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Saxon Switzerland: An excursion into blossoming landscapes

Do you have to travel to the Alps to enjoy exciting mountain hikes? Of course not! There are many small and larger mountain ranges in Germany that offer picturesque hiking tours and leave nothing to be desired. One of them is Saxon Switzerland, south-east of Dresden.

by Janine Funke

Schrammsteine in der Sächsischen Schweiz © DAAD/Janine Funke
Schrammsteine in der Sächsischen Schweiz . © DAAD/Janine Funke

Weighed down with gear, we stand at Dresden Central Station waiting for the suburban train to Bad Schandau. It’s a beautiful summer day, not too hot, but warm enough to wear shorts and a shirt. In addition to our hiking equipment we’re carrying a large rucksack with everything we’ll need for a night outdoors. A warm sleeping bag, a camping mat, a change of clothes, a gas cooker and enough food for two days. But most importantly, enough water. We are setting out for Saxon Switzerland, the spectacular natural wonder near Dresden.

Das Elbsandsteingebirge © DAAD/Janine Funke
Das Elbsandsteingebirge . © DAAD/Janine Funke

Narrow trails and steep cliffs

Saxon Switzerland is easy to reach by rail. 44 minutes south-east of Dresden along the picturesque Elbe river by suburban train lie the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, several million years old. We too take the train, and then have to cross the Elbe before we can start hiking. Luckily there’s a ferry that regularly carries hikers from one side to the other. Then we’re on our way up the first steep mountain towards the “Schrammsteinweg” trail. We want to climb the Schrammsteine and also see a few gorges, or valleys between the rocks.

The Schrammsteine are a stretched-out group of rocks that look as if someone had simply dropped them into the landscape. The formation is very impressive and reaches 300–400 metres into the sky. On the way up we have to take narrow stairs between the cliffs and even climb a little, but once we reach the top, the view is gorgeous. It’s worth taking a break here, for example on the “Kleine Bastei”. Other hiking trails lead to the Königstein Fortress, Neurathen Castle or the Kuhstall. The mountain range has attracted visitors for several centuries. The area was named Saxon Switzerland in the 18th century by two Swiss artists who felt reminded of their home country.

Eine Boofe © DAAD/Janine Funke
Eine Boofe . © DAAD/Janine Funke

“Boofen”: a special experience in Saxon Switzerland

Today, Saxon Switzerland is a paradise for climbers. And it was climbers who popularised the tradition of sleeping under the stars in the national park. There are now 58 official overnight spots; sleeping outside anywhere else is prohibited. We too pass one of these spots, called a “Boofe”. It is located under an overhanging rock and filled with sand. A small marker in the stone indicates that you are allowed to spend the night outdoors here. We decide to stay, and make ourselves comfortable on the sand. The most important things we need for spending the night outdoors are a camping mat and a heavy sleeping bag. We have also brought a small gas cooker we can use to boil water for soup and tea. Lighting fires is not permitted in the Saxon Switzerland National Park. After watching the sunset, we go to sleep and get up again at sunrise in order to complete our hike with a descent back to Bad Schandau.

Tips:

Here are a few websites that describe the hiking trails and locations of “Boofes” very precisely (in GERMAN):

Interview with Laura from Colombia

Laura Mora © DAAD/ Laura Mora
Laura Mora . © DAAD/ Laura Mora

Laura Constanza Murcia Mora is 29 years old and has been working as an executive assistant in the Dresden area for a few years now. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages and has been living in Saxony’s capital of Dresden since October 2014. What she likes about Dresden is not only its picturesque old town, but also the city’s surrounding area with its many opportunities for excursions. Laura has explored Saxon Switzerland a few times already and tells us about her experiences.

Laura in Saxon Switzerland © DAAD/Laura Mora
Laura in Saxon Switzerland . © DAAD/Laura Mora

When did you visit Saxon Switzerland for the first time?

I travelled to Saxon Switzerland for a longer hike for the first time in the summer of 2015. I had no earlier opportunity as I had only come to Germany in the autumn of 2014. Accompanying me was my husband, who grew up near Dresden and knows the region well. Nonetheless we didn’t plan our route, but instead chose a trail spontaneously. We hiked to the Bastei rocks and then through the Amselgrund valley – it was wonderful.

What did you find most impressive?

First of all it’s impressive to find such a wonderful landscape so close to the city. Saxon Switzerland is unique, and in addition there’s the view of the Elbe. I liked it very much. Especially exciting were the stone steps in the Amselgrund and the many different rock formations. They are really worth seeing. It’s exhausting to hike these trails, but we did it.

Have you ever spent the night in a Boofe?

Unfortunately not, but I would very much like to. I have heard many exciting stories about it and think we will be making plans sometime soon.

Would you recommend that other foreign students go hiking in Saxon Switzerland? If so, why?

Of course, definitely. Saxon Switzerland is a special place in Saxony and in Germany. It’s an area of great natural beauty, and also a great opportunity to relax and enjoy the fresh air. It’s important to get to know not only a country’s cities, but also its countryside.

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