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Archive for September, 2015

Trier – Roman treasure chest

The next part of our trip will give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with Roman history and architecture as we make our way towards Trier, one of the four cities claiming to be the oldest in Germany. Presumably it was founded in the late 4th century BC by Celts (Treuorum) and conquered by the Romans by 16 BC and ‘renamed’ Augusta Treverorum. Modern Trier might not necessarily come across as a thriving metropolis, but during Roman times it managed to maintain a high profile and during the 4th century was even one of the five biggest cities of the known world with a population ranging from 75,000 to 100,000.1200px-Trier_Porta_Nigra_BW_4

Our guided tour through town will give you a good idea about the rich history this town has been steeped in and you will see why you can call the whole city a UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the main sights will be the Porta Nigra, the black gate, guarding one entrance to the city.

Porta Nigra

Trier_Porta_Nigra_ModelOriginally designed to be part of a four tower system guarding the entrances to the city, this is the last remaining one and the largest remaining one in Europe north of the Alps. As the Roman influence waned, the gates were not needed as such and slowly dismantled to be used for other buildings. This ended when in 1030 the Greek monk Simeon had himself walled into one of the rooms to spend the rest of his life in prayer and meditation. Soon after his death and canonization in 1035 the monastery Simeonstift was built next to it and the ruin itself received a new lease of life by being converted into a church. Trier_model800It served this purpose until 1804 when Napoleon revoked the conversion and had it converted back to its original form. During peak season some of the guided tours involve a centurion, explaining in detail the construction and history of the gate!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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From heavy industry to romantic nature

teaser__74_75a_Blick-auf-die-Saarschleife-von-der-Cloef_-Mettlach_Orscholz_300x200Once we’ve climbed down the furnaces of the Völklinger Hütte we continue on our journey along the Saar. The well laid-out cycle paths lead us to the famous Saarschleife, the spot where a few hundred million years ago the river decided to make a detour and created this stunning display. The river valley has existed for over 350 Million years, but it has been a tourist attraction for only the past 170 years! The loop can be best viewed from The Cloef, a cliff formation overlooking the river at the center of the loop. Once we’ve parked the bikes, we’ll go on a hike up to get a better view from the top.

Romanticism and travelling

1200px-Saarschleife_HDREven though the loop itself might not have found its way into a famous painting, it had caught Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s eye during his travels in 1839 as the crown prince. In view of a possible visit to the nearby village of Orscholz, dignitaries decided a major upgrade of the paths and fortification of the viewing platform was required. Despite some local opposition – mainly from a landowner who didn’t want to give up part of his forest – the viewing platform, a pavilion with a mosaic ( donated by one of the founders of Villeroy& Boch) and a sandstone table (donated by the local castle owner Johann Baptist de Musiel) were ready for the monarch for his visit in 1856.

Modern appeal

As the tourists kept coming in larger and larger numbers after the Royals’ visit, it was easier for the councils to release funds for the repairs and upgrades required. As times and tastes have changed, the design of the original small viewing platform has undergone a huge transformation, making it a modern architecturally interesting site as well. As throughout the decades up to the present the Cloef has proven to be a magical attraction for artists and nature lovers  we hope you will enjoy it too.

„2011-07-23-Atrium“ von Thomas Johannes - Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2011-07-23-Atrium.jpg#/media/File:2011-07-23-Atrium.jpg

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

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Völklinger Hütte

Our next stop on our tour along the Saar river is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Völklinger Hütte, an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage denoting its historical importance and attractiveness to visitors. The guided tour will explain in detail the workings of the ironworks and the relevance to local and national economics.

But for those of you who cannot wait for the tour, I can highly recommend the web site which gives detailed information about the history of the ironworks, the founding family and its conversion into a modern learning and entertainment space.1200px-VH_außen_pano

Völklingen

One aspect that might not be obvious to the uninitiated is the fact that the area around Völklingen has been an important trading and industry site as early as the 6th century.

The fertile meadows between the rivers Rossel and Köllerbach flowing into the Saar have meant that the area had been populated since Celtic times. As the villages grew and trade along the Saar flourished, its relevance for local and regional administrations increased as well.

In the 16th century iron and coal finds in the area led to the construction of the oldest and largest ironworks of the Saarland in Geislautern in 1572. Geislautern is now part of Völklingen and right opposite the famous ironworks on the other side of the Saar.

Even though the works in Geislautern were closed in 1884, new technology developments and innovative thinking were influential in the establishment and success of the Völklinger Hütte, the “Röchling’schen Eisen- und Stahlwerke” by Carl Röchling in the late 1880’s. The works were active until the 1970’s when the world wide steel crisis required major restructuring of the industry which ultimately led to its closure in 1986.

A walk through time1280px-Völklingen_Ironworks_by_night

To understand the importance of the industry and this particular steel works, one has to remember that the guided tour and public area covers ‘only’ 7.46 hectare of the original area of the Saarstahl AG (260 hectares), which officially originated after the steel crisis in 1986, but through its individual components goes back to the beginnings of the steel industry in the region. Be amazed by the sheer size of the site and enjoy the various cultural exhibitions during your visit here.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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Baroque church design

ludwigskirche-102f90fb-bd4b-4a1e-9b85-fc5da0bc8b29

756px-Ludwigsplatz1.svgOn a visit to Saarbrücken you should go and have a look at the Ludwigskirche in the center of town. It is one of three of the most relevant Protestant churches in Germany. It was designed by Friedrich Joachim Stengel and consecrated in 1775. In line with the traditional baroque design of a ‘complete work of art’, the design not only focused on the church itself, but included the surrounding Ludwig’s Square as well. The map illustrates the plans for the surrounding buildings even though not all were completed.

Restoration

1920px-LudwigskircheDuring a bombing in October 1944 the church sustained such major damage that only the surrounding walls remained. Even though rebuilding started in 1949, because of fierce discussions until the 70’s it isn’t finished yet. The discussions were about whether or not to restore the original baroque designs or just keep the exterior and create a modern interior. Eventually the traditionalists succeeded and most of the interior is now finished. Now they just have to decide whether to paint the exterior the original white – which would require regular cleaning and repainting – or not. Also some exterior balustrade figures are still not replaced, but it is nonetheless well worth a visit!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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