The Neckar River has a number of wonderful little wine towns and castles dotting its banks, but few sights along the way compare with the ridgetop town of Bad Wimpfen, located just a short drive north from the industrial center of Heilbronn. Bad Wimpfen is impressive because it sits high above a sharp ridgeline directly over the Neckar, with much of its ancient city wall still intact, and sporting a very medieval appearance. When I took the turn off of B27 and headed for the city, its immediate appearance reminded me of a fairy tale city, particularly because of the auld-style four-turret Blauen Turm (Blue Tower) that dominates the view.
Of course, there is much more to the town than just the Blue Tower, as I discovered during my various visits there over the years. It's charming and colorful inner city and quirky character make it an enjoyable place to wander around, and a place I enjoy taking visitors. (It's proximity to my home in Heidelberg helps, too.)
The inner city is dominated by the Swiss-Chalet style half-timber houses and shops that are common in Swabia (see also Schwaebisch Gmuend and Schwaebisch Hall). You see a number of these in the second photo, a few hosting the really old style business signs hanging over the doorways. As striking as the colors and patterns of the buildings are the way they have tilted and bowed over the years, probably more in Bad Wimpfen then anywhere else I have seen. As an example, look closely at the big white building in the center of the photo. It looks like it is leaning over a bit, isn't it? Meanwhile, the yellow building further to the right is bowing at the first floor. As you walk around the city, you'll find many more obvious examples, I promise.
When you go through the inner city, you'll notice that a number of storefronts have supernatural themes, and are perhaps named something like "Hexenstube" (Witches' Shop). I haven't totally gotten the story on this, but Bad Wimpfen has a history as a witches' haven, and hosts various netherworld-oriented events during the year. As this is one of the town's tourist themes, it doesn't surprise anyone that a few shopowners are cashing in. Another unique attraction is the city's Pig Museum (Schweine-Museum)... yes you read me right... a place where you view just about anything imaginable with a pig on it. If you love schnitzels, you might like this place.
A majority of the old city wall still guards the city, and when you drive up the main access road from the Neckar, you will loop around the outside of this wall. I always found that scene very impressive, especially considering the huge moat that protects the center-front. (Of course, the moat is now dry and getting into the city is really easy.) The wall on the Neckar side is crumbling badly in spots now, but is undergoing renovation. The third photo shows one of the city's walk-in gates at the lower end of the Hauptstrasse, leading up to the older part of the inner city.
This section contains what used to be an imperial palace in between the Blue Tower and the Red Tower at the far corner of the city. The palace contains a museum, but at my last visit in March 2003 was undergoing complete renovation.
You can climb the Blue Tower, as I have twice. It's an interesting climb, because while much of the tower was hollow, platforms with museum exhibits have been built inside to entertain you each fifty or so steps. You don't pay to go in, you merely pay to access the observation deck. Indeed, the keepers of the tower live in a small apartment built in the top (note the windows in the upper part of the wall in the first photo). My thought has always been, "Man, it must be a bitch to go grocery shopping."
The view from the top is really nice. The fourth photo should the view along the city, with the Stadtkirche (City Church) prominently shown. Views of the Neckar and the nearby towns of Bad Friedrichsfeld and Jagstfeld were pretty also (although beyond them are signs of industrial creep from Heilbronn).
The Stadtkirche faces the Rathaus, whose facade contains a quick history of the city and the various kingdoms to which it has belonged over the years (which also includes about five centuries as a tiny independent city-state). I also recommend going behind the Stadtkirche and check out a magnificent stone sculpture of the crucifixation built in the sixteenth century.
As I wrote earlier, Bad Wimpfen looks like it was inspired by a fairy tale, or perhaps vice versa. Among locals, it is a popular spot, but definitely doesn't get overrun with tourists. I love taking visitors there because it is so unique, comfortable, and beautiful.
Trip taken various times 2001-2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin