Saxon Switzerland (Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz)


A dense, green, and textured canopy covered the valley floor below the rock platform I stood atop. Toes curled over the edge looking a long way down to the forest below. In front of me, the valley opens up, leading the eyes to the pillar-like structures in the distance protruding the tree line and standing tall into the sky. Bohemian Switzerland full of life but the depths of the forest void of human inhabitants.

Bohemian Switzerland national park crosses the border (to the north) of the Czech Republic and Germany, where it is referred to as Saxon Switzerland. The National Park hugs the river Elbe on both sides of the border and makes for some long and rewarding hiking trails. Overall there are around 90 trails to help you get lost and escape the hustle of city life, with many different entry points to the park made possible from all directions depending on where you are coming from.

I had only seen a few pictures of Bohemian Switzerland, it wasn’t until I got there that I realised the extent to which I could hike throughout the region. Quickly put in my place by a local telling me she was unable to help unless I know the name of the track which I wished to hike.

Of all the entry points to the national park, I started in a small German town on the river Elbe – Bad Schandau. A tiny town beside the river with traditional housing and buildings which are dotted back into the valley behind the old church. Looking south you can see the Elbe snaking away from town with the national park looming along both sides.

Hiking out of Bad Schandau was made easy with their information centres having great amounts of information on the hiking trails and where to start at the closest points from the town centre. Quickly I found myself surrounded by greenery in all directions. With well-marked hiking trails and distinct pathways, it made for a stress-free adventure into the depths of the forest.

Within the national park, all trails are marked coloured stripes or a dot. This becomes universal across languages, creating easy to follow hiking, cycling and trail running. Valleys of forest with rocky sculptures the theme throughout, a charming and slightly enchanting scenery if you allow yourself to buy into it enough. Looking straight ahead the trail clear. But side to side a different story, inviting and mysterious. Alongside the trails I walked every time I looked 90 degrees, everything looked the same. Lush forest, trees standing tall like kindergarten students trying to sit the straightest and a heavy foliage cover all over the floor. Although potentially inviting I didn’t dare lose sight of the track without using landmarks to find my way back!

With only one day I have barely scratched the surface of this wild nature reserve. I guess it adds to the ever expanding list. After 32km’s of hiking, I found myself back in Bad Schandau and ready for a rattler, the German way of hiking so I am told. Lettuce allow the pictures to do the rest of the talking on this one…

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