Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wanders in Sächsische Schweiz

The Internet is not awash in resources on where to stay, what to do, or how to get around the bit of eastern Germany known as Saxon Switzerland. This is why I found myself booked into a room at a Sebnitz pension with no clear idea of where Sebnitz was or what I was going to do when I got there.

Upon my arrival, after a quick stop at the pension, I strolled into the old town center in search of the tourist information office that was rumoured to exist. The lady there spoke no English, so I did my best to indicate that I was interested in hiking and wanted some suggestions on what nice trails were nearby. Either I did this very badly or the lady knew nothing about hiking trails, because she persisted in giving me brochures for random African art museums and parks with large model animals even after I'd used the word wandern eight or ten times.

Later that afternoon, I took a walk about town. Sebnitz is a bit like an elderly person whom time has made beautiful, melancholy, wise, and a little bit decrepit. Some of the loveliest buildings are vacant, and some, curiously, seem to be only partially inhabited. I'm not sure I'd want to live in the second storey of a building whose ground floor is derelict. Between the ghosts and the possibility of falling through a rotted floor during the night, I don't think it would make for a very relaxing lifestyle.

A few minutes from my pension was a tiny bridge over a tiny creek. Crossing the bridge takes you from Sebnitz to Dolni Poustevna. And this is what I mean by not having any clear idea where Sebnitz was: I didn't realise it was right on the Germany-Czech border until the Česká republika sign was there staring me in the face.

So, I crossed the bridge and went for a stroll in the Czech Republic.

In Dolni Poustevna, there are a few nice houses with lovely gardens, some nice gardens attached to houses that look like old Marley's ghost, and a fair bit of decay. I passed several little shops where I expect people from Germany often go to get things for cheap, and examined a church that looked to be abandoned. On the whole, Dolni Poustevna seemed a bit wearier than Sebnitz - though, of course, in an imagination-inciting rather than disappointing way.

Before I returned to Germany, I stopped at one of the shops. My bill for kiwi-strawberry fanta, paprika Tuc crackers, and a blue raspberry sour belt came to less than two euros.

The primary reason for my visit to Saxon Switzerland was Bastei Bridge, and this I hit up the next day. I had seen a picture of the bridge at some point, and that's how I like to choose my travel destinations; I see a picture and say, "That's pretty, I will go and take photos of it."

To get from Sebnitz to Bastei Bridge, a short train trip is required, followed by a ferry ride and a walk through a magical forest that makes regular humans pixie-sized. The forest is almost entirely coniferous. Once you reach the bridge (and regain normal human dimensions), the views over the Elbe river and various odd rock formations are amazing.

I continued along the Painter's Trail, which is said to be one of the prettiest wanderwegs in Europe. I haven't done all the wanderwegs in Europe yet, so I can't offer my professional opinion, but this one was really nice. There was a particular descent through tunnels of moss-covered rocks that seemed almost other-worldly.

When I got back to Bastei village sometime after 6pm, I was all kinds of cranky, but a blockwurst und semmel followed by a big Eis in Waffel cleared that up. Verdict on Sächsische Schweiz: awesome.

No comments: