roman times. All sorts of Roman city tours were offered with German tour guides dressed up as Roman soldiers speaking bad English. I was very surprised to see a tour group around a bearded guy with an ill fitting black priest habit and I was wondering what sort of adventure tour he was offering - when I realised that he was an authentic Russian orthodox priest with a Russian pilgrimage groups.... oops.

But as my own German (and not dressed up) tour guide said: "Even if the Japanes cease to come and see the Porta Nigra and the Europeans to see the Heilig Rock, we will still have the Chinese coming to see the birth place of Karl Marx." And so I took a look myself - and really, Karl Marx' birth place in Trier was full of Chinese. Everyone a pilgrimage to his taste: Romans, Jesus garments, Karl Marx... you name it and Trier has it. But now it was time for me to eventually see the Heilig Rock. The crowds had diminished considerably and I only waited for about half an hour to get inside the cathedral and see the old brown garment myself - with volunteers all over the place telling everyone to slowly move on.


Pilgrim merchandise
The garment itself was not very exciting, but I liked the pilgrim's merchandise tent next door with all sorts of Heilig Rock souvenirs. They must have made good business as 550,000 pilgrims had come to Trier for the Heilig Rock in one month. For me only I short hop into an internet cafe to update my blog was left and then back to my lovely little holiday apartment.

Trier is a fantastic trail town and I liked it as much as Passau on my last year's hike through Germany. Trier has a lot of very different things to see (even without the Heilig Rock), everything is within walking distance, plenty of shops and internet cafes in the centre. I really enjoyed my day in Trier - and maybe you should give it a try, too? But the date for the next Heilig Rock pilgrimage has not been fixed yet...

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