As I hoped, this is a really nice hotel. On a hill overlooking Trier, we have a private balcony, a large room, and even wash cloths! Apparently wash cloths are only available in the finer German hotels, so that's where we are.
We arrived here fairly early yesterday, and our room wasn't ready yet, but that was no matter, since we were eager to explore the town. Trier is considered to be the oldest city in Europe, with Roman ruins dating back several hundred years before the birth of Christ. It has so many layers of history for me. I feel a strange sort of disconnect. One part of me has been going "wow oh wow, this is that town I've heard about all my life, the town in those old pictures, in my mothers stories. The other part of me is just being a tourist, soaking up the history, the food, taking pictures.
We walked down the hill to the town center. Right away we see the roman ruins. It's like being in a mini Rome, with a bath house, an amphitheater, and Porta Nigra, the famous Black Gate. There are old family photos of my relatives standing in front of the Porta Nigra, so I have Lee take one of me standing there too.
We go into the tourist information center and get a good city map. Unfortunately nobody can remember for sure what street my great grandmother's Inn was on. The best I can get is "across the railroad tracks from St. Mathies. We save that bit of exploration for the following day.
There is a city museum with an audio guide. We speed through the medieval history of Trier, eager in an apprehensive way to get to the history of the Jews in Trier. There have been Jews living here off and on since the Middle Ages. They would periodically be expelled, and then would return. My relatives lived here at least since the 1700's, and might have been in France before that, but we're not sure.
Much of what happened in Trier when the Nazi's came to power is no different than what you have heard many times before. Trier's Jewish population was about 600 people. By 1938 all but about 150 of them had left. Among those left were my grandfather's two sisters who refused to leave. Everyone that was left was eventually deported to the camps, including my great aunts. Only 14 of those people survived. My great aunts were not among those 14 people.
We leave the city museum somewhat dazed and slowly make our way back up the hill to the hotel. The beautiful chilly sunny weather is a welcome change from the rain and snow of the past couple of days. After a nice dinner in a nearby restaurant we are ready to call it a night.
The next day I'm eager to search the area around the cathedral of St. Mathies. I want to take pictures of the area for my mother. The cathedral isn't hard to find; it's huge. It takes some time to find our way around to the neighborhood on the other side of the railroad tracks, where my mother and her family lived. It was 75 years ago, and Trier was bombed during the war, so we know everything has changed, but we take pictures of some likely street signs, and the view of the church from the other side of the tracks. Who knows, maybe something will look familiar to my mother,
Then we walk along the river, where my grandfather taught her to swim, and into the neighborhood where the old Jewish cemetery is located. It's not hard to find, but the gate is locked, as we were warned it would be. But on one side the wall is low and we can peak over it easily. I snap a bunch of shots, feeling an odd thrill. Somewhere in here my great grandfather is buried. I silently say the first line of Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
There's one more photo I want to take and then I'm finished. The Jewish school where my mother went was right across the street from the Karl Marx museum, so I take a few pictures there too. Yes, Karl Marx was from Trier as well.
After that I'm ready to stop thinking about history for awhile. The hotel has a pool and a sauna and we think we'll go indulge ourselves. Tomorrow we're driving to the Netherlands. I'm curious to see how it will be different from Germany. Food, language, culture, bring it on!