G3VGR NECKARSTEIG     Neckarsteinach - Heidelberg      

For my last day on the Neckarsteig, I was pleased to wake up to a sunny morning, although the forecast was for rain later in the day. I headed to the station anticipating an interesting although long day.  From Neckarsteinach Bahnhof, the Neckarsteig follows the river back upstream until crossing over the lock to the left bank. A steep narrow path through the trees led me up to the walls of Bergfeste Dilsberg. From here there was a superb view across to Neckarsteinach. Dilsberg is the prettiest village I visited on the trail (Gundelsheim and Bad Wimpfen were my other favourites). The walls enclose the ruins of a 12th Century castle as well as 2 churches and some nice cottages. Many cottage walls are home to flowering Wisteria.  A mobile shop was parked just outside the gate and local people were buying produce. After leaving the walled village, the trail led down through the modern part of the town and along a main road for a short distance before turning off into farmland. From the valley, it climbed up to the Jagdberg. At a rest area near the top, there was a fine view back across the valley to Dilsberg. I could see Neckargemünd below me in a valley and the descent to the town was along a narrow twisty path through the woods.

On reaching the outskirts of Neckargemünd, the Neckarsteig followed a strange route through the town, ignoring the historic altstadt completely. I followed the signs which took me past a railway station, through alleyways, up and down steps along residential streets and under bridges, seemingly deliberately skirting the altstadt. The climax of this ingenious route was when it led me through a supermarket car park, across a busy main road and under a narrow railway bridge. I was relieved to reach the end of this busy area as the trail passed a cemetery and led me up some steps away from the roads. From the top of the steps, I made my way upwards on a succession of zigzag paths through the woods to the top of the Neckarriedkopf, where there was a TV mast that I'd seen earlier from Dilsberg. Near the top of the climb was a bench in the woods which was an ideal place to stop and have lunch. Whilst sitting there, I saw my first hikers along the Neckarsteig. To my surprise, three old ladies were making their way down the steep hillside. They looked to be in their late seventies, so I was most impressed by their mobility and hoped I would be as mobile in a few years time. Passing the TV tower, the trail undulated along through the forest for a few kilometers with occasional views down to the Neckar.

The sky now became grey with some dark clouds and the air was very humid. This did not help when I started the steep ascent of the Auerhahnenkopf. The way up was a relentless succession of zigzag paths through the dense forest. Although the forest scenery was beautiful, my appreciation was dulled by realizing I wasn't as young as I used to be and the climb was quite tiring. I was cursing myself for not keeping myself sufficiently fit during the Winter. Relief came eventually when I reached a forestry road which provided level walking for over 2Km until I reached a crossroads at the Hütte am Hohlen Kästenbaum. Following the Neckarsteig signs, I carried on the wide trail until making the days' final gentle climb up the extremely muddy Eisenloher Weg whilst trying to dodge the seemingly homicidal mountain bikers that were in this area.

The sky had become quite dark and I hoped to complete the day before the expected downpour started. Passing through a beautiful wood of mixed beech and conifers in the half light, I reached the Königstuhl. Unfortunately, by now it was now raining heavily, so when I reached the famous viewpoint, I was unable to clearly see the vista of the city with its bridges over the Neckar. The descent from the Königstuhl is simple and direct - it is straight down the Himmelsleiter, an extremely steep path of 1200 rocky steps. Even though I was using trekking poles, my knees were objecting painfully to the rigours of walking down 270 metres. It was a painful 20 minutes and having to take care on the wet steps added to the stress. It was a relief when the steps ended at a road as this had been a hard day's walking and I felt great satisfaction at completion. From here it was a short walk down to Schloss Heidelberg and the end of the Neckarsteig.

The lock at Neckarsteinach

Bergfeste Dilsberg

Bergfeste Dilsberg

Bergfeste Dilsberg

Bergfeste Dilsberg in bloom

Main road entrance to Bergfeste Dilsberg

View across to Dilsberg

View upstream towards Neckarsteinach

Steps leading to Neckargemünd

Gate to Neckargemünd Altstadt

Less scenic part of Neckargemünd

Neckarriedkopf above Neckargemünd

Trail leading to Neckarriedkopf

This rustic bridge was just begging to be photographed

Trail up the Auerhahnenkopf

View across to Ziegelhausen

Trail up the Auerhahnenkopf

Hütte am Hohlen Kästenbaum

Approach to Königstuhl through the forest

Heidelberg in the rain viewed from Königstuhl

Down the Himmelsleiter from Königstuhl

Schloss Heidelberg - end of the Neckarsteig

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