Ever since my hiking desire kicked in many years ago, I kept hearing about a place called Saxon Switzerland, a national park with out-of-ordinary rock formations that Eastern Germany shares with its neighbor the Czech Republic. After googling it, it became clear that Saxon Switzerland was a hiking paradise and something really out of the ordinary that I wanted to experience myself.
I kept postponing my travel to this national park because for me, a world travel lover, it was preferable to use my vacation days for seeing a new country rather than seeing more of the country I was living in. I know now how limiting this thinking can be, especially after having experienced Saxon Switzerland.
Once we were sitting on the train that was taking us from Dresden along the curvy Elbe River to Bad Schandau I began feeling like I was in the most remote and beautiful place on earth. This was not the Germany I knew and at times I was wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me and if I was actually in a faraway country. I had to remind myself time and time again where I was.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking: the mirroring waters of the Elbe River glowing under the sun alongside our train tracks, the small villages that were popping up at times on the right and times on the left only to disappear again and leave space for pure nature, and as we were finally approaching the national park itself, the majestic rock formations of Hohnstein, Pfaffenstein, Königstein. I found myself staring at them with my jaw dropped and with tears in my eyes.
A few years have passed by since then, but I still have this feeling of amazement and admiration every time I hear the words Saxon Switzerland.
The week that I spent there burnt deep marks into my heart. The challenging hiking routes we took in these incredible rock formations (such as Wilde Hölle or the Malerweg), the sunsets sparkling on the Elbe, the passages on the river to get from one side to the other, the small, friendly rustic taverns, everything was so different from what I knew from living on the other side of Germany that it really felt like a remote and different world to me. The time stood still and the week there felt like a whole month. I was swallowed by the fairytalelike beauty of this place, and I wished to stay there forever.
Once on the legendary Basteibrücke – which looked like it had been catapulted directly out of a fairy tale –, I had the feeling that the world lay directly at my feet. It was about 6 a.m. and nobody else was there. There was no trace of wind and the scenery sunk into a deep calmness. Only a few birds were noticeable from time to time. The black stone pillars were shivering in the morning light towards the endless sky, and it felt like the beginning of a science fiction movie scene where fantastic reptiles were about to make their appearance any time. It all gave me a rush of adrenaline and I found myself laughing out loud while the sounds coming out of my mouth were quickly swallowed by the giant pillars.
When people ask me to describe Saxon Switzerland I believe the words that apply most are “out of ordinary”.