When German romantic artists discovered the sandstone cliff formations outside of Dresden in the 19th century it started a movement back toward nature at the dawn of the industrial revolution.Caspar David Friedrich is one of the many well-known artists who got their inspiration from the fairytale-like forests and viewpoints along the Elbe river.The story goes that some Swiss artists who were among the first to discover this area were so reminded of home that they dubbed the area the Sächsische Schweiz.
I was very happy to discover this area after I found out I would be living near Dresden this year, as hiking is something I really would like to do more often.A Fulbright friend of mine stationed in Hamburg, Andrew, was chatting with me on Friday and I told him about the area.He grew up in Minnesota and went to the University of Puget Sound in Washington, and because he missed hills and forests (Hamburg’s pretty much as flat as you can get), he decided to spontaneously come down for a visit.It was a great weekend, and included a fabulous hike.
We hopped on the regional train into Dresden from Radeberg, switched into an S-Bahn (commuter train) and were out in the Sächsische Schweiz within an hour.Having struggled through admissions at the Technische Universität Dresden I have finally received my Semester Ticket, which allows me to use all Dresden public transportation, including out to Radeberg and, amazingly, all the way to the Sächsische Schweiz.So, for a mere 73 Euros a semester, I have beautiful hiking, and all of Dresden, at my fingertips!
Andrew and I got off the S-Bahn in Wehlen, a sleepy town that is cut in half by the Elbe.The only way you can get across is by passenger ferry boat, and since the information office in the Rathaus was on the opposite side of the train station, we decided to hop on it.The river was actually very narrow, and Andrew pointed out that when the boat pointed its nose to the opposite riverbank to cross, it had already crossed a third of the river.Once we found the information office we bought a hiking map, bought some rolls at a bakery, and were off on our hike.After I navigated incorrectly and we had to ask a local for the right way, we finally found ourselves in the middle of a beautiful forest.
Throughout our walk, as we were engrossed in conversation, we would frequently stop and gasp at the amazing rock formations around us that seemed to grow, like the trees surrounding them, out of the earth.After about a two hour walk we arrived at the Bastei.We weren’t really sure what it was, but it appeared to be a major tourist attraction.There was a parking lot, which added to the amount tourism of course, a “Panorama Restaurant,” lots of kiosks, and some viewpoints that would have offered fantastic views (see picture), if the other tourists hadn’t been there to annoy us.It took us a good half hour of wandering around the tourist kitsch before we actually found the attraction:it turned out to be a bridge that spanned quite a few of the sandstone cliffs.It was built in the 19th century and was architecturally quite impressive, but again, the tourists distracted from the enjoyment factor.
We were both beginning to get hungry, so we decided to continue on our hike and go to the next town, Rathen (pronounced: Rah-ten), for dinner.Andrew claimed he hadn’t had a “traditional German” meal yet, and that’s almost blasphemy for me if you’ve lived in Germany two months already, so we picked the one that looked most traditional and tasty and went for it.It was incredibly good.He had a Bauernfrühstück (farmer’s breakfast), which was different from what I’d expected.It was basically an omelet, though it tasted pretty good.I ordered a wild game goulash with Knödel (dumplings) and a cranberry sauce.It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Neither of us had a watch, which was actually really nice as we could leisurely enjoy the area in a timeless fashion.It turned out we were quite early for dinner, but it worked out perfectly as we had a unhurried dinner and still had plenty of time to walk back to Wehlen along the riverfront before it got dark.
We boarded the passenger ferry once more, missed the S-Bahn by two minutes, and had to wait another half hour in the station for the next one.When we arrived home we were tired but refreshed and in good spirits.The day had been a bit misty and had drizzled every now and then, but we were lucky because Andrew left the next day in the pouring rain.My legs being (embarrassingly) a bit sore, it was nice to just curl up in my apartment with a hot pot of tea and Fabian by Erich Kästner and read the afternoon away.