Today we traveled from Prague to Stadt Wehlen, to do some hiking in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
We first had to dry our laundry at a laundromat, then we used all our remaining Czech crowns to buy snacks at the train station (we made four separate purchases, since we were not sure how much things cost), and then we caught a train to Bad Schandau. We were supposed to have a 40 minute layover, but since our train from Prague was delayed, we only had a 5 minute layover. Our ticket indicated that the S1 train was supposed to leave from track 2 (which we arrived at). It looked like the station had only two tracks (since a car train was blocking the other two), so we decided to walk towards the train sitting on track 1 instead of towards the station. Hence, we missed our connection (mysteriously on track 3) and had to wait an hour until the next train came (1:53pm).
The wait wasn’t so bad though, as Katie was able to catch up on blogging and JT was able to enjoy some German liquor. (Czech trains perpetually running late and cheap alcohol are threatening to make JT an alcoholic…)
Upon arriving in Stadt Wehlen, we checked into Villa Sophie
) – which threatened to be problematic, as the receptionist did not speak a word of English. She ran away to catch the middle-aged German motorcycle couple who had just checked in, who thankfully spoke English and could translate. Once we were checked in, we dropped off our luggage, and bought a hiking map for Saxon Switzerland National Park. Although the map was not necessary in hindsight, we did refer to it multiple times and it gave us some reassurance. With this, we set out on hike to explore a small part of Saxon Switzerland.
The beginning of the trail was somewhat confusing to find, as we were not sure which signs on the road were for hikers (as opposed to drivers or bikers). However, our gut instinct was correct, and we were on the wooded trail in no time. As we were walking, we passed an older man with a cane. He caught up with us while we stopped to orient and study our map. In halting English he told us about an exciting side loop trail we should take.
We took his advice and went on the loop trail. Although muddy, it was an awesome hike. The scenery was beautiful, and the hiking was more technical in spots. During the hike we climbed a metal staircase over a waterfall, climbed to some pretty overlooks, and ducked/crawled through some tight areas. JT slipped and fell ~10 feet while trying to avoid going through a muddy part and tweaked his knee. But thankfully there seems to be no lasting damage (although it hurt pretty bad at the time). But this did not ruin the hike; we were very happy he recommended this 2 mile loop!
After finishing the loop, we continued on our way to the Bastei Bridge. The hike was mostly a steady climb through the forest, but at the end the hike got steeper and rockier. However, we knew we were close to the top when we started seeing the hotel by the bridge and the associated guests.
The overlooks of the grey sandstone sentries rising from the forest floor were spectacular. In particular, some of the overlooks contained both views of the Elbe River and the sandstone sentries, which led to amazing panoramic views. The Bastei Bridge, which is normally the main draw, was pretty cool – but not as cool as the panoramic views of the natural scenery or as amazing as the loop walk the man recommended.
We saw the hotel staff setting up a fancy dinner for 2 on the bridge – we bet it was an epic dinner for whoever it was arranged for!
At the bridge we met a nice German woman from Munich, who was currently living in Frankfurt. She lived in London for 10 years, so her English was great. We enjoyed talking with her for a bit.
After seeing the bridge, we put €3 into the ‘box of trust’ and explored Felsenberg Neurathen, a 13th century Saxon fort perched on the sandstone spires. We then hiked down to Kurort Rathen, where we had 2 beers, 2 bratwursts, and fries – all for €10.5 (nearby sit-down restaurants had entrees starting at €10). After eating, we walked a lovely 2.5 miles along the Elbe River to get back to our hotel in Stadt Wehlen. Once back at our hotel, we checked out the ‘beverage room’. Here we sat on some comfortable couches and enjoyed free tee and a cheap apple cider type beer from Dresden.
- Saxon Switzerland seems to be a German tourist hotspot, based on the tourists we saw. We saw few non-German tourists.
- We were surprised to find that our fries were served with mayonnaise, just like in the Netherlands. We thought (and were told by some trustworthy Dutch) that it was a Dutch thing!
- We see why Saxon Switzerland is so popular with hikers and climbers. The hiking is great, especially once you get away from the main trails. And the climbing routes looked to be plentiful, and well used (we saw many climbers out on the sandstone cliffs).
Funny sign we saw upon exiting the ferry in Stadt Wehlen.
Ferry in Stadt Wehlen.
Awesome loop trail in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Katie on the awesome loop trail in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Metal staircase on the awesome loop trail in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
JT on the awesome loop trail in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
On the trail from Stadt Wehlen to the Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
View of Kurort Rathen from a lookout near the Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
View of the Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Beers, bratwursts, and fries in Kurort Rathen.
View from the trail going along the river from Kurort Rathen to Stadt Wehlen (looking back at Kurort Rathen).
Panorama from a lookout near near the Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Panorama near the ferry dock in Stadt Wehlen.