* -- well, not counting Heidelberg, of course.
When I first moved to Germany in the summer of 1999, I had the opportunity to live in a downtown Heidelberg motel for my first month or so. My first mode of private transportation was not a car, it was a bike -- a brand new mountain bike that I bought once I realized how common biking was in Germany. After a week of biking to work, I decided it would be cool to go on a day trip by bike and follow along the Neckar River to see where I would end up. After passing by Heidelberg's eastern suburbs, I happened upon the town of Neckargemünd.
As the concept of the small German town was new to me, I was excited, although at first it didn't seem like anything special. The approach from the west was rather non-descript, as that part of town was mostly strip-mall-like businesses and simple residential complexes. Going down a block toward the river, I noticed a large campground filled with campers. In subsequent trips around Germany, I would learn how common riverside campgrounds were.
It wasn't until I reached the old city, nestled snugly within the bend of the river (see first photo), that I was charmed. The old city was small and ran straight uphill along two extremely narrow cobblestone roads between the Protestant Church (white building in foreground on first photo) and the Stadttor (second photo). I remembered that climb very well. I elected to walk the bike up hill because I had not ridden a bike enough to be able to tackle such a steep climb, much less try it on a rough cobblestone road. Also, I was astonished to find myself passed by a bus! The mirrors on the bus practically scraped the buildings of both sides of the road as it climbed up, but the driver seemed completely unconcerned. He had the pedal to the metal as if he was on an autobahn! I leaned up snugly against the buildings to make sure I was out of the way!
From the Stadttor, I made my way by bike through several tiny highland villages and past a couple forests with marked walking paths. From an earlier trip to Germany, I knew how much the Germans enjoyed a Sunday stroll through the woods. I would later reach Dilsberg, which was famous for its old Roman ruins perched high above the river. (And for its 15-degree descent back to the river that nearly wore out the brakes on my brand new bike!)
It would actually be another three years before I would set foot back in Neckargemünd, mostly out of curiosity because after hitting so many other small towns I wondered how interesting or fabulous it really was by comparison. I also wanted to give it a proper exploration, as I had only previously hit the main street, so on a nice sunny Wednesday evening, I returned and wandered nearly the entire town... and loved it.
The highlight of my return visit was clearly the Villa Menzer, shown in the third photo amidst the Stadtgarten (city garden). The garden was blooming with the first flowers of spring and the grass was a beautiful brilliant green. The museum in the Villa was sadly closed, but the Villa offered the most picturesque views of the Neckar, unhindered by the train tracks.
Among the other sights I caught this time around -- the city's fabulous little marketplace that is surrounded by half-timber buildings, the fabulous Catholic Church (the red brick church in the background of the first photo), and the town winehouse that was undergoing intense renovation efforts. I also explored the waterfront, with its charming and colorful guesthouses. Neckargemünd, I would learn, sat at the end of a passenger route to Ludwigshafen at the Rhein-Neckar confluence near Mannheim. Neckargemünd itself also occupied a river confluence, of the Neckar and Elsenz. The Elsenz was a small river that served more like a harbor for smaller cruise ships and private vessels. Its various bridges were decorated with flower boxes on each side, like the one shown in the fourth photo -- a pic taken in the direction of the Neckar River.
It was refreshing to return to Neckargemünd, and remind myself of my first ever 'adventure' outside of Heidelberg, and the first-ever charming little town of seemingly hundreds that I've visited since.
Trips taken 20 August 1999 and 26 March 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin