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It’s said that Trier, Germany, has the most well-preserved Roman ruins this side of the Alps. For the next 2½ months, Germany’s oldest city also has elephants. The Elephant Parade has marched into Germany.

With names like “Krusti,” “Pinky Pine” and “Prince of Trumpets,” the brightly hued, life-size sculptures of baby elephants offer a vibrant contrast and a fun diversion to the city’s archaic tourist attractions, while trying to draw attention to the plight of the world’s dwindling elephant population.

On a recent visit to this charming city on the Mosel River, my 9-year-old daughter and I weren’t interested in turning this trip into a history lesson and hadn’t mapped out which sites to see.

With our 50-euro-cent (about 70 U.S. cents) elephant map in hand, our focus was on finding the 40 elephant statues scattered throughout Trier’s cobblestone streets and old marketplace. But as it turned out, hunting for the elephants was a fine way to see the city, with many of the artworks on display near the city’s most famous sites. For example, on one end of the pedestrian zone, a cluster of pachyderms stood outside the portly Porta Nigra, the oldest Roman gate north of the Alps. Then there was the lone elephant standing sentry by the amphitheater, a Roman arena built outside the medieval city wall in the second century.

Trier is the first city in Germany to host the Elephant Parade, an honor it’s sharing this summer with neighboring Luxembourg city.

About 95 unique elephant statues, many designed by local and regional artists, are on display throughout both historical cities from now until mid-October, when many of the pieces will be auctioned off to the public.

According to organizers, the open-air exhibit has one aim: To save the Asian elephant from extinction.

Seventy percent of the proceeds from the public auction and a smaller percentage of merchandise sales go to the Asian Elephant Foundation, an independent, nonprofit foundation operating in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was created to assist in distributing funds for elephant preservation and conservation efforts raised by the Elephant Parade, according to the organization’s website.

Over the past three years, the event has raised more than 7 million euros at auctions in Europe, where cities from Milan to Amsterdam have hosted the Elephant Parade, according to organizers.

Trier and Luxembourg came on board in 2011, when businesswomen and local Elephant Parade organizers Nele Sottmann and Katrin Kaltenkirchen saw the event in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“For us it was clear, that this would also be a great idea for Trier” and Luxembourg, they wrote in an email.

The statues are made of fiberglass and strengthened with metal on the inside. Each weighs about 154 pounds before the artist adds his or her design.

A few of the elephants in Trier have a German or Roman bent: “Krusti” cradles bread in his trunk, while “Romanian” appears fit for a Roman gladiator.

Some are just plain fun, like “Lovely Elepunk,” a shiny, gold elephant with a wavy, gold mohawk.

The parade’s mascot is in Luxembourg city, near the Philharmonic concert hall. Mosha wears a prosthetic on its right front leg, a sobering reminder of the original story behind the Elephant Parade.

Dutch businessman Marc Spits and his son, Mike, created Elephant Parade in 2006 after Spits, while vacationing in Thailand, visited the world’s first elephant hospital and saw a baby elephant named Mosha, who had lost her leg after stepping on a landmine, according to the Elephant Parade website. She became the first elephant to be fitted for an artificial leg.

The last day of the parade in Trier is on Oct. 18, with the auction on Oct. 26. Luxembourg’s parade will wrap up a few days earlier, with its auction scheduled on Oct. 18. While the parade pieces likely will go for thousands of euros, smaller, limited-edition replicas are available in Trier’s Elephant Parade Gallery Store. Ten-centimeter sculptures were selling for 34.95 euros. Other elephant memorabilia for sale include tea cups, magnets and necklaces. “Art in a box” kits, also selling for 34.95 euros, containing a small, white ceramic elephant and paints, present the opportunity to design one’s own elephant.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

Directions Trier is just over one hour’s drive from Kaiserslautern. From A6, follow signs for A62 toward Hahn/Trier/Kusel for about 31 miles; then follow signs for Trier/Trier Centrum. Limited parking is available on the streets; a parking house near the old marketplace gets you within short walking distance of the pedestrian zone and the elephants.

Times Elephants will be on display through Oct. 18 in Trier; the parade ends several days earlier in Luxembourg. The Elephant Parade gallery store, located at Fleischstrasse 57, is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays, from 1-6 p.m.

Costs No admission. A map for 50 euro cents is sold at the Trier tourist information center in front of the Porta Nigra.

Food A wide variety of restaurants are located throughout the city.

More information Go to: www.elephantparade.de

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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