G3VGR Neckarsteig     Conclusion      



I enjoyed my walk along the Neckarsteig and each stage was interesting and unique. The Odenwaldklub have certainly provided an excellent trail. It did seem rather odd that I saw nobody else hiking the trail. Possibly that may be due to it being a new trail. I have no doubt it will attract many walkers as it is very easy to get to and has the certification of "Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland". Much of the trail is shared with the Rhein-Neckar-Weg on the right bank of the Neckar and it's possible to make variations to suit personal preferences. Tobias Kretz suggests some interesting alternatives. The large scale maps numbers 13 & 21 from Hessiches Landesamt für Bodenmanagement und Geoinformation are useful if tailoring one's route.  
The Neckarsteig has some similarities to the Rheinsteig in that each stage starts and ends at a convenient public transport facility. This allows the trail to be walked in sections. I took advantage of this feature by basing myself in one town (Mosbach) and using the excellent German public transport system. Of course, the increasing transport costs as one progresses along the trail need to be taken into consideration when planning the overall cost. My hotel cost was 45 euros/night. When originally planning the trip, I wish I'd known about the Mosbach Frühlingsfest and avoided it. This 5 day fair reminded me of a Bank Holiday weekend at Barry Island. Of course, accommodation is scarcer during this period.
The Stages
The last stage to Heidelberg provides a spectacular finish to the trail and I'm glad I walked the trail in that direction. Some of the other stages are very short, but this is probably by design as there is much of historic interest to see in the area. The first stage from Bad Wimpfen takes very little time over easy terrain, so I carried on to Neckarzimmern. Eight days are not necessary to walk the complete trail. With two travel days added, this would require one to use 6 days vacation time, when a Saturday-Sunday 9 day trip may be more convenient. It would be simple to walk the first 3 stages in just 2 days. Also, the 2 stages from Neckargerach to Eberbach can be reduced to one day by missing both Neunkirchen and the loop around the Winterberg.  My only real criticism is of the trail start/end at Schloss Heidelberg. Unlike Bad Wimpfen, which has an information board and metal Neckarsteig sign pointing the way, there is nothing similar at the other end. Although the trail ends at the castle, there are the familiar blue and white signs directing one from the castle down to the altstadt. However, on closer examination these signs were marked "Neckarweg" and not "Neckarsteig" Apart from causing total confusion, the Neckarweg signs did serve an unintended purpose by leading me to the Altstadt S-Bahn station. In general, signposting along the trail was satisfactory, although I did miss a couple of turnings. The section from Teufelskanzel to Eberbach is a little confusing with signs hard to find. This definitely needs improvement and I improvised by following the Rhein-Neckar-Weg signs for a while.
There is some rough ground to walk, especially through the Margarethenschlucht (and optionally the Wolfschlucht), so good footwear is required. My Merrell Moabs were fine for all the conditions I encountered, although I believe the Vibram soles contributed greatly to my fall in the Wolfschlucht. As most days were rainy and most paths were muddy, I mainly wore gaiters. Having decided to base myself centrally in Mosbach, only a light daypack was necessary. I'm a great fan of Osprey products and for this trip, bought the very light (650gm) Talon 11 daypack. The little pack had ample room for my Paclite waterproofs, lunch and the other small necessities. I didn't bother with any midlayer clothing, even though May 2013 was fairly chilly at times. Wearing my old Montane Featherlight windshirt over a Rab Aeon baselayer was more than sufficient to keep me warm. My normal trekking poles would not easily fit in my duffel bag, so I treated myself to a pair of Black Diamond Distance FL poles. These resemble avalanche probes and are very quick to both set up and readjust compared to traditional poles. When I retired last year, my work colleagues bought me a Garmin 20 GPS. This is the first GPS I've owned that has map facilities. I downloaded free topographical maps of Germany from the Internet and with these loaded, found the GPS to be quite invaluable at times.
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