One who’s been used to be sleeping in no other place than a soft bed would probably not describe a car as an ideal, cozy night shelter. As I, though, have been used to be resting my body in pretty much any sort of place I can lie or sit, the flattened back seats of our Opel Mokka car offered a perfect surface for a long, sound sleep.
It was a lovely morning. The sky was perfectly clear and faintly illuminated by the sun, which was still lurking somewhere behind the mountains to the east. The surface of the Elbe River was so calm and apparently motionless as if it was solid; a thin layer of vapor was hovering, equally motionless, over it. The small road along the riverbank, where we’d spent the night, was still desolate and utterly quiet. We prepared breakfast and enjoyed it while marveling at the surrounding divinity and watching the first strollers and cyclists who gradually started to appear on the road in front of us. A new day was beginning in expectation of new adventures.
Our first destination for the day was the Saxon Switzerland National Park’s most renown attraction: the Bastei. This a spectacular, dramatic formation of vertical rocks towering over a wide curve of the Elbe River. The landscape’s unique and captivating beauty has been drawing tourists from all over the world for over two centuries now.
In order to get there, we drove back along Elbe’s north bank until the Stadt Wehlen village. We there left the river and drove to Dorf Wehlen, whence we took the K8711 road going north, through the broad fields, until we met the S165 road. Following the latter for some 2 km, we came to the S166 road, leaving to the south, after the Steinreich Museum located at the junction. After a few more km, we reached a dead-end, where the parking lot for Bastei’s visitors is located. It is quite hard to park a vehicle on any other spot than the organized lot. But if one really wants to, something may surely be found. In this case, we rather chose to pay €3 for 3 hours and park in the designated space.
By the very end of the road, there is a hotel-restaurant-cafe complex. A trail starts from there, which, in next to no time, leads to Basteibrücke: the famous bridge of Bastei. This is a sandstone bridge: standing there since the year 1851, linking the rocks with each other over the deep clefts: which replaced a previous wooden bridge. The vistas from the bridge and the adjoining viewpoints over the gently meandering through the green valley river and the distant imposing rocks transpose the spectator in a dreamy, epic world.
We crossed the bridge and took the trail conveying down to the Grünbach River: one of Elbe’s tributaries. We walked the path to the north along the riverbank and reached the point where an artificial pond has been formed by damming the river. That pond is some 400 m. in length and less than 50 m. in maximum width. They had in it boats and water-bicycles for rent. Quite honestly, I couldn’t really get why would anyone want to rent a boat and paddle across such a small pond, which can be walked all around in some 10-15 minutes… but people seemed to be quite excited about it, contending the boat owner.
We kept walking north through the awesome natural beauty of the gorge. We soon met the beginning of a path named Schwedenlöcher. We took that one. Having the chance to wonder at many yet exquisite natural scenes along the way, we ended up back at the parking lot, having described a wider circle. The natural beauty concerned, Bastei was undoubtedly the most worthy place we got to visit in Saxon Switzerland. Though, the thick crowds of tourists swarming all its trails remove from it some bit of its magic. So the second destination of the day was to be a much less-visited one.
We got back to S165 and drove further east; took a right on S163, after a couple of km; and followed that road steadily south until Porschdorf and the famous spa town of Bad Schandau, on the bank of the Elbe, soon thereafter. I don’t happen to be a great fun of spa, so apart from having a cup of coffee – of which I am a great fun – we didn’t have much to do there and we soon continued on our way. We crossed back to the south bank of the Elbe. Driving for some time up and down the undulating hills, in and out of the deep forests to and from the wide fields, we reached the village of Kleingießhübel, some five km away from the Czech border. We drove for about one km more up the road leading to the east from the village, and we made it to our desired spot.
Therefrom starts the trail going up the table hill of Kleiner Zschirnstein. Following it through the magical, quiet forest occupying the hillslope, we made it to the summit plateau. This is one of the highest points in Saxon Switzerland altogether. Thankfully, unlike the most of the park’s areas, it’s also rather unfrequented by tourists. We saw no one, apart from one family hiking in the forest and a couple of climbers. We took a seat by the cliff’s verge and got to wonder at the wide, astounding dusk view the land of Saxony had to offer. It was just about to get dark when we returned to the car. We took advantage of the forest’s quietude to prepare and enjoy a nice dinner, and departed towards new parts of this land.
The next stop was the town of Königstein: built on the south bank of the Elbe, widely known for the impressive fortress crowning the tall hill adjacent to it: one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe, known also as the ‘Saxon Bastille’ due to its having previously functioned as a prison – at those old times, when prisoners were still constituting a great portion of the European population, alongside with serfs and the aristocratic minority, responsible for either imprisoning or enslaving the former two. By the time we reached there, it was already dark for good. So, unfortunately, we did not have ample time to visit the fortress. However, we relished a pleasant stroll around the old town’s picturesque streets.
Königstein was our last stop within the boundaries of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. Though, we had planned one last stop for the whole trip. That was no other than Dresden. We drove to the centre of the city; we parked the car, and, wine bottle in hand, we got to enjoy a nice walk through the relatively quiet, night streets of this grandiose city. The bottle empty, we were in need of a place to sleep. We drove out of the city, and trying various provincial roads, we ended up in a small grove by the side of an exceeding-eye-reach-wide field. The Opel took the role of a cabin, once again. And we shut our eyelids down, letting this day, too, to pass by. That’s what happened, pretty much, during that trip in the Saxon Switzerland.