Castle turns into medieval market, knights’ camp

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Gräfenstein Castle near Merzalben will be the stage for a medieval fest today through Sunday.
More than 250 participants from all over Germany come to the fest dressed in the original costumes of knights, lansquenets, jugglers, minstrels and craftsmen to re-create the medieval scene.

“This is the 10th medieval market on Gräfenstein Castle,” said organizer Angelika Simgen. “That’s why we came up with a nice anniversary program.”

In a knights’ camp, different knights groups will present sword fights and lansquenets perform funny plays. Jugglers and fire-eaters show off their skills and music groups perform medieval songs on unique instruments.

“The groups Saltorello and Triskilian will show acrobatics, juggle and demonstrate a fire show in the evening,” said Ms. Simgen. Children can listen to fairy tales, try out archery, pottery and participate in skill games.

Witches and magicians will offer miraculous items and herbs, and fortune tellers will tell visitors what to expect in the future.

Craftsmen such as blacksmiths, weavers, wood-carvers, stone masons, potters, soap-makers and basket-makers will demonstrate their medieval crafts, vendors will sell their merchandise, and Sunday, a falconer will present his birds.

A variety of food and drink specialties will be available.
The fest starts with juggling and music at 4:30 p.m. today. The official opening is at 6:30 p.m. when all the participants walk into the castle yard, the announcement of the market rules and the tapping of the first keg of beer. A fire show will close the evening.

Saturday, activities start at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. Admission is €5 for adults and children shorter than a sword (which is 1.30 meters) are admitted free. A ticket for all three days is €9.

Gräfenstein Castle is a rock castle near the town of Merzalben. The upper castle is built on a 12-meter tall oval-shaped sandstone, with a keep with seven corners and a great palace, three floors tall. In the lower castle, there are parts of the forcer and remaining walls. In its beginning, Gräfenstein served as an administration center for the surrounding farms and villages, and had the defense capacity.

In 1220, Gräfenstein Castle was first mentioned in a document. During the Thirty-Years War, Gräfenstein was burnt down accidentally in 1635, when imperial troops, who used the castle as garrison, were careless with fire. Gräfenstein Castle was in ruin until the 20th century when the castle was partially renovated. It is open to visitors throughout the year.

Merzalben is located northeast of Pirmasens. Go on B270 toward Waldfischbach-Burgalben, then left to Donsieders, Clausen and Merzalben. Past Merzalben take a right up to the castle.