I came across Saxon Switzerland for the first time months ago as I was applying for my study abroad program, and I was very happy to find such a beautiful place to go hiking within an hour’s train ride southwest of Dresden along the Elbe. Recently, I finally got to explore there.
The Elbe, the river that runs through Dresden, was flooded for a couple weeks in the middle of June, and the train station in Königstein, my small town destination, had been under water. There were concerns about the structural stability of the building, so we had to take a bus for the last leg of our journey. Königstein is a town along the Elbe which is famous for the fortress that rests on the hill above it.
My friends and I took the ferry across the river. The volumetric water flow was still very high, and the velocity of the river matched. It felt like I was in a physics problem. The boat had to swim up the river at four times the rate it moved across the river just to move straight across the river from the point of view of an observer on the river bank.
When we got to the other side of the river, we began our ascent. I know that the hill climbing up from Easton to Lafayette is a little steep, but at least it has stairs. Here I climbed a similar hill that was paved with bricks and cobble stones. Luckily after an ascent similar to that of college hill, the path leveled out into a normal trail through the forest.
My first glimpse of Lilienstein, a black sandstone butte, was from across a field. From that angle, it looked like a gigantic rock cliff, and I had no clue how we were going to get up to the top. I hoped that we would not be scaling the face, as many climbers were. Saxon Switzerland has been a hot spot for rock climbers for years.
Instead, we took a hike around the back of the hill and headed up through the stones and boulders there. As we moved higher and higher, we caught glimpses of the surrounding countryside. The rolling hills reminded me of my home in Lancaster County, but the houses with their picturesque red roofs reminded me that we were in Germany.
At one point, we paused on an outcropping of rock before making our final ascent. Around us, Germans out on a weekend picnic shared the view and sipped their beers. Looking across the valley, we decided that it was a good idea that we had picked the less touristy locale. The Bastei Bridge that we could see in the distance was constructed over a hundred years ago to reach out through the pillars of sandstone to an overlook. The Elbe winding through the valley and the mingling of villages, fields, and forests provide a serene combination.
After a short break, we scrambled higher among the rocks that have been so popular for so many generations. The most treacherous areas had been built up with small bridges and fences, but to get to the best lookout, we still had to go through many winding passages and climb massive boulders.
When we reached the top, the view was breathtaking. We looked out across the Saxon countryside. The Elbe bent around the sandstone formations. Villages were nestled in her curves, and the puffy white clouds blanketed the sky.
So here’s my shout out to anyone who happens to be in Saxony: take a day and take a hike. It’s beautiful. For those of you who can’t make it here, here are a few more pictures from the top and the way down.