G3VGR NECKARSTEIG     Bad Wimpfen - Neckarzimmern      

On Tuesday 7th May 2013, I started my Neckarsteig trip by catching a British Airways flight from London City Airport to Frankfurt-am-Main. From the railway station beneath Rhein-Main Airport, I caught one of the excellent ICE trains to Mannheim, then an S-Bahn to Mosbach, arriving around 14:30. The S-Bahn route along the Neckar provided an appetizer of what I'd expected from the Neckarsteig. I checked in at the Hotel Goldener Hirsch, which is ideally located in the pedestrian zone and would be my base for the whole trip. The Goldener Hirsch has both a café and a greek restaurant and is only a 3 minute walk from the railway station. The late afternoon and evening was spent exploring the historic old town which has a picturesque market square and many half-timbered buildings. Workmen were busy erecting a stage and fairground rides for the annual Spring Fair, which starts on Ascension Day. There is no shortage of restaurants in Mosbach and I was also pleased to find a brewery in town and sat in their Biergarten,enjoying the warm evening sun.

The next morning I required 3 trains to get to Bad Wimpfen Bahnhof, the start of the Neckarsteig. This is the only Neo-Gothic railway station building in South Germany, so makes a unique trailhead. Oddly, the trail bypasses the historic spa town completely. As this first stage is quite short and I'd arrived at 0815 with a full day ahead of me, I took some time to explore this fascinating town before starting out on the trail. Bad Wimpfen centres around the remains of the 12th Century Staufer Imperial Palace, the largest Kaiserpfalz north of the Alps. The town was very quiet this early in the morning, so it was very enjoyable exploring the winding lanes of the Altstadt with their many Fachwerkhäuser. I made my way back to the Bahnhof by following the ancient town wall.

The trail started off leisurely, following along the left bank of the Neckar on a tarmac cycle path for about 5Km until I arrived at the small village of Heinsheim. Appparently, this village is very old, being originally a Roman settlement, but all I saw were modern houses. I quickly made my way up from this nondescript place to the Bergkirche which dates from the 10th Century and overlooks the village. The trail carried on along more tarmac roads and I was decidedly unimpressed with the Neckarsteig terrain so far. However, the warm sunshine and accompaniment of continual birdsong was good compensation for the hard track. Eventually, I turned onto farm tracks in open countryside. After passing a small pond of very noisy frogs, the trail reached a Jewish Cemetery at the edge of some woods. The cemetery was locked, so I did not get the opportunity to look at the ancient headstones.

As the day was hot and sunny, I was relieved to enter the woods and continued along forest trails until I reached Burg Guttenberg at 1130. The castle houses a fine collection of raptors, but I arrived 30 miinutes too late for the morning display. The trail carried on through the woods and eventually exited near the lock at Gundelsheim. I crossed over the Neckar to Gundelsheim. This is another pretty medieval town and is dominated by the impressive Schloss Horneck. The town is known for its' fine Gundelsheim gherkins and pickles. I continued to the Altstadt and stopped for lunch at the Schell Chocolate Factory and Cafe. Schell is renowned for their excellent chocolates. Although I had now completed the first "official" stage of the Neckarsteig, it was too early to finish for the day, so I decided to carry on towards Haßmersheim.

The way out of the town was up many steep steps along the side of the vineyards to the Michaelsberg. From the top of the steps, I had a superb panoramic view of the Neckartal over the vineyards and Schloss Horneck. On the peak of the Michaelsberg , I soon reached the ancient Michaelskapelle chapel and was back on tarmac roads again as the trail followed the road between woods and large fields of rape, shining brightly in the afternoon sun. A sign showed the path down to Haßmersheim was closed and I followed Neckarsteig Diversion signs along the tarmac road. It was quite exhausting walking along this road in the afternoon heat and I was relieved when a sign pointed me into the forest on the left. This was a really beautiful forest and I rejoined the original Neckarsteig trail which took me to the partially ruined 11th Century Burg Hornberg. Much construction work was going on at this castle, but there were a few visitors there, mostly buying wine from the castle's ancient cellars. I decided this was a good place to end the day and walked down through the vineyards to Neckarzimmern Bahnhof, where I missed the hourly train by 3 minutes. When I got back to Mosbach, even more fairground rides and tents had been erected ready for tomorrow's Frühlingsfest.

Bad Wimpfen Bahnhof - Neckarsteig trailhead

Bad Wimpfen - Fachhaüser

Bad Wimpfen - Narrow House

Bad Wimpfen - Die Blaue Türm

Bad Wimpfen - narrow streets and tall spires

Bad Wimpfen - Town wall

Path along the Neckar to Heinsheim

Heinsheim - Bergkirche

Jewish Cemetery

Entrance to Burg Guttenberg

Gundelsheim - Schloss Horneck

Gundelsheim - Altstadt
Schell's chocolate shop and cafe

View over Gundelsheim

Big fields of rape
In the forest above Burg Hornberg

Burg Hornberg

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