South of Bernkastel-Kues the landscape around the Mosel gradually begins to open up, so that TRIER, 50km downstream, sits among gently rolling hills. But most visitors pay little attention to the landscape, for the city has northern Europe's greatest assemblage of Romanremains. Founded as Augusta Treverorum in 15 BC, Trier grew to become the capital of the western Roman Empire by the third century AD. As Rome declined, Trier fell into the hands of various tribes, including the Huns under Attila, until eventually the Franks asserted themselves at the end of the fifth century, ushering in a period of relative stability which saw the city gain independence from Ostfrankenreich in 1212 and become an archbishopric in 1364. This brought a second golden age when its archbishops became prince-electors and so vital imperial power-brokers.
But Trier is not a city that lives entirely on its past, and the vineyards around town along with a large student population help liven things up, while the proximity to Luxembourg and France provides a cosmopolitan feel that makes it an immediately likeable and easy-going place and good base for day-trips, not just along the Mosel Valley but also to Völklinger Hütte. And if you're driving don't forget to nip over to Luxembourg for the cheap fuel – price differences have spawned a minor industry just over the border.