Burg Lichtenberg: fortress serves as perfect family getaway

Story and photo by A.L. Shaff
Contributing writer

Never defeated, never taken, never occupied by enemy forces, Burg Lichtenberg wanders over the ridges of a Palatinate hill like a goliath.

Only a few kilometers north of Kaiserslautern, off autobahn A62 and near Kusel, the fortress offers a musical museum, geophysical studies center, traditional fests and chances to clamber over ancient stones and climb towers where armored knights once ruled with absolute power.

In modern times, Burg Lichtenberg serves as the perfect family outing just a few kilometers from home on a sunny weekend day.

A loving couple can even marry in the castle church. Then, once they’ve recited their religious vows, a short walk to the nearby German civil office (Standesamt) helps them complete the process.

They can book rooms in the modern hostel and enjoy the wedding dinner in the cozy “Burgschänke,” which specializes in wild game recipes. 

Burg Lichtenberg started around 1200 when dukes of Veldenz and Pfalz-Zweibrücken simply stole the land from the Bishop of Reims by building a fortress and absorbing the territory. 

Because of its strategic position, the fortress allowed the new owners to control the ever-widening area. However, about 200 years ago, a massive fire destroyed much of the fortress and grounds. Today, the Kusel regional council continues to restore the important buildings that include a fest center, youth hostel, restaurant and three excellent museums.

The Middle Ages Summer Market is held every year, when knights ride again among the festive tents and costumed entertainers in a fantasy world for children and dreamers.

The Museum of Traveling Musicians highlights a special aspect of history in the Pfalz when unemployed workers often turned to music to eke out a living. Bands wandered from town to town giving music lessons and playing for fests and circuses. 

As life became even more dire between 1830 and 1850, the Pfalz underwent a flood of emigration to the U.S. There, the musicians carried on their traditions in the famed German bands of Texas and midwest America. George Drumm of Erdesbach, one of those immigrants, composed the White House Hymn “Hail America.”

The Museum of Nature Studies, on the other hand, highlights the Pfalz animal and plant life with permanent interactive displays. The bird life of the region appears in their natural habitats and nesting areas, so a touched button brings nature sounds of the land mixed with precise calls from the mounted birds.  Multiple touches mixes the bird sounds into a choral sonata. 

Geoskop (Museum of the Primitive World) shows the animal and plant world as it existed in these Palatinate mountains 290 million years ago. Rock and mineral exhibits show why this area, and the nearby Idar-Oberstein hills, became the center of historic mining that produced so much raw gemstone upon which the people built their lives.

Burg Lichtenberg and all of the museums open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with regular guided tours available in English upon request at the Tithing House.  For the Hostel, call 06381-2532. The “Burgschänke” restaurant’s number is 06381-2633. To arrange a church wedding at the Burg Church, call 06381-1513, and for the civil ceremony, call  06381-9180. 

To get there, plug this address into your GPS: Burg Lichternberg, 66871 Thallichtenberg.