On the bastei
The anticipation of getting to those spectacular stone bridges that I had seen so often in photos was magnetic. It didn't matter how tired I felt I was going to make it. As it turns out, you can reach the top comfortably in half an hour. As the craggy rocks got closer and then I moved between them (pic 3) there were views over the Elbe (pics 1 & 2), one of Europe's great rivers, here seen to best advantage where the rocky outcrops either side make for an impressive landscape.
Then it's climbing ever higher until you reach the magical world of the stone bridges where a stone age settlement was probably in place and other people also lived there in later times.
Surrounded by a bizarre array of spires of sandstone this is a special place in Germany yet few English speaking tourists venture there.
At the very top there's a restaurant where those who don't want to do much walking can actually drive to but, for me, that would take more than half the enjoyment out of the trip.
Hiking is No. 1 activity in the area. There are more than 1100 km of marked and well maintained hiking paths around Bad Schandau!
You can do easy and short, or long and exhausting hikes. My favourite hikes lead far away from the easily accessible parts, I prefer such hikes where you start at one place and finish somewhere else. Since public transportation is sufficient you can do such "crossing" hiking tours.
Scenery is what encourages folks to do hiking here. To get to excellent viewing points you must get up of course, so a certain fitness is a must. Elevation differences are not too big, only 200 - 400 m at once, but the paths use to go up and down, and up and down ...
Let me take you on some hiking tours in the next tips. Good hiking boots are a must. Sneakers/jogging sport shoes are alright for the easy and plain tours. But if you go hiking in the areas with sandstone rock formations you definitely need excellent hiking boots.
Restaurants in the remote parts of the National Park are rare. I usually bring my own food and make a picnic at a viewing point. Bring enough water (or what you like to drink) because there are only very few creeks with drinking water available (due to the sandstone!).
Another must is a good map. Especially for the remoter parts of the National Park. It will also help you to identify the impressive rock formations here and there :-) and the mountains in the distance.
All along the Elbe
Rosemarie and I started on a walk towards Schmilke from Bad Schandau. We had little idea exactly how far it was but I figured an hour would put a hole in it.
I'd like to say it was pleasant but initially the weather was bleak and we were beset by snow and sleet for about 20 minutes and Rosemarie wanted to go back. I encouraged her to push on a little further, despite the cold.
This turned out to be fortunate because it cleared soon after and the rest of the walk was in overcast, but fine, conditions.
The route is sealed the whole way. In fact, much of the Elbe has walking and bike paths beside it so you enjoy sections of the river for most of its length.
Eventually we reached Schmilke in something over an hour and I took the extra steps just to go across the old Czech border towards Hrensko.
We then had a lovely warming hot chocolate in the pub on the corner. In fact, from my brief observations, it was the only place open.
Elbleitenweg - coming down
There's something about walking through forest anywhere. For me, it's a pleasure. There's life, or not in some cases, and everywhere the landscape is changing constantly. The next visit to a place is never the same.
I took all these shots just of the trail scenes as I walked along, here a moss laden rock, there a carpet of leaf litter, somewhere else bountiful new tree growth.
Soon after the trail started to descend. Not with the rapidity of the Schmilke ascent but a steady incline as I neared Bad Schandau. When I came to the sealed road it was right next to a bus stop so obviously that might be an option for some.
From memory it was still about 2 kms back to base but, what did I care?
It's all so pleasureable. Hope you enjoy.
Kuhstall - opening up
I moved on a little further. Things started to look promising. Here was a hole in the wall that immediately drew me to it. I walked through and there was a lookout.
Before you get your hopes up let me tell you straight away that this is not exceptional by the standards around here. No, you go through the cave for the sake of going through the cave, the lookout is only average.
On the way back out I saw some steps leading into a crevice that I had overlooked on the way in. It looked interesting, I had some time, so off I went (pic 3).
This turned out to be a boy's own wonderland of moss laden rock walls, gaps heading to who knows where and staircases to the unknown.
I loved it and continued on past towering cliffs through this fantasyland (pics4,5).