Many members of the Kaiserslautern Military Community have found temporary or even permanent homes in one of the many villages and towns surrounding Kaiserslautern or in the heart of the Palatinate Forest.
Talk of the Town is a series highlighting the union communities within the County of Kaiserslautern, the City of Kaiserslautern and the Union Community of Winnweiler in neighboring Donnersberg County. The series aims to inform American service members and their families about the communities they’re joining during their time in the KMC. A Union Community is an administrative territorial community composed of a group of individual towns or villages. Each month we will feature a different community and provide facts about its history, heritage, and the local experiences it offers.
Our next stop will lead us to the Union Community of Weilerbach and we invite you to discover interesting and maybe not-so-well-known facts about your home away from home.
The current Union Community of Weilerbach consists of the individual towns and villages of Erzenhausen, Eulenbis, Kollweiler, Mackenbach, Reichenbach-Steegen, Rodenbach, Schwedelbach and Weilerbach as the administrative seat. Mayor Ralf Schwarm has been in office since December 2021 and would like to extend a warm welcome (see Page 7).
The total union community has 14,300 inhabitants and an additional 5,000 members of the Kaiserslautern Military Community also call it their home.
Churches, a customs station and Bavaria
Traces of Celtic settlements have been found in the general area, but the town Weilerbach was first mentioned in a certificate in 1214 when King Friedrich II granted Reinhard von Lautern, Knight of Hohenecken, patronage rights of the churches in Ramstein, Weilerbach and Spesbach. Throughout the centuries Weilerbach was governed by various royal families, from 1559 to 1592 it belonged to Pfalz Lautern, then up to the 18th century was part of the Kurpfalz (Electorate Palatinate). At an intersection of roads that led from Lautern to Kusel and Zweibrücken to Bingen, the community also served as a customs station. After a number of changing governments and under French rule from 1798 to 1814, it then became a part of Bavaria. After World War II Weilerbach became a separate community within the newly established State of Rheinland-Pfalz.
Music on the go — my way
In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, employment was very difficult to find in a rural area. Therefore, many talented musicians roamed the region playing music, often traveling with circuses and acrobats, to make a living. Some emigrated to foreign countries or even to the United States, where they formed the “Mackenbacher” music organization. It is noted that some of them actually became wealthy during the course of time and several prestigious houses in Mackenbach are reminiscent of the wandering musicians and their legacy.
Heinrich Jacob from Mackenbach was one of the musicians to seek his fortune in the USA. He was rather successful under his artist name “Bill Henry” and his band called “Headliners”. One of his early band members, legendary Frank Sinatra, later became a world star. The Wandermusikanten Museum in Weilerbach has a diverse display of the life and times of the musicians and boasts Sinatra’s original trombone in its selection of artefacts.
A new medical complex for the KMC
The Kaiserslautern Military Community Medical Center (KMCMC) is due to replace the existing facilities at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center – LRMC, built in 1953, and the clinic on Ramstein Air Base. Construction has been delayed, but is due to begin in fall 2022 with a projected completion date in 2027 at a cost of one billion U.S. dollars. The planned facility will include 120 patient rooms and a polyclinic, an administration tract, energy facilities and an entrance control point. The Rhine-Ordnance Barracks- Medical Center (ROB-MC) entrance check point opened its gates in June and a small part of the complex is actually located within the boundaries of Ramstein-Miesenbach.
Stalactites and Celtic tigers
In the year 1911 two Erzen-hausen residents discovered an abandoned stud when fetching water, now known as the Tropfsteinhöhle Erzenhausen (stalactite cave). They found a 1.80 meter high stud with a total length of 76 meters. The discovery was a sensation with the most remarkable surprise being 20 centimeter long and 1 to 1.5 centimeter thick stalactites that had formed over 200 years. When light shines onto them, this creates a spooky atmosphere. A flashlight and sturdy, waterproof shoes are necessary for a visit and the cave is closed during the winter months to offer bats a place to hibernate.
A number of findings indicate that there was a Celtic settlement near Weilerbach dating back to the late Hallstatt Era, about 620 – 450 B.C. During excavation work in 1875 a wagon grave was discovered along with a sheet metal ring, neck and arm rings out of bronze and wheel boxes and fittings. The 45 meter diameter of the grave mound is much larger than the typical grave mounds of nine to 20 meters and serves as criteria that a highly esteemed person was laid to rest. As the only cultural site of its kind in the Pfalz region, the Weilerbacher Wagengrab is a significant joint European Cultural Heritage site.
The replica of the wagon grave was presented to the public in September 2021 and the steel construction, encircled with sand stones, stands for the size of the grave mound. The actual site is in about 100 meters distance and the original wheel fittings are displayed in the Reinhard-Blauth-Museum.
In the year 1874 another Celtic grave mound was discovered and based on the valuable grave goods, it is assumed that a prestigious man was buried there. The grave, dated back to about 400 B.C., is now known as the “Fürstengrab von Rodenbach” and is considered to be the most significant finding north of the Alps during the La Tene Era, with the most valuable items being a golden arm bracelet and a golden ring. The “Rodenbacher Heidegericht” is an old place of jurisdiction found with 13 stone chairs. Twelve of them are in a circle and the somewhat larger thirteenth one in the center, with its origin assumed in the Celtic period in Rodenbach.
Modern mobility — pedal to the metal
Weilerbach is working on an ambitious and intercommunal project that aims toward climate friendly mobility. The Bachbahn Radweg project is in full swing and is expected to be completed in 2023. The route will connect Weilerbach, including Rodenbach, KL-Siegelbach, KL-Erfenbach and Otterbach, to Kaiserslautern and partially leads along the old railroad track. Not only will the route pass through five commercial areas with numerous businesses and thousands of employees, but mobility hubs will be provided at strategic locations, where e-bikes can be parked or charged, making use of the bike path even more attractive and enabling easier access to public transportation for onward travel.
Bikers, hikers and a cool refreshment
There are currently numerous biking paths that lead to Weilerbach and the vicinity. The Barbarossaweg from Worms to Glan-Blies, includes a section Mackenbach-Weilerbach-Rodenbach. The Pfälzer Land Radweg from Enkenbach to Altenglan, encompasses a section from Eulenbis/Pfeifertal-Weilerbach-Schwedelbach-Reichenbach-Steegen. https://www.weilerbach.de/tourismus/radwandern/
Hikers can enjoy the Pfälzer Musikanten Weg, a certified German hiking route, or Skulpturen Wanderweg Rodenbach, which is a route with 21 sculptures by Meisterschule (Master School of Trade) students in Kaiserslautern, focused on Celts and water. It is also a partial section of the famous pilgrimage route Jakobsweg (Way of St. James) from Worms to Metz with the Jakob’s shell as directional symbol. https://www.weilerbach.de/tourismus/wandern/
If you have a green thumb and are interested in local fruit trees, you may also want to walk the Obstbaumlehrpfad Untere Pfeifermühle, an educational route that leads you along orchards starting from Pfeifermühle. Fruit trees have been an integral part of the landscape for centuries and have also served as a substantial means of nourishment. www.vrn.de
After a sturdy hike or bike tour, aqua lovers might enjoy a cool refreshment at the Waldfreibad Rodenbach located along the forest. The solar heated pool is equipped with a sports pool, diving boards, a “water experience area” with bubblers and a water mushroom and a separate splash pool for small children. Events such as floodlight swimming and beach parties also take place during the season from May to September. A mini-golf course is located right next to the swimming pool.
The Entenweiher (duck pond) is a great place for a relaxed afternoon. It offers three playgrounds, a ropeway, benches and tables for a picnic, a water and sand pump with mill for children as well as a soccer field and basketball nets. Enjoy watching duck families traverse the lake, admire the colorful lily pads or try to catch a glimpse of the turtle sunbathing.
Farming, wandering, wine making and time to celebrate
Three museums invite you to step into the history of the area. The Reinhard-Blauth-Museum gives insight to history starting with prehistoric farming in the Neolithic period, to grave goods from the Celtic era up to daily life in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Wandermusikanten Museum showcases the life and times of the musicians, while the Beerenwei(n)museum displays artefacts focusing on the tradition of making wine out of the “Frankelbacher-Orsborner Mostbirne”, a special type of pear only found in this area.
There are numerous fine locations to dine or have a casual drink, sip a coffee or enjoy an ice cream dish. A selection of different shops including an alternative bookstore, a flower shop, fashion stores and a furniture shop will inspire you to stroll the town.
Typical festivals take place in June with a farmers’ market, the Weindorf (wine village) and a cultural night in August. The largest town festival “Kerwe” and a culinary wine hiking tour occur in September. The magical Weihnachtsdorf (Christmas village) highlights the holiday season at “Alter Bahnhof”, the former train station, and will propel you into the holiday spirit.
Did you know that…
The village Einsiedlerhof once belonged to the Weilerbach community? In a communal reform in 1932 it was added to the City of Kaiserslautern.
The union community has reached a milestone in becoming a “100% Zero Emission Village”? Residents are inspired to install state-of-the-art energy saving equipment, such as solar panels and the use of wind energy, and saving up to 50 percent electricity costs when building new homes, refurbishing them or purchasing electric or hybrid cars.
Don’t miss out on two exciting events coming soon. The Kulinarisches Weindorf (culinary wine village) from Aug 18-21 in the town center and the Kulturnacht around the whole community on Aug 27.
The Catholic church in Weilerbach has the oldest baptismal font in the Pfalz region?
The highest wedding room in the Pfalz region is located in the Eulenkopfturm (tower) outside of Eulenbis? Imagine giving your vows with a spectacular view over the Pfälzerwald, Sickingerhöhe, Potzberg and Donnersberg.
While enjoying tasty German bread or pastries, your treat may have been produced in the large bakery near Rodenbach? Or that you can cut your own tulips, sunflowers or gladiolas on one of the pick-and-pay flower fields along the way?
Dear American friends and neighbors,
The presence of members of the U.S. forces and their dependents has been a matter of fact for decades within our community.
Not only is there a physical closeness due to the proximity of Ramstein Air Base, but a vidid neighborhood of friends has also developed. This is the way we see our American residents.
The friendship between Germans and Americans is practiced and lived daily in the Union Community of Weilerbach. Encounters at various events, festivals and active participation in club life in many associations and clubs alow these friendships to deepen.
But, there were also lively encounters and contacts to the U.S.A. before the presence of the U.S. forces in our community. I especially recall the many wandering musicians (Wandermusikanten) in the 19th and 20th centuries, who emigrated and performed in the “new world“ in support of their families back home. Or, for example, Frank Sinatra, who as a young singer earned his first muscial spurs under the supervision of our local conductor Heinrich Jacob.
Weilerbach also became well-known based on the construction of the new U.S. hospital, as the building complex is located within our community boundaries.
As the mayor, I always look forward to mutual visits with the commanders to regularly discuss matters of world political interest or just the simple things of life, such as residing and living side by side here in our community.
I cordially invite our neighbors to discover our union community, to take the opportunity to experience the many leisure time activities and explore a part of our history.
I cordially welcome you!
Ralf Schwarm, Union Community Mayor