Germany day trip: Annweiler am Trifels

Germany day trip: Annweiler am Trifels

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Most of the towns and villages along the southern stretch of the German Wine Road boast of a certain type of cozy rustic charm. In a region so generously endowed with stunning scenery and welcoming places, a handful of places still manage to stand out above the rest.

Annweiler, or Annweiler am Trifels to be more formal about it, is a heart-melter of a town in the southwest corner of the vast and largely unspoiled Palatinate Forest. Surrounded by fantastical sandstone rock formations and crisscrossed by a brisk-flowing river, its geography is largely responsible for its particular flair.

Take the Quiech, the curiously named river that cuts through the city’s picturesque core. The stream that once powered mills and floated timber flows through town in canal-like waterways. A highlight of a walk alongside them is the “Stadtmühle” water wheel that for many years ground flour from grain. Although no longer used for this purpose, the old wheel keeps on spinning.

The Quiech played an additional role way back when, helping tanners turn hides into useful objects of fur and leather. Traces of this heritage are evident along the Gerberstrasse and in the Museum am Trifels, where the town’s colorful and turbulent past is brought to light in premises that once belonged to tanner families. With the first written mention of Annweiler dating back to the year 1086, the museum has plenty of ground to cover.

A stroll through town reveals other places of interest. There’s Shipka, a narrow street that, according to legend, got its name for the fact that large horse-drawn carts couldn’t pass through its narrow breadth, necessitating the use of smaller push carts. On the Town Hall, a pillory’s presence recalls the timeless practice of public humiliation. Note the portraits of some serious-looking figures on the houses lining the river, these are the rulers from long-past centuries.

Annweiler’s best asset lies up, not down. Towering high above town on the distinctive three-humped rock that lends the town the second half of its name is Trifels Castle.

The glory days of this restored medieval castle complex date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when the Holy Roman Empire was governed by the house of Hohenstaufen. But the castle’s biggest claim to fame is the famous prisoner it once held. For several months in 1193, Richard the Lionheart was held captive, his release secured only when England sent an exorbitant amount of silver coinage.

The steep uphill climb rewards even those who don’t elect to visit the castle-turned-museum, as the views of the surrounding forest and plain are pretty stupendous.

Die-hard hikers who find the jaunt up to the castle merely a tease can carry on the Annweilerer Burgenweg, which delivers geographical wonders and history in equal measure. The so-called premium hiking trail leads past three castles that played critical roles in the High Middle Ages: Trifels, Anebos and Scharfenberg. The five mile hike, a circular route, will take fit families around two and a half hours to complete.

While there’s no bad time of year to visit Annweiler, there are some exceptionally good ones. A Pinot Noir Festival generally takes place on the third weekend of June. The Richard Lionheart festival, a Middle Ages-themed celebration, is held on the fourth weekend in July. Over the first weekend of October, locally grown chestnuts are feted as part of the “Keschdefeschd.” And each of the town’s four districts holds its own “Kerwe,” small fairs celebrating the bounty of the particular season.

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