Charming Town of Neckargemund!
Near Heidelberg, Neckargemund is a charming little town situated on the shore of the river Neckar. The name of this beautiful little town comes from the German Mund, i.e. mouth, because this is where the "mouth" of the river Elsenz joins the river Neckar.
Little note about the name of the town: the true spelling of it is Neckargemünd, with an umlaut on the u, but as most keyboard don't have the umlaut, we decided not to use it here either. Just to make it easier!
This small village has more than a thousand years of history. Indeed, the first mention of its name, called Gmundi at the time, is found in a document dating from 988 AD. There is also a memorial plaque beside an ancient city gate to commemorate its foundation. The date on the plaque and that of the document differed slightly, maybe due to a typo or maybe this was the accepted date of the village foundation back in 1907. We do not know.
However, even before its official foundation, Neckargemund was already occupied by German tribes hundred of years before and then by Romans.
A castle was erected in Neckargemund in the 13th century but, unfortunately, there is not much left of it: most of the stones have long disappeared; taken away by the paupers to built their houses with. Indeed, you can sometimes see very old stones in the walls of relatively new houses (just 2-3 centuries old!) or in the city wall itself.
As these sand stones came from the mines along the Neckar, they have the pink hue characteristic of the valley. Actually the whole village has a warm pinkish glow about it, making it more endearing that some other parts of Germany where the buildings are of cold gray stones.
17th century village
Although Neckargemund has a new modern hospital, a brand new high school with solar panels on the roof, some high tech medical research facilities, etc. the village inside the city wall has not changed much since the 17th century, which makes it such a charming place to visit.
Just by walking through its small streets one can imagine what life must have been back then: with many boats, heavy with goods, coming and going along the river, the water mills along the little Elsenz being used for the grains, a busy place with merchants selling and buying all kind of merchandises!With all this commerce going on, the village was quite rich and many powerful families, as well as the Prince Elector, were envious to get part of it. That's why the village had to be well protected: there were high tours on the top of the mountains along the Neckar, observation posts to see who was coming; friends or foe.
Because of these incessant wars for power and control over the cities among the most predominant families of the valley, and among the members of a same family, each village had at least one castle on a high hill (some villages had more than one, for example Neckarsteinach had 4!), overlooking the river and the plain around it and where the villagers could sometimes get refuge.
As in most other villages that have not changed much since centuries ago, it is easy and agreeable to walk through Neckargemund. The big city door, situated at one of its entrance, was built in 1788 in honour of the Prince Elector Karl Theodore.
You never know what you'll find while walking in the little side streets of the village; a cat asleep on the windowsill of an old house perhaps, or a nice Café overlooking the river and the big barges sailing slowly on the water below. Or you might observe a couple of swans with their young of the year eating along the shoreline. Sometimes, when walking along the quays, you can hear the young musicians rehearsing in the Musikschule by the water.
You can also see all kind of marks, inscriptions, sculptures and pictures on the walls of the houses. Some of them indicate when a certain house was built or repaired, another explains a bit of the history of a building, or it is simply a poem left by an ancient owner, or a greeting such as Grüss Gott!
Bakerei and Konditorei
There are also all of these little Bäkerei and Konditorei (bakeries and pastry shops) and the Metzgerei (butcher shops) to discover, as well as the Boutiques where you can find just about everything you need!
And all of these are close by, no need to drive to it!
As mentioned earlier, most of the village buildings are from the 17th century, but one of the oldest house, situated in the Hanfmarkt, is dating from 1569, and served nowadays as a children toys shop. This house is characteristic of its epoch: with its exposed timber and the first floor being wider than the ground floor.
As the taxes were usually paid in function of the ground surface cover by the house, the inhabitants were using this little trick in order to have bigger upstairs rooms without having to pay more taxes!
The houses of the Markplatz (Market square), in front of the catholic church Nepomuk, are also ancient and really beautiful. One of them was owned by a carpenter, as demonstrated by the fine wood engraving details on the exterior walls and around the windows.
This house was built in the 16th century and was renovated in 1988 (Erneuert 1988), as shown by the inscription on the wall, over a window.
As Neckargemund is situated on the shoreline of two rivers, the Elsenz and the Neckar (long river of 367 km, from Villingen-Schwenningen, in the black forest, to Mannheim where it reaches the Rhine) it has easy access to water. You can go kayaking or canoeing or even sailing on the Neckar. Or take a boat trip with one of the many companies that cruises along the Neckar.
Indeed, during the tourist season from May to October, there are many boats each week that stop in Neckargemund on their way to and from Heidelberg and the neighbour towns of Neckarsteinach and Hirschhorn.
You can also take much longer cruise trips that go further along the Neckar and the Rhine and that last up to one month.
One of the advantages of the Neckar is that, although it is as beautiful as the others, it is not as well known as the Moselle, the Rhine or the Danube and therefore much easier to get reservations on board cruise ships and there are a lot less tourists in the little towns and villages along the way.
Restaurants and Hotels
There are a few nice little hotels and Bed & Breakfast (Pension) in Neckargemund as well as some very nice restaurants that serve authentic German food of the area: "Schnitzel" (veal or pork), "Hirsch or Hungarian Goulash" (red deer stew) with "Pfifferling"(chanterelles mushroom), "Forelles" (trouts) and steaks of pork.
One thing we've noticed is that, although most main course are serve without any veggies at all, except chips (French fries), a salad is usually served before it.
As for desserts, the most usual ones are the "Eis" (ice cream), "Käsekuchen" (cheesecake) and "Apfelstrudel" (Apple strudel) serve with whip cream. Another thing we've noticed is that in most small family restaurants (the ones owned by the same family since decades ago) the portions served are very generous. So generous in fact, that quite often we had no more room for one of these delicious goodies!
But if you still have a little appetite after the meal or while strolling along the main street, we suggest that you try the Eis Cafe Roma situated in front of the Evian bridge. They have all kinds of frozen delights such as "spaghetti Eis", strawberries or raspberries Sundays in season, ice cream creations with coffee and spirits, etc.
You're sure to find at least thing to yours, and your family's, taste!
One thing that is rather surprising for such a small town is the two specialty restaurants that you can find there: A Greek restaurant (Griechische Weinstube) and a Thai restaurant! We tried both and they are both excellent (even though the Greek one does not serve much Greek food! Mainly very good German food).
All of these restaurants are open all year round but the majority of them close during some days of the week (usually Monday and/or Tuesday) and quite often on Sunday afternoon after the lunch. Most of them also have a exterior terrace for the sunny days and from some of them you can see the river gently flowing by.
One thing we really enjoy about Germany and Neckargemund in particular, is the market! Every Wednesdays and Saturdays, sun or rain or snow, there is a market in the Marktplatz. And contrary to other bigger markets that look more like flea markets, the Neckargemund market is a genuine producers market, i.e.. a market where veggies and fruits for sale are from the area and where the cheese vendors know about their products. There are also some flowers from Holland and some fish from the north sea for sale, but no knickknacks and cheap toys. It is a food market and we love it!
And don't worry if you don't speak German and the vendors don't speak English, you will always finish to understand each other: just use your hands!
The whole valley of the river Neckar at the level of Neckargemund is surrounded by green mountains. And there are dozens of trails going through these mountains joining one village to another.
Most of these trails were already used by the German tribes and the Romans hundred of years ago and thus, are very easy to follow. Some of them go through the forests and others follow the shoreline of the river.
From Neckargemund you can reach Heidelberg and a dozen of other villages and towns in 2 hours or less of walk in these trails.
Because there are many walking clubs looking after these trails, they are very well maintained and have quite often little hut where you can sit and have your picnic. Or you can walk a bit further and have a hot meal in a Weinstube or a Bier Garten!
Most of these trails are either for walking or for biking or for both. Also, the very beautiful Burgenstrasse (Castle road) that goes from Mannheim to Prague (about 1000 km long) pass through Neckargemund and most groups following it stop just long enough to have a bier or a glass of wine on their way to Dilsberg or Bad Wimpfen!
You can find more info about the Burgenstrass (road of the castles) at www.burgenstrasse.de
which is in many languages.
You can also have more info about Neckargemund by visiting the Reisebüro Bauder, situated in Neckargemund itself. They have always been very nice to us and have lots of interesting info about the town and the villages around. And they speak some English! Bahnhofstr. 13, 69151 Neckargemünd, Ph.:(49)06223 3535.
Enjoy your visit!
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