The Trifelsland is a section of the Deutsche Weinstrasse that enters deeper into the forested sandstone hills of the Pfälzer Wald (Palatinate Forest) due west of Landau in der Pfalz. The towns in this region are carved into small river valleys emptying out to the open vineyard lands of the west Rhein. It is a very scenic drive, particularly in the 'capital' of the Trifelsland, the city of Annweiler (an der Weinstrasse), overlorded by the magnificent Burg Trifels (Trifels Castle), from which the region derives its name.
I drove on B-10 from Landau west toward Pirmasens, about a fifteen-minute drive through a couple tunnels to the Annweiler-West exit (don't take Annweiler-East). Before the final tunnel was a parking area that was clearly a postcard position to capture the Burg (except that at that time of day the sun was in the wrong position). Instead, I took the first photo from the five-mile long winding road leading up from Annweiler-West. This was about the only good spot to catch a photo of it -- you can clearly see the sandstone jutty that the Burg sat on.
The Castle was a fantastic place to visit. It had a storied history, dating back to Roman and Celtic times. According to the (excellent) tour guide to the Castle, it became prominent in the Hohenstaufen era (12th century) as an imperial castle (this kingdom combined the regions of Swabia, Palatinate and Alsace in France). It also lays claim to being the place where the famous English king Richard the Lion-Hearted was once imprisoned.
A display room in the second floor has the original imperial jewels -- a cross, orb, sceptre, and scabbard. Unlike other Castles in the region, this one has not been converted into a restaurant or summer concert hall, although it has been set up for functions. When I arrived, a wedding reception ws being held in the banquet hall on the ground floor and a choir was singing in the King's Chapel above it.
The views from the top of the Castle's tower and the edge of the sandstone jutty were fantastic. I saw how the three surrounding towns nestled deep into the valleys of the region. I also noticed how some parts of the Palatinate Forest were being used for timber, in such a manner that the tree-cutting was hidden from view below. Small squares of the forest had been cleared of timber, but were being grown back (like rotating crops). Such practices were also common in the Black Forest not far away.
After enjoying the view, I drove back down the hill to Annweiler. Annweiler is the region's largest wine producing town, with a huge industrial base on the eastern side (easily visible from the Castle). But its old city (Altstadt) was fabulous. I parked just outside the downtown market square (shown in the second photo), using the Protestant city church as my guide. The town was getting ready for its big spring wine festival that would occur the following weekend and signs were plastered everywhere. Meanwhile, the town was very quiet, probably because at this mid-day in June the weather was unusually hot (mid-90s) so most of the people I saw stayed under the protective umbrellas in the market square sucking down ice cream.
I went uptown a ways and explored the town park, marked with a huge pond and hiker's lodge. Indeed, I found that hiking was popular in Trifelsland, and this pond marked the beginning of a dozen or so walking trails ranging from five to twenty miles connecting all the regional towns togethers. Some of them included a steep trek up to the Trifels Castle (I'll pass, thank you).
The third photo shows the highlight of Annweiler, the Wassergasse (Water Lane) that channels the river Queich (kveyesh) through the town. Lining this long winding street was flower boxes and beautiful half-timber houses. Both ends of the lane were marked with watermills, the one on the east looked decorational only but the big one in the west still functioned to generate power.
The town of Leinsweiler was probably not technically inside the Trifelsland, but it was close enough for me to include here :-). Driving eastward on B10 back to the Weinstrasse, I turned southward toward Klingenmünster, past the small village of Eschbach at the edge of the mountain range. It was near there that I took the fourth photo that exemplifies the terrain around the Trifelsland. Miles upon miles of beautiful vineyards below untouched forested mountains.
This photo also captured just how much the terrain rolls through the region. Much of the Rhein valley is perfectly flat, but not here. As you can see, the town of Eschbach is nearly hidden below a subtle ridge in the landscape. That's how several villages were established, allowing the vineyards to grow on higher land.
Leinsweiler was a very good example of this. Following a long, narrow gulley carved out from a mountain stream, Leinsweiler was about three blocks wide yet a mile-plus long, with steep vineyard ridges on both sides. The downtown was cobblestoned streets with loads of wine bars and pensions, many of which were active on that Saturday afternoon, filled with tourists sampling the local wares. The larger wine houses formed a long line on the ridge where I stood taking the fifth photo, that shows the Hof Neukastel, a prominent residential manor and Leinsweiler town symbol.
The Trifelsland was very pretty to visit, and I rated the Burg Trifels as a must (be warned that some climbing is required even if you drive up there). I would say a few hours is sufficient to comb the region, and I'd recommend heading further south on the Wine Road afterwards.
Trips taken 7-8 June 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin