If you’re walkey, climbey, cycley or just love history, nature and great views, I hope that Mark and I have established that the Saxon Swiss National Park is for you!
It is a GOB – Get it Onyer Bucketlist. And whether or not you’re convinced – here’s some more!
The Saxon Swiss area claims to be the birthplace of free climbing since in 1874, stonemason Otto Ewald Ufer and his companion, H. Frick summited the Mönchstein near Rathen. From the invention of the first climbing shoes with hemp soles, the first difficulty scale of I to III and the framing of climbing regulations, so the area helped along the sport of free climbing! (Free climbing allows the use of ropes and equipment for protection, but not aids to assist the ascent.)
A fear of heights means that free climbing is no longer for us, however, although free parking still appeals. We drove around to the car park just beyond Königstein to find that it is a multi-storey and they wanted €8 to park the van (€5.50 for a car). So we went to Pfaffendorf, where, like the climbing, the parking is free!
Clearly missing the thunder of trains passing every five minutes, Mark hadn’t slept particularly well, so we decided against THE BIG WALK. Today, our objective was to storm the magnificent fortress above Königstein.
We followed various footpaths and did a cool, beechy descent from Pfaffendorf to the town of Königstein, followed by a sporting climb back uphill to the Königstein fortress. We chose one of the non-route-marked paths. There were beautiful, mossy sandstone boulders and sandstone stacks hidden in the woods as well as a fair few nettles, but the up side was that we had it all to ourselves!
Festung Königstein is one of the largest mountain fortresses in Europe and it is impressive how it is almost embedded into the rock. Visible for miles, sitting on top of a table mountain at a height of 247 metres, it is unsurprising that it was never conquered!
It did not conquer our hearts, however. It was all a bit commercial. It was rebuilt in recent years and its shiny, new battlements were under assault by droves of people, waddling up from the multi-storey car park on foot or riding the short distance in gaudy little leisure trains.
We decided against the €10 each entry fee and simply simply walked around the perimeter, drinking in the majestic views, which swept down to the River Elbe.
We still commented that these are just the ‘B’ list walks and they are beautiful – and since we are outside the National Park, dogs can be off leads! We met a lovely German family and although it said ‘no dogs allowed’ on the Panorama Lift up the outside of the fortress, they told us that they had just been up the lift with their dog, who had also been permitted inside the castle!
On the ascent back to Pfaffendorf, my sandal broke! That is two pairs of sandals in two weeks – and now I have none left! (I probably shouldn’t do rough walks like this in sandals!) The weather indicated a wet day coming, so I suggested going into Dresden to look for sandals. Then I thought ‘Amazon’. Thank goodness for Amazon. I ordered an identical pair of sandals. They will be here in 2 days with no need to visit a Big Bad City!
A Hike to Hohnstein – That’s not the way (to do it…!)
It rained hard overnight, which necessitated the reconstruction of the paddle vaulting in the awning. (You might remember that our awning collapsed in heavy rain back on the Rhine. We stop sagging by bolstering up the canvas with our SUP paddles!)
After quite a strenuous walk yesterday to Festung Königstein, we decided to take it easy and potter over to Hohnstein, rather than doing THE BIG WALK.
I hate shoes! I had no choice but to wear my trainers today, since all me sandals have broken. I am sure that my feet have spread as a result of my 2-year sandal-wearing habit. My trainers, which used to slide on like a comfy pair of slippers, felt really tight!
We set off up the road to the side of Campsite Entenfarm and joined a bridleway. It was all through open landscape, with beautiful views across golden fields of wheat to the mountains in the distance. It was also quite hot and poor Kai boy was suffering! We kept wetting him down and stopping to rest in whatever shade we could find.
We could see little sign of civilisation anywhere and just as I said “Where is this town?” guess what hove into view. A magnificent, medieval castle on an outcrop of rock with a picture perfect village below!
We learned that Hohnstein is apparently the home of Mr Punch. German puppeteer, Max Jacob, moved here and developed his Hohnsteiner Kasper, the German equivalent of Punch and Judy.
We wandered down cobbled streets to the centre, admiring the Town Hall, which is the oldest timber building in the town. We relaxed in the shade and enjoyed a coffee and a pancake with ice cream. All for €8!
To get back, we worked out that we needed to follow the paths marked by the green line on the white background. We wound past steep sandstone escarpments in the welcome shade of the forest. We were treated to select glimpses of the castle at Hohnstein between the trunks. We were in danger of getting neck ache from looking up at the beauty which surrounded us! Being in the National Park, we respected the need to keep the dogs on the leads, but I did wonder if the requirement is as much for the safety of the dogs. Just off the path, there were, in places, some precipitous drops!
We stopped at the Gautchegrotte – named after Carl Friedrich Constantin Gautche (I don’t know who he is either!) It reminded me a little of Mesa Verde in Colorado. There were huge caves which had formed under sandstone overhangs. Two German lads joined us. “Awesome!” they exclaimed, speaking our minds for us.
We had been walking for ages and stopped, considering our position, at a signpost which claimed that we were still only 15 minutes from Hohnstein! By our calculation, we should have been nearly home…! “Where do you think we are?”
A Dutch family wandered up and joined us in our geographic cogitations. “We think we’re here” Mark pointed at the map “but we don’t know how we’ve got here!” The Dutch chap looked at his map and we all concurred that we were definitely there, although Mark and I were in the wrong ‘there’! “I think this is a new road.” The Dutchman said. His map was more detailed than ours.
Then we sussed out that we had made the schoolboy error of following the path marked by the green line on the white background when we should have been following the path marked by an identical green line on a white background, which was very near the path that we were now on. How UTTERLY STUPID of us!
One of the little girls said something in Dutch. “She likes the little black dog!” her mum told me. “Would you like to walk her?” She readily took Lani’s lead and skipped off with a grin from ear to ear. We donated Rosie and Ruby’s leads to the two boys and they marched along as happy as Larry. “We were wondering whether to get a dog” Mum said “but I think they will want three dogs, not one!” We apologised for our bad influence but softened the blow by saying “Three dogs IS easier than one…”
We sat on a shady bench and said our goodbyes. It took some time, as a lot of puppy cuddling went on! We parted ways as we walked back to the Grundmuhl. The family were staying in Camping Königstein, next to Am Treidlerweg, from where we had moved. We asked how they got on with the noise. “We don’t hear the trains anymore.” They said. “And we like to swim. We swim in the river every day!”
We were relieved to get home – it was nearly 6pm and we had left just after 1! It wasn’t quite the relaxing little stroll that we had intended, but it had been so worth it. “I know I keep saying it” said Mark “but I’m really glad that we went the wrong way!” And do you know what? So am I!
Sometimes wrong helps us find the right. As Mr Punch did say – “That’s the way to do it!”
Join us next time as I experience Social Shame, some storms and a sitting!