Tuesday, August 14, 2007

10 June: A Sunny Sunday in Bad Wimpfen

Leaving John behind to enjoy a quiet day alone, Mom and I headed to Bad Wimpfen, one of my favorite villages in Baden-Württemberg. Set dramatically on a hilltop overlooking the Neckar River (photo, right), Bad Wimpfen’s most distinguishing feature is its turreted Blauer Turm (Blue Tower - see last photo), the most significant remaining feature of what was once the 12th-century residence of the Staufen emperor Barbarossa. Originally called Wimpfen am Berg, the town thrived as a Free Imperial City for over 500 years. Its more recent claim to fame is the local saltworks and accompanying medicinal saline baths, which gave the town its new name of Bad Wimpfen in 1930.

We parked just below town in a visitor lot and walked up a narrow street past various shops and restaurants and through two imposing stone gate towers (the second is pictured at right, with Mom in front). A steep cobblestoned street led us further upwards, past flower-bedecked half-timbered houses, into the heart of the medieval town. You may recall that our first visit to Bad Wimpfen was made memorable by our ascent of the Blauer Turm, where the resident towerkeeper kindly allowed me into her home to use her bathroom. Mom doesn’t like heights so we didn’t climb the Blue Tower this time. We walked first to the south end of town, where I paid 2 Euro to climb the immense square Roter Turm (Red Tower), which afforded me an excellent bird’s-eye view of the town and its awesome panorama over a broad bend in the Neckar River (photo below).

Back down on solid ground, we continued to explore the narrow streets lined with lush gardens and half-timbered houses – many of which lean haphazardly at odd angles after many centuries of settling (photo, right). Bad Wimpfen is known for its fine 15th- and 16th-century homes, which have been painstakingly restored and are often painted in bright colors. Seeing them in summer with their window boxes overflowing with flowers is quite a treat (photo below).

We stopped for a while at a very cool clothing and knickknack store where Mom bought a glass owl, then went in search of a light lunch. Unfortunately the quaint café near the market square that I had been visualizing from our last visit had apparently gone out of business. It was getting on in the afternoon so we finally decided to stop for a snack at a restaurant right on the cliff’s edge (it had some fitting name like Neckarblick – Neckar view”). Mom had a slice of cherry cake and I had a bowl of vanilla ice cream with hot cherry sauce and whipped cream. (The waiter was very nice but this was one of those odd occasions where Mom was served her cake while I waited another fifteen minutes for my ice cream. This seems to happen to us a lot. I’m not sure why they can’t time things to bring out everyone’s food simultaneously.) We enjoyed the view and the breeze from the shaded terrace before calling it a day and heading back to Stuttgart.

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