The Bergstrasse, Germany's Mountain Road in the west, is filled with large towns and small cities nestled in the nooks and crannies of the Rhein river valley's eastern ridge. Often graced with castle ruins, these towns are picturesque, colorful, and lively, and often much of it is hidden from immediate view. Weinheim is a perfect example of such a town, and is a great place to visit.
Weinheim sits on the northern tip of Baden-Württemberg, almost completely surrounded by Hessen. What first attracted me to the town was the scene of the Schloss Windeck on a distant hilltop behind it (see background in the first picture). Passing by Weinheim a number of times by train, I noted the castle, but could see little else of the town -- so it was a great surprise for me to discover that the beautiful old city was built on the opposite side of the valley, along a winding mountain stream cutting through the foothills.
And what a beautiful city it was. I began my journey at the far north of the city, in a parking lot at the end of the Hauptstrasse (Main Road). The Hauptstrasse was almost as long as Heidelberg's just thirty minutes to the south, and offered many great views of the Windeck while harboring plenty of great shopping.
The first photo shows the main marketplace, located at the southern end of the Hauptstrasse. I loved the layout, built on a moderate incline directly facing the Schloss Windeck, and lined on both sides by beautiful half-timbered cafés and restaurants, a number of which has recently been renovated (and others still undergoing renovation). The day was perfectly sunny, and by mid-afternoon the outdoor cafés were overflowing with people.
I took the first photo from the balcony of the Church of Saint Lawrence that lords over the square. The church appeared to have been completed rebuilt of red sandstone and white painted concrete, and its outer facade brightly gilded.
The Church sat at the bottom of the city's Castle complex that now houses the town hall (second photo) and a beautiful, big castle garden. Parts of the old city wall and two of its towers (the red, or Roten, and blue, or Blauen, Türme) still stand and surround the castle garden. The old castle and town hall are completely enclosed and look brand new, and I loved the medieval look of the town hall with its four turrets.
The Schlosspark was very pleasant, and densely packed with people. Flower gardens were beginning to bloom at the castle end of the park. The eastern end was built on a cliff overlooking the old town, and it had a lake and a bird sanctuary next to the Blue Tower. I did a full walk around the park to the southern end that houses a brilliantly decorated mausoleum. I would return to the Schlosspark later, as you will see.
The next part of my journey was to seek out the Windeck -- after all, if I see a castle on a hill, I always feel compelled to climb it! This was where I learned just how deep the valley was that Weinheim was built over. The old town was actually at the bottom of the valley, a district separate from the modern-day Hauptstrasse. Shown in the third photo, the old town was mostly hardscrabble red brick occasionally topped with half-timber construction, probably to reduce problems with flooding from the stream. While a number of the buildings were marked as ancient workhouses and shops, the old town is now mostly residential, quietly serviced by a major road that runs along the bottom of the valley.
Having climbed all the way down, it meant that I had to climb back up the adjacent hill to the Windeck. And a long climb it was, wrapping all the way around the hill past a number of vineyards, and overlooking some of the city's industry further into the mountains. All along, I had a great view of the old city -- definitely worth the climb.
The Schloss Windeck now serves as a major tourist attraction, with its hull interior serving as a restaurant much like the Strahlenburg in nearby Schriesheim. The Schloss has been significantly restored so it is sturdy (but it was not at all rebuilt, just restored to its current bombed-out exterior shape). You'll be pleased to know that accessing the Windeck was easy by car.
I climbed the tower and took the shot in the fourth photo of the old town. From there, you can get a good idea of the town's layout. At the very top, just right of center, is the Schloss complex, and the Church of Saint Lawrence extended down from it. The open area below St. Lawrence was the Hauptmarkt, and the Hauptstrasse followed away to the right of it. The tower near the top right corner was the Red (Roten) Tower, while the Blue Tower was at the top left corner among the trees. The Schlosspark is behind the Blue Tower. The old town is the concentration of houses in the lower half of the photo.
After relaxing for a little while at the café and having a big glass of apfelschorle (mix of apple juice and mineral water) and a bowl of rote grütze (stewed berries and rhubarb with vanilla ice cream), I heard music emanating from the old town. It was faint, but I readily made out the sound of brass instruments. With my energy restored, I quickly returned to the Schlosspark, and came upon the outdoor concert in the fifth photo. I wasn't sure of the occasion, it seemed almost impromptu. The band had a good cross section of people -- old and young, and the music was absolutely fantastic.
Weinheim was a great visit. I had a fantastic time exploring and seeing the sights, and it was a very friendly and quiet place, with few tourists -- mostly locals. It's also conveniently close to the bigger cities of Heidelberg, Frankfurt am Main, and Mannheim.
Trip taken 20 April 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin