Saxon Switzerland

Last year, we spent a couple of days hiking in Saxon Switzerland, the German part of the Elbe sandstone highlands. Here are three hiking spots I’d recommend for a visit:

1. The Bastei and Schwedenlöcher
The Bastei is a rock formation near the spa town of Rathen and probably the most-known landmark of Saxon Switzerland. Its highest peak reaches 305 metres above sea level, which makes it one of the more convenient hikes. Even back in the 19th century the Bastei was popular among tourists and artists alike. I guess the most famous representation is Caspar David Friedrich’s “Felsenschlucht”. Today, the Bastei is still a very touristy place. If you want to hike in solitude, you better choose a date outside the tourist season and set out early in the morning.

From the Bastei, one can continue to climb down the Schwedenlöcher (Swedes’ holes), which, in fact, are not really holes, but rather a canyon. This hike is far less touristy, the path is at times overgrown, and the big, mossy rocks around you radiate coolness during hot summer days. Btw – the canyon was given the name “Schwedenlöcher” after the Thirty Years’ War, when locals used it as a hideout from the Swedes.

On the foot of the Schwedenlöcher the Amselsee (blackbird’s lake) extends. One can spot many tourists in paddleboats around there. All in all, this route took us about three hours to complete.

2. The Schrammsteine
The rock formation of the Schrammsteine is particularly jagged in shape. There are different hiking tours signposted, but each of them leads to the “Schrammaussicht”, a viewpoint at 417 metres above sea level. The way up is in parts very demanding and you better not be afraid of heights! At some point during the hike, you need to climb ladders to reach the next rock. The view, however, is rewarding!

3. The Kuhstall
The Kuhstall (cowshed) is the second largest natural arch in the Elbe sandstone highlands (the largest, however, on the German site), located above the Kirnitzsch valley. The arch is 11 metres high, 17 metres wide and 24 metres deep. One can climb on top of the Kuhstall, using the “Himmelsleiter” (stairway to heaven – which to me rather felt like a stairway to shit-my-pants… ). Also, there is a restaurant right next to the arch, which exists since 1823.


Fun fact: The name Saxon Switzerland for the German part of the Elbe sandstone highlands (and Bohemian Switzerland for the Czech part, respectively) came up during the second half of the 18th century, when the Swiss painters Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, both students at the Dresden Academy of Arts, explored the area in Saxony.

Lisa v. D.


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