The Neckar Valley, unlike the Rhine or the Danube, is known only by a very few tourists outside of Germany.
In fact, it seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Germany and in Europe! The Neckar valley is simply magnificent! With its many medieval towns and villages along the way and breath taking view of castles, with barely any tourists around (outside of a few Germans), it is a little romantic gem waiting to be discovered by you.
Most non-Germans know of only one of the cities of the Neckar Valley: Heidelberg. And the best known feature of the city is its castle, or more exactly, the ruins of the castle.
Even Marc Twain lived there for a while, complaining about the complexity of the German language and its many forms of “the”, such as das, der, die, den, dem and des.
Speaking of which, taking a small German course before coming, might be a good idea, especially if you decide to take a cruise with a small town as destination. Few people outside the crew and some tourists may speak English.
The Neckar itself is 367 km long, mainly flowing through the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, but also through Hesse in Germany. It is a major tributary of the River Rhine, which it joins at Mannheim, just a few kilometres from Heidelberg.
Starting in the Black Forest near the village of Villingen-Schwenningen in the conservation area of Schwenninger Moos at a height of 706 m above sea level, it passes through Rottenburg am Neckar, Tübingen, Stuttgart, Heilbronn, Bad Wimpfen, Heidelberg and many more, before discharging into the Rhine.
For many years now the Neckar has been tamed with dams and locks, making it safer for the towns and villages along its course. Although there are still floods once in a while in the Neckar Valley and you can see marks on the walls of some building showing how high the water can get, they are pretty rare nowadays.
The introduction of locks has also made it easier for boats of all size to go up and down the river and you can see many of them on the water: from the small canoes and row boats to the big heavy river barges. Indeed, the river is not only beautiful, it is also very useful to move large quantity of goods from one city to another.
The dams along its course not only protect the villagers along the river’s shores against seasonal flood, the also produce electricity and serve as bridges.
There are many cruising boats that sail on the Neckar, from a few hours cruise, from Heidelberg to Hirschhorn for example, to a few weeks long. Depending of the length of the cruise and the size of the boat, the service on board will vary a lot: from a snack bar with “Pommes” (French Fries) and Bier to luxurious accommodations.