I didn’t know what to expect when I headed to Trier for their Altstadtfest (Old Town Festival) but it turns out it’s made up of mostly drinking, eating and listening to music. One can’t ask for much more from a festival really.
I visited the Altstadtfest in 2012 but it won’t be much different in 2013, the festival has been going on for years after all. We started with a little wine tasting. I wasn’t sure which wine to go with but one of the locals took us through the German menu and after a bit of an interrogation regarding our wine preferences he selected wines for us to try. He was spot on with his recommendations and I loved my semi-sweet wine from the local Mosel region.
The festival has plenty of places to stop for local wine and beer and not surprisingly these were the most popular stalls. Even in the early afternoon the locals were crowding around, drinking up and chatting amongst themselves.
I was planning on sticking to wine during the festival but it was hard to walk by these beautiful fruit punch bowls without trying at least one. Most were spiked with vodka and were very refreshing!
The eating side of things was a little less enjoyable for me as almost everything was deep fried and meaty. You can’t beat a good vegetarian Hungarian langos though. There was lots of international food available including Mexican, Thai and Japanese. I did try some German specialties including these deep fried mushrooms. Good in theory, not so good in practice.
I finally hit the jackpot with a vegetarian flammkuchen. Flammkuchen is kind of like German pizza. You see it a lot around the west of Germany but it’s originally from the Alsace region of France. It’s delicious. Don’t pass it up if you have the chance to try it.
If you’re a meat lover, you won’t be disappointed as after the beer and wine stalls the meat stations were the most well stocked. Piles of sausages and steaks were being grilled over hot coals and thrown between chunky bread rolls. Meat and bread were big at the Altstadtfest.
The entertainment at the festival was mostly music. There was jazz, church choirs and lots more in between.
Roman Sightseeing in Trier
If you’re not in Trier during the festival there’s plenty to see anyway. Trier was a great Roman city back in the day and there are loads of Roman ruins scattered around the city. My favourite is the Porta Nigra gate to the city. At one point there were four of these gates but this is the only one which remains.
The second most important Roman site in Trier is the Imperial Baths. The Romans were geniuses when it came to water and they created a complex system of hot and cold baths plus steam and relaxation rooms. There are no natural hot springs in Trier but they still managed to bring the water in and heat it to the exact temperature required.
There is also a huge Roman amphitheatre which is still used today although no longer for killing wild animals and gladiators. Much prettier is the Roman bridge which dates from the 2nd century and is still used by traffic today without any structural problems.
Not from Roman times but there are a couple of historic cranes located on the banks of the Moselle. One is from medieval times and the other from the 18th century. The engine used to work the cranes was powered only by manpower. Not a fun job I’d imagine.
In between the Porta Nigra and the Imperial Baths is the beautiful garden of the Palace of Trier which is a nice spot to take a break from the festival and sightseeing.
Where to Stay
I stayed in Trier at the Mercure Hotel Trier Porta Nigra. The hotel is located directly opposite the stunning Porta Nigra and I snapped the above photo of it from Mercure’s breakfast room. It’s not a bad view to eat breakfast to.
When to Visit
The Old Town Festival is held during June or it’s worth visiting Trier in December when the Christmas markets are on. Trier Tourism has a list of annual events on their website but the city’s Roman monuments and other sights can be visited all year round.1