We had arrived in Heilbronn along the Neckar Valley Cycling Route in early September and immediately had to get off our loaded bicycles due to the huge crowds. We had arrived during the annual wine festival while cycling in Germany and although it was still early plenty of people were wandering about.
Although we had been cycling all day we quickly checked into our hotel, secured our bikes and headed back to the festival. There were plenty of colorful booths scattered about the streets where you could sample the results of the harvest.
Actually Heilbronn is part way along this 375 km bicycle touring route from Villingen-Schwenningen in southern Germany to Mannheim on the Rhine River. Other major cities along the route include Stuttgart and Heidelberg.
The Neckar River starts in a spring located in Schwenninger Moos National Park and the bike path starts here as well. Just look for the green bike with the red and white front wheel on the signs. We found the route to be well signed and easy to follow.
You will pass the International Aeronautic Museum at Schwenningen Airport. If you like trains (like one of my cycling colleagues) then a visit to the world’s oldest electric locomotive in is order at Trossingen, it was built in 1888.
At this point the Neckar tends to wander a bit as it heads north and you ride through the valley towards Oberndorf and Rottenburg passing Weitenberg Castle. At Tubingen there is the Hohentubingen Renaissance Castle and a university.
The Neckartal-Radweg using its German name continues following the river until reaching Stuttgart where you might want to visit the Daimler-Benz Museum. Some cyclists take the 5 km sidetrip to Ludwigsburg Castle which looks more like a huge palace and is known as Germany’s Versailles.
The Neckar cycling route continues through an area of hills covered with vineyards until reach Heilbronn where we enjoyed the wine festival. Cycling the next morning we were joined by a lone German cyclist who was bicycle touring the route and accompanied us for much of the morning.
We took a slight detour off the route to visit historic Bad Wimpfen. In the castle of Neckarsulm (built 1487) is the German Bicycle Musuem. At this point the river is quite wide and you are riding through a scenic valley with hills crowding both sides. At Zwingenberg we used a small ferry to cross the river and the Neckar Valley cycling route changes sides from time to time.
Entering Eberback was impressive as you cross a bridge over the river and town sits before you on the slopes of the hill. Also we started to see much more river traffic along this section. We had difficulty finding accommodation so went to the tourist office who located rooms in the Gasthof Linde, nice, but a bit of a climb after a long day on the trail.
From here it was only 42 km into Heidelberg so we arrived fairly early. What an entrance as you cross an historic bridge with the castle high on the hill to your left and central Heidelberg with its pedestrian friendly main street to the right. Do be sure to stay an extra night to visit the castle and city.
Even though it was a Monday night, we searched in vain for a B & B or hotel before going to the tourist office for assistance. They found us a place but it required a 5 km ride to get there and a commuter the next day to return to visit the town.
There are a number of connecting routes for a much longer journey. We had actually started along the Romantic Road Bike Route, connected to the castle before joining the Neckar. The Neckar Valley cycling route is provides easy riding on a paved bike path along a scenic river with a few castles, vineyards and plenty of medieval towns.