CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER LIDOWSKI
About twenty minutes north of Ramstein, Germany’s largest castle ruins, Burg Lichtenberg, sit upon a hill overlooking the district of Kusel in Rhineland-Palatinate. Its tower, a rectangular prism rather the circular structure found in most castles, invites visitors to enter Burg Lichtenberg and explore everything its walls house. My family and I did just that on a recent Saturday and found the castle to be a perfect place to spend a beautiful summer day.
The castle was built around 1200 by the counts of Veldenz. It remained in that family until 1444 when the dukedome of Palatinate took ownership and maintained it until 1792. The castle became mixed up in the chaos surrounding the French occupation in 1792, and, while it was never directly attacked or defeated in battle, it was plundered several times until a fire destroyed much of the structure in 1799. Nearly a century later in 1895, the castle ruins were placed under historical monument protection, and visitors today see the efforts of that protection and reconstruction of some sections when they visit Burg Lichtenberg today.
The castle is open daily to visitors. The steps inside the tower have been rebuilt, so you can climb all the way to the top and take in a panoramic view of the Kusel district and the nearby village of Thallichtenberg. Children are welcome to clamber up jagged walls to sit in window frames that invite one to imagine the colorful stained glass panes they once held.
In fact, children can climb just about anywhere they want. Mine walked on ledges, scurried into hidden pockets, peeked over well walls, and thoroughly explored the ruins before taking some time to enjoy the small playground nestled within the castle walls. The accessibility of the ruins permitted the kids to explore to their hearts’ content, which isn’t something they can always do at historical sites.
The welcoming nature of Burg Lichtenberg extends to the youth and family hostel found on site. The hostel hosts family-friendly events during major holidays, and you can even schedule a birthday party there that includes planned activities and treats. I can easily imagine a young prince or princess spending the day reigning over the castle and then spending the night sleeping within its walls. That is an experience that can’t easily be topped.
However, the people who run Burg Lichtenberg have tried to do just that. Grown up princes and princesses can get married within the castle walls. A civil service is offered on the first Saturday of each month, and an active church sits in the heart of the ruins where marriages can also be performed. The fantasy of it all makes me want to schedule my own birthday party or vow renewal at Burg Lichtenberg so that I can be a princess for a day!
After all the climbing and exploring, visitors can relax in the castle’s restaurant. The restaurant is located near the ruin’s entrance in what was once the official castle historian’s office. It offers several dining areas that include outdoor seating. The restaurant features game from local hunters in several of its main dishes such as venison in a nut crust. The Chef de Cuisine and owner of the restaurant, Peter Emrich, has completed extensive training including the Master’s Apprenticeship Program at the Heidelberg Master School, so the restaurant’s menu offers dishes to remember. While the restaurant welcomed my husband and me along with our three children, it does not have a children’s menu, so you may want to keep that in mind. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch from 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM, a light menu is available from 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, and the dinner menu is featured from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM.
To explore the largest castle ruins in Germany and invite some of your own fantasies to come true, you can type the address below into your GPS or search engine, and go!
Castle/Restaurant Website: www.burglichtenberg.de
Hostel Website: www.diejungendherbergen.de
Address: Burg Lichtenberg, 66871 Thallichtenberg
GPS Coordinates: 49.55571, 7.357300000000009