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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Book IV ~ Chapter 2 ~ Scaling Saxon Switzerland's Serene Slopes

5-Sep-2020 – 8-Sep-2020

So here we are, the first station of our new journey, within the free state of…

Sachsen ("Saxony") is one of three states of Germany that share a Saxon name, the others being Sachsen-Anhalt ("Saxony Stop") and Niedersachsen ("Lower Saxony"), all of which have in common that the river Elbe is running through them. And with good reason: While the original Saxons of the medieval era were situated in what is now Lower Saxony, over time the Saxon name gradually migrated further and further up the river Elbe, until it came to cover all three aforementioned states.

Sachsen is the easternmost state of Germany, and was one of the five states lying within the area of the former DDR ("Deutsche Demokratische Republic" = "German Democratic Republic"), which had no official states of its own. It also used to be the southernmost region of the DDR, but ever since the reunification of Germany in 1990, it is located more or less in the middle on a north-south axis. It is home to about 4 million people, which is about as much as Croatia, and makes it the 7th most-populous state of Germany. In terms of size, it is the 8th largest with an area of about 20.000km², which is roughly the equivalent of Israel. Putting the two numbers together, Sachsen's population density is approximately 200 people/km², and thus closely matches the relatively little-known nation of Timor-Leste in the Indonesian archipelago.

Sachsen is composed of plains to the north, hills in the middle, and the Erzgebirge ("Ore Mountains") to the south, which is where we're staying for now. Specifically, we're staying in a district by the name of Sächsische Schweiz-Osterezgebirge ("Saxon Switzerland-East Ore Mountains"), which as the name implies is pretty mountainous, and also features a generous amount of greenery.

And within the Sächsische Schweiz-Osterezgebirge, our current location is the little tourist town of Bad Schandau ("Bath Shame Meadow"), located in a valley quite a bit up the river Elbe. It's an idyllic little town on the northern bank of the Elbe and goes back to the 14th century, when it was a local trade hub. It has been prospering ever since, and became a spa town in the 18th century. Today, it is mostly a tourist town with lots of holiday homes, and the gateway to Saxon Switzerland. Interestingly, it is also the smallest town in Germany with its own tram service, consisting of the Kirnitzschtalbahn ("Kirnitzsch Valley Train"), which has only one line and 11 stops.

Finally, within Bad Schandau, the place we are staying at is actually rather remote, located on the southern bank and outside the city proper (yet still within walking distance of the station and local supermarkets).

In fact, the exact location is quite curious indeed, pinned between an elevated state road and the train line at the mouth of a valley where a little stream flows into the Elbe.

And if I go into any more detail than that, I might as well proceed right away and tell you about…

The Place

Being a spa town, stays in Bad Schandau are naturally rather expensive, with most accommodations here being either hotels or holiday homes. Fortunately, I've been able to find this affordable little stay place for Robert and me to stay at, which goes by the name of Rietzschgrund ("Crevasse Bottom").

The place itself is actually more than just a little bit rustic. An old four-storey countryside house, it is currently being refurbished by its new owners to turn it into a proper guesthouse.

Our room is equally rustic, and should clearly be the accommodation with the lowest comfort level of our entire journey, consisting only of two beds and two chairs, as well as a really old wood stove, with nothing to spread our clothes out on. Oh well. I guess the floor is the biggest shelf in the house.

The kitchen/common room continues this trend, featuring a makeshift sink, a makeshift stove, and a makeshift lamp together with windows that you can't really get closed. I am at once reminded of my time in New Zealand, though come to think of it, I don't think I've actually ever been in a kitchen quite this… rustic… before.

And then there's the bathroom which also kinda follows suit. The main problem here is that there are no shower curtains, and thus there's no place to put your clothes and towels if you want to avoid them getting wet while showering. Also, it goes without saying that this is a communal bathroom for the entire floor.

But anyway, we'll manage. After all, we did not come here to stay inside. The basic facilities are there, and that's all we really need.

Incidentally, do you remember Liete, my companion fox from my last journey? Naturally, I have brought another companion fox on this trip as well, so meet Tommy, who'll be following Robert and me all around Germany.

So much for our stay place. On the day of our arrival all we really do is get settled in. But afterwards, on the very next day, we are all set for the first of many day trips, taking us…

Day Trip 1 ~ Up Up and Around

Distance: 24km
Ascents: 700m
Duration: 9h

Originally, this was supposed to be only a short exploratory stray through the surroundings, but somehow it ended up becoming the fourth-longest stray of our entire Germany tour, right there on day two, and also the one with the second-most meters of altitude covered. Originally, we had only planned to go up the next mountain, find some geocaches, eat some lunch, and then come back again, but since both Robert and myself are eager to make the best of the time we have, we should keep on pushing to the point where I would become the Fox Whose Knees Hurt.

It start innocently enough: By leaving through the underpass, which might as well be a magically enchanted gateway…

…and then crossing over the Elbe by means of the one and only pedestrian-and-car bridge in the entire area. The weather today is… ambiguous, which is another reason why we have scheduled the "smaller" of our tours for today, and why it should end up becoming longer and longer as the weather holds up.

On the other side of the river, we quickly pass crosswise through the long-but-narrow town, and then proceed to scale the opposing hill using a path of considerable incline.

Known as the Arbeiterweg ("Workers' Path"), this path is not exactly well maintained. I bet if it were the Politikerweg ("Politicians' Path"), it would instead feature 10m wide paved mosaic paths and escalators.

However, in reward for our efforts we are soon awarded with a somewhat better view of our valley. In fact, we can even see all the way to our stay place behind the railroad bridge from here.

Continuing up the steep path, I am soon reminded that hiking in the mountains is quite different from the breakleg bike tours I'm used to fortunately, we eventually come across a red bench facing a blue post on the green path covered with yellow leaves.

When we set out today, it was still quite cool. Now, it is still quite cool, but the two of us feel quite hot after this ascent. Fortunately, it does not last forever, and before long we arrive at the little village at the Rathmannsdorfer Höhe ("Council Man's Village Heights").

Up there, we were going to climb the observation tower. However, as we arrive, we have to learn that apparently, for some strange reason, the observation tower is only open from 9:00, which makes us about 40 minutes early. I guess the very fact that you even have to pay to be allowed to climb up an observation tower shows just how much of a tourist area we are in here.

But oh well, even without the observation tower, we can still get a good view of the surrounding fantastic mountain formations, such as the Gohrischer Stein ("Gohric Stone")…

…the iconic Lilienstein ("Lily Stone"), which is not only the sole table mountain north of the Elbe (though technically it is also south of the Elbe, since it is surrounded on three sides by the meandering river), but also the very symbol of Saxon Switzerland…

…as well as the really, really impressive Festung Königstein ("King Stone Fortress"), which was what happened when in the 12th century, some local lord went and said: "Huh, I bet a castle on one of them table mountains would be, like, really really easy to defend." True as that might have been, the crux was still getting supplies – especially water – up there, and so eventually they had to dig Europe's second-deepest castle well here, reaching down over 150m. Even so, the end result was one of the coolest castles I've ever seen, and if we didn't have the Green Shnolz ongoing right now, I might have been tempted to go and pay it a visit. As it is, however, I can still contend myself with a 3D-view of the place.

After that, we return back down to Bad Schandau, where the town is as of yet still only awakening for the day while the two of us have already been up and down our first hill today.

We don't stay down there for long, however. In fact, the only reason why we went down there in the first place is that the Zaukental ("Zauke Valley") separates us from our next goal, the Schlossberg ("Palace Mountain"). And so, before long, we're going up again.

As in, "up" up.

Along the side of the mountain, there's a Geocache hidden in a little cave that is somewhat difficult to reach on account of no path leading there…

…and at the top, a little artificial ruin awaits. Though only constructed as recently as 1883, this romantic reconstruction is actually situated at the same place where an old sentry fort was once located, prior to being razed during the Hussite Wars in the 15th century.

That should also mark the end of the first phase of ascents for today's stray, because for now we can simply follow the forested ridgeline north along the remnants of a path hundreds of years old…

…until we arrive at somewhat more recent Schrebergärten ("Schreber Garden" = "Allotment Garden") atop the Kiefricht ("Pine Fix"). These are named indirectly after the Leipzig physician Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber, who had a square named after him, along the edge of which the first Schrebergärten were created in the second half of the 19th century.

The people up here not only have brought structure to this hilltop, but also cutting-edge weather forecasting technology, such as this weather stone:


Weather Station
if stone…
  • warm: Summer
  • cold: Winter
  • shaking: Wind
  • shaking violently: Storm
  • on the ground: Earthquake
  • visible: Day
  • not visible: Night
  • hard to see: Fog
  • dry: No Rain
  • wet from above: Rain
  • wet from below: Flood
  • white: Snow
  • twice: Alcohol

A bit further along, we come across a Schiller memorial…

…which is located not far from a spot with a wonderful view on the Schrammsteine ("Scrape Stones"), a chain of sand stone spires with a total of 80 individual peaks forming an about 2km long zig-zagging comb-like structure that we should scale as a part of tomorrow's tour.

But for today, that is still far off in the distance as we hike across the harvested fields several hills over.

Eventually, we arrive at the gates of hell.

Fortunately, it's only the Schrauber-Hölle ("Screwdriver Hell") of Altendorf ("Old Village"), which is also where we turn in for lunch at the Gasthof Heiterer Blick ("Bright View Inn").

I for my part am having one of the few meat dishes I should consume on this journey, namely a hearty Wildgulasch mit Blaukraut und Kartoffelsalat ("Game Goulash with Red Cabbage and Potato Salad"), while Robert orders something considerably more vegetarian.

Amazingly, together with drinks, this should land us a tab of exactly 30€. What are the odds?

Fortified by a good meal and encouraged by a white-blue sky, we afterwards decide to keep going to the northwest and see more of Saxon Switzerland. Our first stop along that route is the Adamsberg ("Adam's Mountain"), from which we get a great (if distant) view on pretty much all the sights of Saxon Switzerland apart from the Bastei ("Bastion"), which lies about 8km to the west-northwest, and is hidden by the mountains in the way.

After that, we're once again headed down into the next valley over, following a path that is at first green…

…and then brown by curtesy of a pine tree monoculture covering the forest floor in acidic needles.

Interestingly, we soon learn that we are now walking on the Malerweg ("Painters' Path"), the maybe most famous hiking route through Saxon Switzerland. Starting and terminating at the town of Pirna, this route is named for the many painters like Ludwig Richter and Caspar David Friedrich, who have painted pictures of Saxon Switzerland. It is a total of 112km long and divided into 8 legs. The part we are currently coming across here is the 3rd leg, and we are walking it into the reverse direction.

By now, we have made our way down into a valley once again, specifically the Sebnitztal ("Sebnitz Valley") where we come across what must be the shortest piece of track in the world in front of the station of Goßdorf-Kohlmühle ("Drain Village-Kale Mill").

Naturally, what goes down that must go up again, so shortly thereafter, we walk up a stretch of road that I'm just going to call "Cyclist's Nightmare".

We don't have to stay on the road for long before we find a hike-able trail again, and this time around, it takes us right into the middle of Saxon Switzerland. Whereas up until now we've only been able to see the mighty sand stone formations from afar, this time around the trail leads us right up a little green canyon flanked with sandstone walls to either side.

We have to watch our step though, since some of the paths are… uhhh… somewhat eroded.

As we climb up higher and higher, the tree cover becomes thinner, revealing the imposing rock formations next to the path.

And these are not only impressive in their size. Get close to them, and you might find relics of ages long past, such as fossilized foam-like structures in the rock that tell of the time when these rocks were just slowly hardening material at the bottom of the sea with little bubbles of air that got trapped down there for eons.

Moving on, we come across an electric fence that is clearly meant to keep wheelchairs and strollers off the lawn…

…before arriving at the Waitzdorfer Aussicht ("Pasture Village View"), the second great panorama view of today. This time around we can see all the way the Bastei to the west (about 60° to the right of the Lilienstein, on axis with the cleft in the rock), however, despite being only 5km away now, we're looking at it from the wrong angle and thus regrettably can't see the impressive Basteibrücke ("Bastion Bridge").

One curiosity here is a mysterious cross dedicated to a girl named Stefanie, who would have been a year my senior had she lived past the age of 18. Located at a precipitous position, I can only guess that she suffered the same gruesome fate that at least seven other people suffered while trying to place flowers at that cross.

Moving on, we finally reach houses again after what feels like an eternity of hiking through the forested mountains. By now, we are reasonably exhausted and ready to turn around.

In fact, as we descend the many, many stairs from up here to the Tiefer Grund ("Deep Ground"), my knees are letting me know without a doubt that I have overtaxed myself today. It's not that I don't have any strength left, but rather that every step of every stair that I take downwards is like liquid fire in my knees. Interestingly, however, this only seems to apply to normal steps, and so I soon adopt a comical way of walking downwards that consists of a mixture of jumps, sideward steps, quick two-at-a-time runs, and other movements that do not pain my knees.

Even so, the descent ends up being a memorable ordeal to me, and regrettably, I should end up feeling it in my knees for the entire remainder of the journey. Good thing we have the big tour planned for tomorrow. At any rate, I'm quite grateful when we finally reach the Tiefer Grund.

From here on out, it's a relatively level walk either along the road or along a significantly less well-maintained forest path. Now guess which one we took.

Eventually, however, we reach the lawns of civilization again…

…where we come across such curious constructs as bridges that are only accessible from the other side of the river.

Finally, we follow the Lachsbach ("Salmon Stream") all the way back to the Elbe. Despite its name, this stream is teeming not with fish, but rather with what must be myriads of tiny water skeeters that are skimming down the surface of the stream. From a distance, their movements looklike raindrops beneath a clear sky.

Tired and exhausted, we continue making our way back to the Elbe, and finally cross the great river again just as a tourist boat passes beneath. Interestingly, this one has a foldable chimney.

And then, we finally return back to our very humble little stay place at the Rietzschgrund, where we prepare a rewarding meal after this hike of considerable length, which brings us straight to…

The Food

Since Robert doesn't eat meat and since we usually cook together for the two of us, I should end up adhering to a somewhat more vegetarian diet during this entire journey. For instance, breakfast usually consists of bread with some variety of cheese on it.

Lunch, meanwhile, falls into a different category, what with the two of us routinely being on some form of on the road at lunchtime. However, at dinnertime, we're always back at our stay place and cooking vegetarian-friendly dishes such as tortellini with cheese sauce or pasta with tomato sauce.

Invigorated by some tasty food such as this, and after a night's rest, we soon enough feel more or less ready to go…

Day Trip 2 ~ Through the Middle

Distance: 26.0km
Ascents: 900m
Duration: 9.75h

This stray is the main event of this chapter. Whereas the previous stray was improvised, this is what we came here to do, namely to do a stray lengthwise through Saxon Switzerland, taking in however many sights as we happen to come across. It should first take us several kilometres up the Elbe through Postelwitz ("Posting Joke") and to the mouth of the Zahnsgrund ("Tooth Ground"). From there, we enter the Saxon Switzerland National Park proper, and subsequently make our way up, and down, and up, and down, and up… and so on and so forth for well over a dozen kilometres and almost another kilometre in altitude, before eventually emerging at the far side, at the rather remote village of Hinterhermsdorf ("Behind Herm Village"). As for how we'll get back again, I have in advance made sure that there's an active bus stop in Hinterhermsdorf, so the plan is to take the bus from there, and possibly even ride the aforementioned Kirnitzschtalbahn back to Bad Schandau.

Now, while the previous stray was mostly safe – if exhausting – this one should feature a good number of perilous stretches, starting with how we have to walk along the rather busy and sidewalk-free car-car happy road right at the very beginning.

Today, the weather is significantly more radiant than yesterday, and even though it's still rather cool right now, I'm sure it'll end up getting nice and warm before long. At any rate, as we cross the Elbe, the sun rises exactly in the direction of our destination today.

Whereas yesterday we mostly avoided the town of Bad Schandau, this time we're walking lengthwise through it. At this early hour, the streets are still nice and dark and empty.

One interesting mystery we come across right there and then is the enigma of the sidewalk pawprints, which are inlaid into one of the roads we walk. Regrettably, we should never find out what they're all about, since our route leads us in a different direction.

Still in the town, we come across the famous Bad Schandau Elevator, which was built in 1904, and thus is over a hundred years old. It leads up a cliff about 50m high, atop which a lynx enclosure is situated. However, since the elevator only opens at 9 AM, that route is closed to us, and we instead head for the riverside.

There, we not only find the Partybus nach Malle ("Party bus to Mallorca"), where reckless youths drinks and sing and dance as they ride through France and Spain before driving off the Cap de la Nau and dying a tragic death in the waters of the Balearic Sea because that damn bridge across Ibiza is still not finished yet (we lose more busses that way).

Similarly interesting is the cycling route to Krippen, which apparently requires the cyclists to cycle really fast.

From there on out, our choice of route temporarily becomes rather limited, as Elbe and mountains get up all close and comfy, leaving barely enough room for a road and a single file of houses.

Speaking of which, the houses here all seem to be holiday homes, and as such all prominently bear embellished names like Freiblick ("Free View"), Am Felsen ("At the Boulder") or Heimat ("Home").

Also, we come across something that I suppose is technically a memorial (Technisches Denkmal = "Technical Memorial").

Eventually, however, we reach the Zahnsgrund, and from there on out, our path continues in one direction and in one direction only (or at the very least mostly), namely up.

And again, make that up-up, and into the mountains.

By now, we are officially in the National Park Saxon Switzerland…

…which also quickly becomes apparent as the path leads us straight through a rather narrow sandstone canyon.

Now, I know that it may look like these stone formations are rock-solid and immovable…

…but if you look closely, you might find that some of the really big boulders are actually only very precariously balanced on the rocks beneath them.

After an initial ascent of maybe 150m or so, we are glad to find that the path continues relatively level for some time along the Obrigensteig ("Upper Climb")…

…leading us onto the fourth leg of the Malerweg…

…and right to the apex of today's stray, the aforementioned Schrammsteine.

However, there's a considerable difference between being "there" and being "on top", which is where we want to be. You can probably tell that not even I am crazy enough to try and attempt to scale these things directly, but fortunately there's an… well, I don't want to say "easy", so let's call it a "manageable" way up these mountains, which involves us going a bit around and then climbing them from the back.

That route is simply known as the Schrammsteinweg ("Scrape Stone Way"), and it starts off with us passing through the Schrammtor ("Scrape Gate"), between the Schrammtorfreund ("Scrape Gate Friend"), the Schrammtorwächter ("Scrape Gate Guardian"), and the Ostervorturm ("Easter Fore-Tower"). Incidentally, we managed to arrive at just the right moment to have Radian shine right through the gate.

Whereas yesterday, the trees were still tall enough to reach above the stones, this time it's the other way around, with the massive sandstone spires all around us surpassing the treetops by a factor of two or more.

I also notice that there are two kinds of paths that are very clearly labelled around here: The hiking trails like the one we are on, as well as the No-Hiking Trails, which are for people substantially crazier than me who are happy to risk life and limb actually climbing these things. Fortunately, these other paths are very clearly labelled, including low fences that seem to say "don't even think of attempting this path with a wheelchair or stroller".

Sticking to the path, we continue right at the foot of the spire known as Jungfer ("Maiden")…

…and then commence with the main segment of the climb up the Schrammsteine by means of the Wildschützensteig ("Wild Gunner Climb"), which is clearly one of the more challenging ascents I've ever attempted.

Even if it contains the cutest ladder of the stray.

Among other rock formations, this climb leads us past the Wildschützennadel ("Wild Gunner Needle").

For me, this climb is once again a reminder that I have an ever-so-slight case of acrophobia, but nothing that I can't overcome by spending a few PP. However, I am still glad when we're finally at the top, and the remaining altitude differences are covered by stairs instead of ladders. Interestingly, there's still a lot of forest up here, but then again, we're not quite on the peak of the Schrammsteine yet.

And then, just a little bit further up ahead, we arrive at the top of the Schrammsteine, from where we have an unobstructed view in all directions.

On one side, we can see all the way to Altendorf – where we ate lunch yesterday – as well as the nearby Adamsberg, both standing behind the solitary Falkenstein ("Hawk Stone").

And on the other side, we can see all the way to the town of Schmilka at the Elbe, shortly before the Czech border.

Also, the nearby Müllerstein ("Miller Stone") serves as a nice point of reference to demonstrate how high up we are here. To put it in numbers, we're now at 417m, whereas the Elbe flows at only about 120m, so getting from there to up here alone already amounts to an ascent of an altitude of almost 300m.

Anyway, after this panoramic view, we continue east across the forested heights…

…until we arrive at the point where the inevitable, gruelling descent awaits us at the Mittelwinkel ("Middle Angle"). At first, the downward stairs are just hard on the legs, but then come the ladders that put a considerable strain on my PP reserves as I have to fight off however much or little acrophobia I am experiencing right now. At either rate, I am extremely thankful once I'm back down at stair-level again, and all I have to deal with is the pain in my knees.

It is only when we reach the Nasser Grund ("Wet Ground") that I can truly relax, as we walk along a relatively level path for a bit.

For a bit, but not for long, because soon we continue along one of those paths where Robert likes to ask me "Are you sure that's an actual path?". This one is the Reitsteig ("Ride Climb"), though I'm quite sure that neither horses nor bikes would have much fun on this particular path.

Eventually, as we make our way up the next slope, we pass the Höllenturm ("Hell Tower")…

…which as the name implies guards an ascent up a small canyon that is simply known as Hölle ("Hell"), so now I can officially say that I've gone through hell with Robert.

At the end, we arrive atop the aptly named Höllenwand ("Hell Wall"), a narrow ridge with steep drops off to either side. I manage to muster enough PP to go about one third of the way and take a panorama-shot…

…but then I turn back again and hurriedly return to the nice, safe, forested mountaintop path, where no precipitous drops trigger my mild acrophobia. This path here is known as the Obere Affensteigpromenade ("Upper Monkey Climb Promenade").

A little bit further, we come across the Malerweg again, and follow it for some time…

…until we reach the upper part of the Reitsteig, which is somewhat more navigable than the previous stretch.

The next bit should clearly be the easiest and most straightforward part of our stray within Saxon Switzerland…

…however, since that is boring, I soon enough lead us down more interesting routes again.

By the way, right here and right now is our closest approach to Czech. At this point, we're only about half a kilometre from the border – close enough for Robert's cellphone to welcome him to Czech.

Moving on along the very aptly named Gehackter Weg ("Hacked Path"), we come across a very prominent rock formation hidden in the woods, that apparently is as-of-yet unnamed, so I seize the opportunity and name it the Zwillingswale ("Twin Whales").

However, the actual reason for this detour was in order to find a Geocache hidden in a natural rock shelter known as the Kleiner Kuhstall ("Little Cow Barn").

A little bit further, we come across our favourite way once again – only this time around it's already the 5th leg…

…and follow it to the Goldsteinaussicht ("Gold Stone View"), which is also where we finally sit down and eat our well-deserved lunch. Sandwiches for me, and a humble fruit-bar for Robert, who instead had considerably more for breakfast than I could stomach at that early hour.

Moving on, we descend through the straightforward but somewhat steep Roßsteig ("Steed Climb"), and my knees complain every step of the way.

And naturally, we also pas by the Goldstein itself, which is a cubic-hectare chunk of free-standing rock right then and there.

Following that particular descent, we eventually reach the Großes Zschandtal ("Great Shame Valley"), where we get a fantastic view on the Großer Teichstein ("Great Pond Stone")…

…which is the location of the Zeughaus ("Stuff House"), a resting station for travellers with a cottage to stay the night.

Now this is where we finally leave the Malerweg behind us for good…

…as I lead Robert up the ominously sounding Großer Hochübelweg ("Great High Wicked Path"), which is actually quite harmless.

Actually, make that "mostly harmless".

Actually actually, make that "marginally harmless".

Actually actually actually, make that "actually not harmless at all", and somewhat more along the lines of Robert's aforementioned "Are you sure this is a path?".

Even so, this is still not as bad as that one time in New Zealand when I got lost on my way down the Maunguatua Range (see Book I ~ Chapter 14 ~ Out in Outram), and with the experience I gathered there, I am soon able to lead the two of us back onto the proper track again.

However, with this last adventure, both of our PP are pretty much used up, so from there on out we stick to the beaten tracks and just try to make it to our destination of Hinterhermsdorf without any further complications.

Fortunately, by now we are on the victory road, and before long we reach the upper reaches of the Kirnitzschtal ("Kirnitzsch Valley") – way past the last stop of the Kirnitzschtalbahn…

…and from there make our way up first the Kirnitzsch, and then one its tributaries – the Dorfbach ("Village Stream") – through the Dorfbachgrund ("Village Stream Ground"), which eventually takes us through the Waldhusche ("Forest Shush"), which is a sort of forest experience learning areal for kids.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, we reach civilization once again as we arrive at the first houses of Hinterhermsdorf after about 9 hours of hiking.

This is another place where people have a great sense of humour, cultivating exotic trees such as the Latschenkiefer ("Slipper Pine" = "Mountain Pine").

Also, there's a very artistic house the walls of which are covered with elaborate patterns made entirely out of shingle.

For us, however, the most important attraction here is the bus stop, which is quickly found.

However, there is a bit of a problem. Not only did we just manage to miss the previous bus by maybe 10 minutes or so, but also the next bus is marked with a ■, designating it as one of three busses on this route that only run on a single freaking day in the year. On top of that, the next bus in an hour is headed for the border town of Sebnitz, which is kind of the wrong direction. However, since we now have some time, and since the Czech mobile network which still reaches all the way over here (after all we're still only about 2km from the border in three directions) actually has good mobile data, I am able to find out that even the bus for Sebnitz eventually loops back and returns to Bad Schandau from there, so we can ride that bus instead of waiting for yet another hour after that for a Bus directly to Bad Schandau. Going that way, we'll miss out on riding the Kirnitzschtalbahn, but I figure that still beats sitting out here and waiting for two hours instead of one. After all, it's not exactly like we can do much with that time here apart from sit around and wait, being thoroughly racked, whacked and beaten after this Dragon of a hike.

And so we wait… and wait… and wait… until the bus eventually arrives with a delay of about 10 minutes. Had the previous bus been this late, then we would have been able to catch it, but oh well. As it is, I am infinitely grateful that the bus arrived after all.

So, instead of going down into the lower Kirnitzschtal and riding the Kirnitzschtalbahn, we now take the bus through Sebnitz, which over the course of 45 minutes should take us all the way back to Bad Schandau.

The bus ride first takes us north to Sebnitz, and along the way the road weaves its way through the forested hills and the villages located therein. Then, after stopping in Sebnitz, the bus turns southwest and heads straight for the setting sun, driving mostly over the highlands and occasionally passing through forests. Incidentally, we also pass through Altendorf once more, and near the end of the right we get one last look on the distant table mountains on the far side of the Elbe.

By the time we finally arrive at the Bad Schandau central bus station, the sun is already well into the process of setting…

..and we finally cross the Elbe just as Radian's last rays disappear behind the western hills.

After that, we manage to make the remainder of our way back to our stay place along the car-car happy road in the twilight of dusk, arriving at 19:00, almost 12 hours after our initial departure. A tasty and fulfilling dinner is soon prepared, and then we don't spend much longer before going to bed. After all, tomorrow we already embark to the next destination of our Germany tour. But before that, let's give this place…

The Retrospective

It has been some time since I've stayed in a place this… well, I don't want to say "shabby", but I'm having a really hard time thinking of another word to describe a place where most floors are bare uneven concrete, many windows don't close properly, and the furnishing is improvised and Spartan at best. However, we did have a room of our one, even though it didn't have a proper workspace. Some food supplies were available as well. The beds were comfy, but for some strange reason they always got kinda clammy. The host was nice, but the place was kinda busy and it sometimes got loud late at night. The bathroom was kinda bare minimum and on the far end of the hallway, communally shared, but there was a washing machine available (even though we didn't need it). The location was idyllic, as well as reasonably close to the station and shopping options. However, it was also right next to a railroad line, which was especially annoying at night, and having to walk along the car-car happy road each time didn't make things better either. As a pleasant surprise, there was WiFi around, and that was actually quite good. A kitchen existed, and it was good enough that we could somehow cook our meals there, even if most of the cutlery was made from plastic. Also, unsurprisingly, the whole place was kinda cold, but not so cold that I wanted to go through the effort of lighting one of the wooden stoves. Offsetting all of this was, of course, the cheap price, which was actually more than adequate even for a minimalistic place such as this.

To put numbers on it, staying here cost us only little more than 10€ per night and person. By contrast, all other stay places around here would have cost from 30€ up to 80€ per person and night. So all in all, I guess it was an okay place to stay, and Robert even compliments its rustic charm. Me for my part, I think the best thing is still moving on and hoping that our next place will end up being better than this. And based on my experience, I'd say there's an about 80% chance that this will be the case. So, let's move on to…

The Road Ahead

Despite the fantastic sights we got here (and the awesome pain-in-the-knees that would haunt me for weeks to come), this location was actually only one of the four stopovers between our three major goal location. For you see, the main objectives of our journey are to visit the easternmost, northernmost and westernmost points of Germany in one big swoop. Also, we still have the bonus goal of finding the legendary Eierlegende Wollmilchsau ("egg-laying wool milk sow"), the ultimate livestock animal. Our next destination is the city of Görlitz, from where we'll be in a good position to make it to the easternmost point of Germany. But before that, we're in for the shortest travel segment of our entire trip. Still, since this chapter has already gotten kinda big, I'm going to talk about that in the next chapter, so until then, stay tuned, and be of great cheer!