A Tramp in Heidelberg

Mark Twain was enchanted by Heidelberg on his “tramp” through Europe in 1878 about which he wrote A Tramp Abroad.

"Heidelberg, Germany seen from Heidelberg Schloss"


It’s easy to see what appealed to him. He may have been admiring a vista similar to that pictured above — the arches of the Old Bridge (Alte Brücke) across the Neckar River with Mannheim and the Rhine River in the distance — when he wrote, “I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm about it as this one gives.” That old world charm still exists in Heidelberg and the surrounding area.

"Homes along the Neckar in Heidelberg, Germany"

We started the day with a walk along the Neckar River from our hotel on Vangerowstraße toward the Old Town. It was a pretty, tree-lined sidewalk part of the way with views of affluent residential areas on the other side of the river.

Near the Kongresshaus, we saw people getting on a river cruise boat and decided to follow them on board. We hurriedly bought our tickets without really knowing where the boat was headed. It was a perfect way to spend part of day. It’s said that boating on the Neckar River is what enabled Mark Twain to break through his writer’s block on Huckleberry Finn.

Shortly after leaving the dock, we went through the impressive locks, part of a system of dams and locks that have been built on the Neckar to prevent flooding.

About 6 miles from Heidelberg, we came to Neckargemünd, a picturesque town founded in the 10th century where the boat stopped briefly for passengers.



The cruise continued through scenic countryside and recreational areas. We also passed by the town of Dilsberg, a fortress on the mountaintop.



About 3 miles further upstream, we docked at Neckarsteinach, a town distinguished by having four castles that were built between 1100 and 1300 AD.

We walked up the hill from the town on a narrow, cobblestone street to Mittelburg Castle which is a privately-owned residence. Nearby Vorderburg Castle is also privately-owned and not accessible to the public.


Built around 1100, Hinterburg is the oldest castle in Neckarsteinach. We could see people walking toward the castle and others who had climbed to the top of the tower.

Hinterburg Castle


In the hills overlooking the valley is Schadeck, built in 1230.

Schadeck Castle


Returning to Heidelberg, we were eager to visit the most famous castle in the area, Heidelberg Castle. Although you can get to the castle from town by walking up the cobblestone road or a stairway with 315 steps, we took the short ride on the Bergbahn railway from the Kornmarkt just for the fun of it.

Heidelberg Castle

Originally built in the 13th century and added to until the 17th century, it reflects various architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance. The castle is largely ruins since many of the structures were destroyed by two wars and finally a lighting strike in 1764.

Mark Twain wrote that the castle was: “… deserted, discrowned, beaten by the storms, but royal still, and beautiful.” With many tourists there, it certainly didn’t feel deserted, but it is quite royal.

Inside the courtyard, a stage and lights were set up for a concert in the evening. I wish we could have stayed for that. Many events are held at the castle, including weddings. A bride and groom were having their photos taken at picturesque locations on the property.

Twain also wrote about the Heidelberg Tun, the world’s largest wine barrel made in 1751 that can hold over 221,000 litres of wine. On the platform that goes around the top of the barrel, we really got a sense of its size.

We spent some time roaming around the lovely grounds and enjoying views of the Old town and the Neckar River in both directions.

It was a peaceful walk down the winding road from the castle to the Old Town, where the Marktplatz was bustling with visitors sitting at outside tables surrounded by shops and cafés.

Our last tramp in Heidelberg was through the streets of Old Town and back to the hotel via a walk along the river. An early morning departure on the train to Frankfurt would be coming all too soon.


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50 thoughts on “A Tramp in Heidelberg

  1. Mark Wiens

    Wow, beautiful scenery and amazing castles to go with it! I have never been to Heidelberg, but your photos make me want to check it out immediately. I get that same feeling of it being the last day on a trip and wanting to end with something amazing!

  2. Jillian

    I always feel torn at the end of a trip, while I want to go home, I don’t want the journey to end! Heidelberg sounds lovely, I wish we had stopped there on our trip through Germany.

  3. Abby

    Ohhhh I love these photos! I had such a great time in Heidelberg, relaxing after a hectic wedding in a nearby small town. But my pictures were lost when my laptop were stolen. Thank you so much for these reminders!

  4. Laurel

    Gorgeous photos! I know what you mean about not spending enough time in Heidelberg. I’ve been there several times and feel the same way.

  5. Fida

    You and Twain are not the only admirers of Heidelberg. You captured it so well. I don’t know how many times I stopped in on my way past Heidelberg, and if only for a short walk through the old town with its windowsills full of beautiful flowers.

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  7. Rose R.

    Hello Kathy, finally caught up with your blog site. I subscribe to The French Way, with John
    Reese. My husband and I have been on two wonderful tours with him. Can’t wait to go again
    some time. Heidleburg – wonderful memories on our part – we went for a fabulous trip from Amsterdam,
    Rhine region, taking in our 2 beautiful days in Heidleburg – Seeing your photos they are so similar to ours,
    and guess what, we did this trip in 1998 which took us away from New Zealand for 12 weeks,
    It was a great trip with Insight Vacations – Thank you bringing back our beautiful memories, and that
    trip started our travels, great past-time, we have had 13 years of wonderful travel – Your blog is full of
    wonderful photos – love them. Rosemary.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Welcome back to the blog, Rosemary! Glad you like the photos and that they have brought back good memories. Your 12-week vacation in 1998 must have been awesome!

  8. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    Your photos really capture the area well, Cathy! It looks like a beautiful way to end your trip. We only have two days left in London and we’re feeling something similar – we still have so much to see and aren’t nearly ready to leave yet! We’re trying to convince ourselves we don’t have to fit it all in to these two days. =P

  9. John

    Cathy, in my humble opinion Germany is underrated. I loved the Neckar Valley and the local wines, but don’t think I could manage 22,000 litres! Have you visited the Moselle and Rhine Valleys?

    1. Cathy Post author

      I had always wanted to visit Germany, but I think that it exceeded my expectations. We traveled through a part of the gorgeous Rhine Valley while on the train, but have not seen the Moselle Valley yet — next time, I hope!

  10. Carol Fischer

    My brother and niece are headed for Germany soon and I’ll send your blog just in case they get to Heidelberg. Thanks for the tour!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Carol. Your brother and niece might also be interested in my “A Sniff of Cologne” post if they’ll be in that great city, too.

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  12. Lee McCaslin

    I was lucky enought to live there 16 years there at the Army Europe HQs. So beautiful! I like it and Venice, It. Heidelberg was the backdrop for my NF book, Secrets of the Cold War.

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