Neckarsteinach

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Home Page > Travelogues > Germany > Hessen > Neckarsteinach

Germany

State of Hessen

Neckarsteinach -- Home of the Four Castles

Germany

State of Hessen

Just east of Heidelberg in the Odenwald region, the Neckar River Valley wound along the border of the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Hessen.  Of the border towns, Hessen claimed two of historical and touristic significance -- Neckarsteinach and Hirschhorn.  In my assessment, on average Hessen got the absolute better of the deal.  Hirschhorn (seen in the Neckar River travelogue) had the most picturesque castle setting around, and Neckarsteinach had not one, not two, but four old castles strung in a row overlooking a very pretty stretch of the Neckar River.  Indeed, the town's calling card was as the Vierbürgenstadt, or the City of Four Castles.  Those in good physical condition could walk the hills to the castles.  Each was very different in its construction and the views it gave of the valley.

But Neckarsteinach was more than just the four castles.  The rest of the old downtown was pretty, historic, and enjoyable.  On our second visit there in early 2005, we happened upon a town festival and parade.  So, when I set about updating this site, I decided to expand this chapter to include shots of that fest.  It was fairly representative of town festivals across Germany, where schoolchildren participated in parades displaying their own handiwork, and the event reinforcing the country's agricultural heritage.

 

 

Note:  This travelogue will soon be expanded to a photo gallery with the below included.

This was a summer's view of the Neckar River from the ridge of the Four Castles.  Of them, there were two that were fully accessible (the Hinterburg and Schadeck), and one that we could walk around but not enter (the Mittelburg).  The fourth castle (the Vorderburg) was not accessible to the public.  The Hinterburg and the Schadeck were outside the actual town limits, while the Mittelburg and Vorderburg are inside.

The first photograph was taken from this tower, of the Hinterberg.  The Hintenburg was once a noble residence, as indicated by the original (but centuries-worn) coat of arms over the door.  Much of the structure's interior walls were intact.  The Hintenburg's tower was quite a climb, and a dark one at that (the interior lacked any windows) but as the first photograph shows, the view from it was absolutely awesome. 

The Schadeck was downstream from the Hintenburg, and looked almost like a pure watchtower, but it wasn't.  Built in the 13th century, an inner palace was added in the 15th century.  It was difficult to gauge just how much of the castle had been restored, as the round towers up top were rebuilt completely, while the rest was left alone in ruins.  Visitors could not access the top of the round towers, but, the Schadeck offered a terrific view of the Festung of Dilsberg.

This photograph shows the easily-identifiable tower of the Mittelburg, located over the town.  Currently occupied by (I believed) a private firm, we could not enter it.  But, the walking path completely circled it, so the heavily moss-covered towers could be viewed up close.  Meanwhile, the Vorderburg was not at all accessible to the public.  Its access path was clearly marked "Privat" and fenced off.  However, based on what little of the castle appeared above the tree line in the photographs, it was the least distinctive of the four.
I had to guess that at one time Neckarsteinach was bounded on one side by an old city wall perched over a deep streambed.  This was all that was left of it.  This scene was on the opposite side of town from the castles, with parts of the ivy-covered structure used as the outer wall of some residences and the low ground converted to a playground. Neckarsteinach's main road cut through the wall just left of where the yellow car was in the previous photo.  A short distance away was the town hall, shown here, that was as basic a modern stone structure one could get.  Next to it was a huge streetside diorama containing a model of a classic riverboat and information about Neckarsteinach's mariner past.

The riverfront district of the town pretty much catered to the tourist crowd.  Indeed, several restaurants were strategically positioned near the parking lot, regularly luring in tour buses.  But the rest of the town was as sleepy and normal as they come.  The high walls above the river bespoke of Neckar flooding in the past.  Nowadays, the river is strongly leveed so flooding was rare.

The last three shots show pictures of the town parade we witnessed.  Dominated by school children carrying themed artwork, the parade only went a couple blocks from the town church to the main road at the town hall, and then down the stairs to the playground.  The theme was spring, and welcoming the onset of flowers and greenery after yet another long winter.
Wheeled carts such as the one pictured here was a staple of these types of events.  Freshly decorated with the earliest flowers of spring, the cart represents the town's bounty to come. As the parade moved down to the playground, the mayor delivered her traditional remarks, and the children sang traditional songs.  We never did figure out what these trees represented, especially with the ribbons on them, but that too was a common sight.

Neckarsteinach was just one of many great reasons to visit the Neckar River Valley when you come to Germany -- either to take a pleasant Sunday drive or devote a full day to castle hopping.  In this town, you can hit several in one shot!

Trip taken 13 July 2003 -- Page last updated 25 October 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin

   
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