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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
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
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.
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