Chasing Jewels and Kings at Burg Trifels
CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER LIDOWSKI
Every once in a while, my kids aren’t instantly excited about visiting a museum, historic site, or castle. Sometimes, they just want to spend a day at home. My husband and I have a hard time letting a free day go to waste, though. We tend to feel that each free moment in Germany should be spent seeing, eating, or experiencing something that we won’t be able to enjoy once we return to America. Occasionally we have to think of ways to entice the kids to be as excited about a new experience as we are.
Luckily, a visit to Burg Trifels provided us with some good material to work with. It’s hard to pass up a glimpse at some crown jewels and the prison that once held the kind of England. So, off to Burg Trifels we went with happy kids in tow.
Burg Trifels is a quick one hour drive southeast of Ramstein. It’s located in the village of Annweiler at the top of a red sandstone mountain that is favored by mountain climbers (we saw several clinging to the mountainside during our visit). The castle gets its name from the threefold rock that it sits upon on the mountain’s peak.
Burg Trifels was first mentioned in 1081, but it gained its importance during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries due to two notable events. First, it became the home to the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire (more simply, the crown jewels) in 1125. The jewels were kept in the castle for safekeeping until 1220.
Today, you can see replicas of the Imperial Regalia when you visit the castle. To my daughter’s disappointment, you don’t get to keep the jewels or try them on, but there is a throne room where kids can spend the afternoon pretending to be kings and queens.
The second thing that makes Burg Trifels stand out involves its role as a prison. From March 31-April 19, 1193, Richard the Lionheart, the King of England, was imprisoned by Emperor Henry VI at Burg Trifels. Richard the Lionheart was captured returning from the Third Crusades. He was held at the castle until a large payment for his release was received.
Local lore reports that the troubadour Blondel de Nesle discovered which castle housed his king by traveling to each one and singing Richard the Lionheart’s favorite song loudly outside the high, stone walls. He eventually heard Richard the Lionheart sing the song in return, which revealed his location. It’s unlikely that Emperor Henry VI desired to hide the King of England’s whereabouts since he wanted to barter a high price for his return, but the legend lends itself to a romantic visit to the castle when a musician reenacts Blondel de Nesle’s serenade on most weekend afternoons.
Unfortunately, the castle fell into disrepair after its most famous visitors, the crown jewels and Richard the Lionheart, left. A fire from a lightning strike damaged the castle extensively. Further damage occurred during the 30 Years War, and Burg Trifels became a quarry that local villagers took advantage of extensively. However, reconstruction efforts starting in 1840 tried to reverse the years of damage, and visitors can now travel to Burg Trifels to see a fascinating combination of ruins and structures completed during preservation efforts.
Travelers will see the castle sitting upon the mountain from quite a ways off, but you will have pick which route to reach the castle fits your preferences best. You can park at the foot of the mountain in Annweiler and hike up the entire mountain. Alternatively, you can take advantage of several parking areas halfway up the mountain where you can stop, picnic, and hike the rest of the way up to the castle if you don’t feel the need to walk the entire way. Or, you can drive up the one-lane road to the base of the mountain’s peak, park in the large lot in front of a lovely restaurant, and take a leisurely ten minute walk up to the castle’s entrance. I’ll let you guess which option we selected in our attempt to make the trip as appealing as possible to three little kids.
Our trip started with efforts to persuade our three little ones that spending the day exploring was more fun than staying at home, but it ended with smiles. Not many can resist the charms of a castle sitting high up on a mountain whispering stories of crown jewels, imprisoned kings, and traveling troubadours. Another weekend in Germany visiting and experiencing something new can be marked down in our family records.
The castle is open 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM from April to September. During October to November and January to March, opening hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The castle is closed to visitors in December. The last guests are admitted thirty minutes prior to closing time. Adult tickets cost 3 Euro, and children aged 6-18 can get tickets for 1.50 Euro. Two types of family tickets are available. For 3 Euro, a family with one adult and up to four kids aged 6-18 can be admitted. 6 Euro covers a family with two adults and up to four kids aged 6-18. Family tickets can be expanded to include additional children for half a Euro for each child past the first four. More information about Burg Trifels and its schedule of events can be found at www.annweiler.de or by calling 06346 8470. The castle’s address is Trifelsstraβe, 76855 Annweiler.
Tips For Your Trip:
April – September:
Last entry: 1730
October – November / January – March:
Last entry: 1630
Children ages 6-18: €1.50
Family 1 (1 Adult and up to 4 children): €3.00
Family 2 (2 Adults and up to 4 children): €6.00
Additional children can be added to the family ticket for €.50 each.