Every year, exactly 7 weeks after the predictably unpredictable holiday we call Easter, occurs another, slightly shorter holiday, which in English is known as Whitsunday. In Germany and some other countries that like their days off, the Monday following more or less directly after Whitsunday is a public holiday. The main reason for this extra holiday, regardless of when it happens to show up in any given year, is to drink beer. Therefore, my wife and I headed off to one of the few cities in Germany where I hadn’t been, which also happens to be the oldest, namely Trier, mainly because it is one of the few that rhymes with Bier – which is German for beer. With such a cunningly clucked out plan, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters I had booked the train to get there. Despite the Germans’ reputation for efficiency, their train system seems to be riddled with delays, which caused us to miss a connection, get re-routed through an entirely different region and arrive nine minutes late. As a result, all the beer drinking of the weekend was delayed by nine minutes, though I am not sure if this made a huge difference.
Trier was founded by the Romans, those dodgy wine-drinking folks that spread their forums, amphitheatres and hot baths around most of Europe before imploding in their own orgies. It is situated on the river Mosel, which meanders its way through vineyards and pretty towns, before emptying into the great river Rhine. Unsurprisingly, Trier has a lot of history, and also some pretty passable Roman ruins that you can enjoy looking at if you’re into that sort of thing.
|The "Black Gate" (Porta Negra), Trier's most famous Roman building|
The best thing about sight-seeing is that it makes you very thirsty, so it wasn’t long before we set off in search of the first Trier Bier. Always trying to increase our productivity by doing multiple things simultaneously, we were also busy pondering the following question: if you, like me, like to try beers, are you then a beer trier? Whilst mulling over this we observed something slightly odd: no matter where we looked – east, west, north, south, up, down, left, right or anywhere in between, the beer on offer was called Bitburger. This is a beer I’ve had many times before, as it is one of the biggest brands in Germany. There’s nothing wrong with it – it can, in fact, be quite good at times – but it wasn’t what I had arrived nine minutes late for. I was, of course, aware of the fact that the town of Bitburg, presumably named after the brewery, is situated only a couple of dozen kilometres from Trier, but I hadn’t quite expected such outrageous dominance. So, I gave in and order one. It was refreshing, quite tasty and in many respects acceptably local. However, I wanted more.
As it turned out, a 10-minute walk past the amphitheatre, my favourite people in Trier had founded my favourite place in Trier back in 1998 – the exquisite little brewery known as “Kraft Bräu”, where they not only brew their own beer, they also allowed me to drink as much of it as I liked. This fantastic combination was hard to resist, and given the lack of other choices in Trier I thought why not, give me the beer menu (they had two) and let’s get to work. Their standard beers were the same as most places in Germany: a light Helles, a dark Dunkles, and a wheat beer. These were all very good – unfiltered and refreshing, just right for everyday drinking, especially on a hot day (it was a hot day). Then they had their “special selection” – a pale ale, an IPA, an outrageous IPA and a pilsner. Combined with a lovely beer garden, perfect weather, superb food and a relaxed atmosphere, this place was so good that we just had to come back.
|Fantastic brews from Trier's only remaining brewery|
Another feature of Trier is its proximity to one of Europe’s most anonymous nations, namely Luxembourg. A small super-rich country which has seemingly never offended anyone, and therefore stays out of the news and most people’s consciousness. However, a country is a country and if I have the chance to drink a beer in it, I surely will. Thus, we rented bikes and set off on the lovely cycle path along the river until we crossed a bridge which also turned out to be the border. Gone were all the signs with “Bitburger” written on them, replaced by signs saying “Bofferding”. This mysterious-sounding beer turned out to be… very drinkable. And that’s just about all there is to say about Luxembourg, because after we finished our beers we caught what must be one of the shortest international ferry journeys in the world (sixty-seven and a half seconds) back to Germany, thus avoiding crossing the same bridge twice. The cycle ride back generated just enough thirst to warrant another visit to Kraft Bräu, where the beers turned out to be even better now that the weather was even hotter.
|Luxembourg! The country is considerably bigger than the beer mat.|
The last day in Trier, just before the train was due to leave, we noticed that there were loads of people drinking wine, and we also heard a rumour that the Mosel Valley is world famous for its wines. As this was the only thing you could drink in Trier not made by Bitburger, we decided to try some. Oh well, we all make mistakes sometimes.
|Waiting for the international ferry (sadly no duty free onboard).|
Since everything was nine minutes delayed due to our unfortunate late arrival, it came as no surprise that our return train was also nine minutes late. The unfortunate thing about this was that we then missed our connection to the only train that ran on time in Germany on this particular day. We then proceeded to make our way home on trains that, at some time or another, had every possible delay between 5 and 105 minutes. Needless to say, this was great fun, and we made inappropriate jokes about all the world’s train systems except the Swiss one (which we only made appropriate jokes about) until we arrived back home sometime in the middle of the night.
In conclusion, Trier was a nice and interesting place to visit, but the dominance of a single pilsner-only brewery makes it a little bit boring in this respect. However, if you search you will sometimes find, which applies to both geocaching and breweries – and so it came to pass that both the beer blogger and his wife found what they were looking for. A couple of weeks later, we completed an epic journey from Copenhagen to Karlsruhe by bike and beer, so check out this blog in a few weeks’ time and perhaps you'll be lucky enough to find a summery summary. Until then: Zum Skål!