Getting Oriented

Although not as well known as the Rhine, the Neckar River has a wonderful charm of its own. After Heidelberg, it winds through a small valley guarded by castles. It then flows on, bordered by vineyards on its northern slopes, passing the interesting and industrious city of Stuttgart, before it climbs toward the Swabian Hills. You follow the Neckar until the old half-timber university town of Tübingen. The river continues toward the eastern slopes of the Black Forest, where it originates less than 80 km (50 miles) from the source of the Danube.

  • Heidelberg. The natural beauty of Heidelberg is created by the embrace of mountains, forests, vineyards, and the Neckar River, all crowned by the famous ruined castle. The Neckar and the Rhine meet at nearby Mannheim, the biggest train hub for the superfast ICE (InterCity Express) trains of Germany, a major industrial center, and the second-largest river port in Europe.
  • The Burgenstrasse (Castle Road). If you or your kids like castles, this is the place to go. The crowded Heidelberg Castle is a must-see, but the real fun starts when you venture up the Neckar River. There seems to be a castle on every hilltop in the valley, including Burg Hohenzollern, home to the most powerful family in German history.
  • Swabian Cities. Stuttgart, the state capital, has elegant streets, shops, hotels, and museums, as well as some of Germany's top industries, among them Mercedes, Porsche, and Bosch. Ludwigsburg, with its huge baroque castles and baroque flower gardens, is worth a visit. The most charmingly "Swabian" of all these cities is the old half-timber university town of Tübingen.

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