Annweiler is located in the Pfälzer Wald (Palatinate Forest) in the valley of the river Queich. This is one of the major valleys into the Palatinate Forest, but that does not imply it is really big. There are but a few streams and small rivers leaving the hills in eastward direction into the Upper Rhine Plain. The Queich valley is important enough to have both a regional railway line (Landau – Pirmasens) and a highway following it.
The village of Annweiler is famous because, and only because, of Trifels castle. But the village has got its own charm and romantic spots, especially along the small river Queich. Its main attraction is the castle, so the village is often overlooked, but the walk from the railway station takes leads the old centre. Looking a bit left and right is worthwhile.
„Trifels“ translates to „triple rock“. The mountain with the three peaks has always been considered a special, sacred place at least since the middle ages, if not far earlier. Each of the three summits bears a castle, one of them rebuilt, the other two in ruins: Trifels, Anebos, and Scharfenberg.
Photo 1: From left to right: Trifels, Anebos, Scharfenberg
Photo 2: Vice versa. A snapshot taken from the train between Landau and Annweiler.
Trifels castle belonged to the Staufer emperors and kings. It was their most important castle in the high middle ages. Later neglected and decayed, the ruin was saved in the 19th century and finally rebuilt in 1938-1950. What we see today is in parts a 20th century building, including some features which indicate that the project was planned and started during the Nazi era. Since this place was of highest importance to the Staufer dynasty, it gives testimony of a great era in German history (although, strictly speaking, there was no such thing as Germany in the middle ages).
In the Staufer era, the insiginia of the Holy Roman Empire were stored on Trifels castle for safekeeping. Replica of the medieval crown, sword, scepter etc. are on display inside the castle - the original pieces sare kept in Vienna and can be admired in the treasure chamber in Hofburg.
Hiking up to Trifels Castle
Trifels castle is clearly visible from about everywhere in Annweiler, thus impossible to miss.
That’s the theory.
Unless it's a foggy day, as happened to yours truly.
Clouds were low and hid the castle. So we asked somebody who looked like a local about the right path, an the person told us, „Ah yes, go over there, then left, and then turn right and climb uphill.“ So we went over there, turned left and then right and climbed and climbed... finally the fog thinned, the sun came out, and we had an amazing view of the three summits across the valley because we were standing on top of the wrong hill...
My companion strictly refused to climb up a second hill, so I did not reach Trifels castle that day. We found a fine cafe at the bottom, sat down for coffee and cake, and called it a day.
As you see from the photos, I gave Trifels a second try, now on a glorious sunny day in October. This time I found my way;-)
As soon as you are at the foot of the right hill, trails are marked. All trails up will take you to the castle. The distance isn't actually far, but the paths are rather steep, so the hike isn't that easy. For the 'softies', you can go halfway up by car, leave your car at the parking and walk only the last bit.
Opening hours of the castle: April - September: 10.00–18.00, October - November and January - March: 10.00-17.00. Closed in December
The Palatinate Forest: Hikers‘ Paradise
Endless hiking trails, great views of the Rhine plain and the hills, castle ruins, charming villages and of course great wines and food from the Pfalz - the Palatinate Forest / Pfälzer Wald is truly a paradise for hikers.
The Palatinate Forest is an area which is relatively unspoilt by tourism. It is popular in the region for hiking and outdoor sports, but hardly known among international visitors. The hilly region along the western side of the Upper Rhine plain is covered with seemingly endless forests. This is the largest forest area in the whole of Germany, and classified as a national park. Grünstadt, Kaiserslautern, Pirmasens, the French border and the Wine Road mark the borders of the protected area. The landscape is connected with the Vosges on the French side. The highest peaks reach an altitude of more than 600 m.
If you plan to do hiking in the Palatinate Forest, wear appropriate shoes. Ankle-high hiking boots aren't necessary (though no mistake if you have them) but you need soles that have a good grip. The paths can be steep and rocky, have loose stones and mud, and get slippery when wet or covered with leaves. Even the trails up to Trifels castle are unpaved, steep forest paths. Clumsy Me observed 999 tree roots but tripped over root number 1000 on the way down and bruised her knees badly... ouch!
Hiking is more fun if you have a destination. Several of the peaks along the Rhine plain carry the ruins of medieval castles, for example Madenburg, Burg Landeck, Hambacher Schloss and the most famous of them, Trifels above Annweiler, or view towers and viewpoints. Wide views down into the Rhine plain over to Odenwald, Kraichgau and Black Forest add to the pleasure.
The further west you go, deeper into the forests, the quieter and more remote they are. Sandstone rock formations in the central part are popular among rock climbers.
The majority of the trees in the forests are deciduous. This means autumn colours. In October the entire forests turn to rich golden colours. This is the most beautiful season for hiking, good weather provided. Sweet chestnut trees grow wild in these forests, guess what many local specialities include. The Palatine is a region for foodies and wine lovers...