Four months after moving to Germany, during one of my lunch breaks, I literally ran into a castle! Never mentioned in any tourist information, or by any co-workers or friends, barely a sign directing you to its direction, this castle (or what is left of it) seemed all but forgotten.
A little History
Records from http://www.burgus.de show that the Beilstein Castle was built around the year 1152 during the reign of Frederick I Barbarossa. He was the holy Roman Emperor from 1155-1190, and king of Germany, Italy, Burgandy, and who knows what else. The king would come to Kaiserslautern as a hunting retreat, and apparently he liked the Lauter River which formed the old section of Kaiserslautern as an island during medieval times. Many businesses in the Kaiserslautern area carry his name today, including an excellent local Bakery chain and an independent hotel. The castle was likely built to protect nearby Palatinate, Kaiserslautern, a few miles to the west. The castle was first mentioned in the year 1234, in a document of King Henry VII, which is the year it may have had additional construction. Somewhere during the 15th century the castle was destroyed and was never rebuilt.
How I stumbled onto this place
I work on the eastern edge of Kaiserslautern tucked up against a mountain ridge. The scenery is beautiful, and I will go running on my lunch break a few times per week. I thought I had explored every part of the mountain, seemingly on different trails every time. After four months of this I was exploring a new trail and saw a sign for Burgruine Beilstein (Beilstein castle ruin). After following the signs, just a mile from my office, there it was.
Neuschwanstein?? Ummm no, not by any stretch of the imagination. After all, it is labeled castle “ruins” for a reason, but it still makes you appreciate history and what may have happened there.
The castle is a 5-10 minute walk from the B37 road connecting Kaiserslautern and Hochspeyer. The parking lot has this sign point you towards the castle, with another about ¼ mile up the road (interestingly in the shape of a castle).
As you approach the castle remains you climb a small hill, which becomes steeper as you approach. Upon entering the castle ground you start in the area called the Vorwerk. According to http://www.burgus.de, this first part of the castle was an outlying state. The Vorwerk had a staircase and likely a room overlooking the valley, but it is impossible to tell exactly based on the ruins. It could have been occupied by knights that would ward off smaller attacks to protect the main castle.
The Hauptberg, or main castle, is then accessed by crossing a moat/ditch now spanned by a wooden bridge. There was likely a large castle gate and drawbridge protecting the entryway.
The lower portion of the main castle consisted of both an eastern and western portion, with the eastern part as a small forecastle and the western part the actual castle. The main castle is the last area you come to. The rock jutting into the air is all that remains of what was once a square keep, perhaps a residential tower. Additionally, walls protected the western side of the castle.
My favorite part of the castle is the archway that remains in the main part of the castle. The archway is intact allowing you to pass underneath it and observe its construction. Within 10 feet of the archway is the main tower. There is a plaque mounted to the tower. Translated, it states: Forest lakes are founding of V.V of Kaiserslautern, Ascension day 14 May 1874.
Many fairy tales and legends have been passed down about the castle. The journey to the castle was dark….the monks and priests would say “the woods have ears”…a squire was struck dead when attempting to kidnap a beautiful young lady from the castle….ghosts haunted the castle and struck a pair of shoemakers dead…the Emperor had a secret passage near the castle. See http://www.heimat-pfalz.de for more.
These legends, as silly as they may sound, are evidence of a castle that used to be. Your imagination can do the rest.