By Nancy Parode
Annweiler am Trifels, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate ("Rheinland-Pfalz"), is the state's second-oldest free town (Speyer is older). The history of Annweiler is intertwined with that of Trifels Castle, which sits atop a nearby mountain. King Richard I of England ("The Lionheart") was imprisoned in Trifels Castle from 1193 to 1194. According to legend, Richard the Lionheart's minstrel, Blondel, went from castle to castle in Germany, singing loudly, hoping his master would recognize his voice. When he reached Trifels Castle, the imprisoned king sang in response to Blondel's tune. King Richard was eventually ransomed and returned to England; this much is fact, although the story of Blondel is most likely a fanciful tale. Today, Trifels Castle is open to the public; highlights include replicas of the crown jewels and an exhibit detailing the history of the castle. The views from Trifels Castle are spectacular, too. The forest surrounding the castle is a popular hiking destination. In Annweiler itself, you'll find a museum dedicated to the history of Trifels Castle, a picturesque Town Hall Square ("Rathausplatz") and several old streets and half-timbered buildings. The city also owns a large urban forest, which is professionally managed.
See it now: Trifels Castle Photo Tour
Speyer, while well-known as a tourist destination by Germans, is often bypassed by visitors from abroad. This lovely city, best known for its cathedral, is also home to the SchPIRA Museum, which opened in 2010, 72 years after the infamous Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass," during which the Nazis persecuted Jews in Speyer and throughout Germay. The SchPIRA Museum's collection includes artifacts from Speyer's synagogue, ritual baths and Jewish cemetery. The Technical Museum Speyer ("Technik Museum Speyer") is a must-see; this eclectic museum features a Russian Buran space shuttle, antique fire engines, locomotives, a Lufthansa Boeing 747 aircraft, vintage automobiles and musical instruments.
See it now: Speyer Pictures