Heidelberg to Rothenburg

On The Road Travel Essays

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Heidelberg to Rothenburg

This route is entirely motorway for 100 miles, the A5 to the A6 to the A7. It takes about 2 hours. Most of the journey is in Baden-Württemberg, the last section in Bavaria. The landscape is pleasantly undulating but nothing spectacular. Approximate distances, are given from Heidelberg. If your group and driver are willing and you wish to beautify the journey you can follow the lovely Neckar valley via Eberbach and Bad Wimpfen to join the A6 near Heilbronn. It is not described here. In short, though, it is like a mini-Rhine. Against the background of the Odenwald hills, the Neckar is bordered by pretty villages, vineyards, ruined and restored castles and often dramatic scenery. It's no extra distance but you should add 40 minutes or so to your journey time.

On reaching the A5 you follow it south for about 10 miles to the junction with the A6. The southernmost hills of the Odenwald are away to your left. The broad, low Rhine valley stretches out to the right. The fields are planted with asparagus. There are a couple of curiosities that may be worth pointing out though neither of them is satisfactorily visible. On the right you come to a long wall surrounding a town that you can't see running alongside the motorway. This is the U.S. military town of Patrick Henry Village (20,000 military personnel). Another modern, featureless nothing of a town appears on the left just before the A6 junction. This is Walldorf from where at the end of the last century one Herr Astor emigrated to the States to try his hand at the hotel trade in New York. He did very well.

On the A6 the scenery is bland and there is nothing of interest until you cross the Neckar again at Neckarsulm near Heilbronn (40 miles).

Weinsberg (42 miles) on the right between the Heilbronn exit and the A81 junction. The following cute story is attached to this town. In the C12, Weinsberg was besieged in a local civil war. It fell to its attackers who then stormed the town with the intention of executing its people The women of the town begged for mercy and pleaded with the attackers to let them at least go free. Their pleas were accepted and they were allowed to take with them their most treasured possessions so as not to be condemned to poverty for the rest of their lives. So each one of them packed their husbands in a potato sack and trooped off en famille out of the town to safety.

Here the scenery is picking up a little. You are driving through the Hohenloher Ebene in the region of Schwaben or Swabia. The Hohenlohes were the ruling family here in the Middle Ages. This is a very rural and isolated area, insofar as that is possible in this densely populated country. The prime industry is dairy farming. There are also orchards and occasional vineyards. The Hohenloher land is the heartland of the Swabian dialect, the most obscure of all the German dialects, incomprehensible even to most Germans. You can see the huge C16 and C17 Hohenlohe castle, Schloss Neuenstein, to the right of the road just beyond Öhringen (55 miles).

(There is an old joke that seven Swabians set out one day to conquer the world but then they were attacked by a rabbit and went home.)

Kirchberg (75 miles) sits attractively on a low rise just off to the left.

The remaining 25 miles have nothing, only the green, rolling landscape of the Frankenhohe.


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