We have been living in Germany for two years now, and I like to find some of the cool, out-of-the-way places that most people don’t usually visit… and of course drag my family! I was looking for something old world and interesting; so, we decided to visit old Rome at the Xanten Archaeological Park in Germany.
While doing some research, I found this little town called Xanten. It was one of the first Roman settlements north of the Alps. The city dates back to 12 BC! It still has many of the old sites, like the Colosseum, Roman temples, and ancient Roman baths, all enclosed by the towering city wall and gate.
It was a bit cold and windy the day we went, and my guys were not exactly happy that I brought them out of our warm house; however, once we got there, it was like we were transported back in time to old Rome! The city itself still has the city gate standing, complete with lookout tower, and you must pass through this to enter. We paid our fee and walked through the gates of the ancient town.
This is the first thing that we saw! Wow… now the cold is not so bad, right?! This is the harbor temple, and it is 27 meters high and quite impressive to look at! It was used for worship and most likely sacrifice rituals. It was built to pay homage to a special god or goddess, however they have not found any evidence of which one. There is the inside chamber, where no mortals were ever allowed; only Gods! My kids, suddenly, were no longer cold and bounded up the huge set of stairs, getting to the top, and flexing for all the gods to see “their guns.” They were snooping around and found the beautiful white marble room with the alter which was used for sacrifices. Normally they sacrificed animals, and sometimes humans, to please the Gods.
We started walking toward the right side of the park; you can see the original sewer system that was built for the city. The city, at its height, housed over 10,000 soldiers and became one of the top 150 cities of the Roman Empire. The sewer system was one of the first of its kind, north of the Alps, and was copied from the aqueduct and sewer system built in Rome. Water was taken from the river, siphoned, and used for drinking, bathing, and sewage removal. This is the piece of the original system that is still standing today.
In the back of the park is a giant museum that is included in your price of admission. It is all glass and steel inside and pretty impressive to look at. The museum itself is built over top of the original ancient bath house of the city. The bath house was the city’s center point and was used for social purposes as well. It had the public toilets along with many forms of what we know today as saunas and steam room. This bath house was big and complex – it had fireplaces, heated water, cold water pools, steam rooms, and saunas. The toilets were built in a row, next to each other, so you could chat with the guy next to you … this is something I have nightmares about! However, the toilets were a very social place in the Roman era.
The museum also has three floors of artifacts, including the boats used to import items from Rome. One space is dedicated to many beautiful, original, wine carafes and barrels that were used to ship and store wine from Rome. There is another section where the kids can pick up the shields of the ancient warriors and try on the armor that was used in battle. I’m sure you know that my oldest tried to stab the youngest after he headbutted him with the metal gladiator helmet. My husband, who was also trying on the protective armor, did absolutely nothing to stop the situation. Now that we have tried to kill each other, I decided we had worn out our welcome and we should leave before we get thrown out.
Off we went to the final stop in the park – the Colosseum. The Colosseum is built very much like the original one in Rome and was used in the same way. The amphitheater stands 10 meters high and 99 meters in full circle. It has a standard sand floor and passageways and cells underground and around the building. The kids were pretty impressed and ran around the theater, showing guns, and pretending they were gladiators. There is some beautiful ancient metal work standing throughout the park. There is also a hostel that was once used to house workers and people passing through. They have a restaurant on site that serves wine and beer, thank goodness! There are many signs, in both German and English, throughout the park with more exhibits that I can’t possible tell you about!
We had a wonderful time, and if you are ever in the area this is a great bit of ancient Roman history in Germany.
You can also read this story at Oasis Magazine – http://oasismagazine.org/?p=1935
To access the website, click here – http://www.apx.lvr.de/english/
- March to October: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- November: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- December to February: Daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(closed on 24, 25, and 31 December)
- Adults: EUR 9.00
- Children under 18: Free
- Disabled: EUR 6.00
- Students, apprentices: EUR 6.00
- Parents and their children under 18: EUR 18.00
You need four or five or hours to enjoy the park and the museum.
Directions, parking, etc are here – http://www.apx.lvr.de/english/welcome/service_information/directions.htm