Apart from the Heidelberg Castle, the second most impressive sight on the Neckar River is that of the small town of Dilsberg. As you follow the Neckar upstream, this town will appear like a fortress on top of a tall hill, only partly occluded by a few trees. If you are like me, you will probably tell yourself immediately, "I've got to get up there! That looks like a great place to visit." The only problem is, by that time it is too late -- you are on the wrong side of the river and several miles past the access road!
The good news is that you'll be arriving at Neckarsteinach, which is a place well worth stopping for. But then, you will need to turn around, go back to Neckargemuend and watch for the signs to Dilsberg. After you succeed in traversing a winding mountain pass and a lot of farmland, you will finally find yourself in this walled town. And then the bad news is that you'll drive through it and not see the part you came for... so, look for the sign "FESTUNG DILSBERG" which will take you on a steep side road. Soon enough, you will see the sight in the first photograph! ... That wasn't hard, now, was it?
My rather comical explanation of getting to Dilsberg adequately describes my first adventure trying to find this jewel of the Neckar. Dilsberg was highly recommended to me by my colleagues, but it took me about four years before finally going. It was well worth the pain.
Dilsberg is a classic example of a dual-town -- the touristic part of town that it physically separate and draws hordes of people, and the really, really sleepy peaceful town that everybody ignores but whose residents seem very content. I visited both parts separately, and both are very nice. Of course the former is more interesting.
The Festung was rebuilt into a tourist haven and culture center after a significant restoration effort returned it to its former glory. Most of the wall and several of the towers inside were completely renovated. Only a few cafés and guesthouses are inside the city wall, surprisingly most of the Festung was residential. But these residences are almost all repainted and modernized, heavily decorated with flowers.
The main draw of the Festung is in the second photograph, the Burgruine (Castle Ruins) that sit on the highest ground. For a nominal fee, visitors can enter the Burgruine, climb its towers, and walk the guard wall to catch beautiful glimpses of the Neckar Valley. The third photograph shows one such view, which I believe was part of Neckarsteinach. The building in the foreground was called the Town House, but I was uncertain whether or not that meant it was the current or former town hall.
Some of the other features of Dilsberg include its two beautiful little churches -- one Catholic, one Protestant. One of my Catholic colleagues told me that her parish conducted annual retreats in Dilsberg's church because it was such an old and historically significant building (many Catholic churches in the region have such a history because of the old Holy Roman Empire). The Evangelical Church was larger and newer, but was set outside the Festung wall.
I combed the town fairly thoroughly, both inside and out. It's not an easy place to walk around because the cobblestone roads are very rough and steep in spots, and the streets and sidewalks are practically a maze. But, the town is so small, only a couple blocks large, that you can't get lost. Despite its size, there are a couple of small fields where concerts are held on the Festung grounds, and annually the Dilsberg festival features a lot of medieval activities (and is a major draw for the area).
Dilsberg should rank high on anyone's must-see list. Just be sure to plan your approach to the city carefully, if you see it outside your windshield, you probably already missed it!
Trip taken 13 July 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin