It was still cold and grey but not wet so we headed first to the nearby small town of Kalkar. The market square was dominated by the 15th century brick Gothic Rathaus a very impressive building. We enjoyed a gentle wander through the streets and looked inside the St Nicolai Church. This church had an amazing collection of nine Gothic altars all carved in wood. In reading the information about the high altar we learnt that it took three craftsmen twelve years to complete!
From Kalkar we headed to the outskirts of Xanten to the LVR- Archaologischer Park and RomerMuseum. A surprise was install.
The park is located on the site of the Roman city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana one of the most important cities in the Germanic provinces of the Roman Empire. During its height its population was over 10,000 people. The first legion of Roman soldiers arrived in the area around 13/12BC. Because of its important strategic position on the Rhine the settlement grew and by 98/99 AD received Colonia status becoming one of only 150 in the Roman Empire. The city continued to thrive until the end of the 3rd century when it was destroyed by the Germanic Franks. Much of the building materials from the site were used to build the settlement of Xanten.
The park seen today was not all exposed old ruins but following years of excavations and research a number of the prominent buildings have been recreated to exact size to give an impression of what they would have been like.
It was a massive site and as we walked around the site we learnt more about the Romans from their information boards in German/English and Dutch, than we had every learnt before at school or visiting Roman sites in the UK. They had some interesting exhibits on many topics including transport, funeral practices and everyday life. The Romans were a very advanced civilisation much of which were lost during the intervening centuries.
We finished our visit at the RomerMuseum built on the site of the Grosse Thermen or the public baths complex, the ruins of which are covered in glass. The building is the size of the original baths. The museum was again not just archeological finds on show but all put in context by how they were displayed and simple narrative of their importance in every day to day life in the town. They also had on display and ancient freight barge found in the silt of the River Rhine.
A very educational day.