Being complete nature lovers both me and my husband had to get away for a day to the wild even while doing city breaks. The perfect opportunity was presented to us in the name of Bohemian Saxon Switzerland National park. We decided to take a pause from our city exploration for a day and go for a full day hiking in the forest. Since we wanted to utilize the day to the fullest we decided to use the services of a tour company called Cayman Travels (http://www.czechtours.holiday/ ). We were met in the morning by our guide Jan Černý who then took us on our visit to the National park.
As soon as we reached the National Park we could see that it was a magical landscape of pine forests and deep valleys, with majestic sandstone formations, gates, walls, ravines, and mazes rising up from them. This description aptly fitted the Bohemian Saxon Switzerland National Park. Millions of years ago this area was covered by a shallow sea which gave birth to the diverse shaped sand stones found in the park. Now it’s called Bohemian Saxon because it lies between Germany and Czech Republic with parts of it in both countries, however the Swiss bit was acquired from two Swiss painters Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff living in Saxon who compared it to the landscape to their home in Switzerland.
We first started by visiting the Saxon side in Germany. Also known as Elbe Sandstone Mountains, these countless rock formations, wild gorges and sheer cliffs stretch across the border between the state of Saxony in eastern Germany and the Czech Republic. While driving we saw the countryside peppered with pretty little villages, old mills and historical inns – all handcrafted with endless devotion and detail, and indigenous to the region. Our first stop was at the Bastei Bridge – a sandstone bridge which connects these beautiful formations and gives some fantastic views to the mountains around and Elbe River below. The bridge has enthralled its visitors for almost over 200 years now. It was first built as wooden bridge which was then replaced by the sandstone bridge in 1851.
After capturing some beautiful photos we moved on to the Czech side to visit the Pravčická Brána. After a slow 2 km uphill hike (capturing numerous photos on the way) we finally reached the gate. Spanning 8m wide and 16m tall at its highest point, this captivating arch is a true spectacle. It is a natural formed sandstone gate and the largest arch in Europe. I found the gate to be of outstanding beauty and one of the most striking natural monuments in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
On our way up we also came across other curiosities such as metal painted sign with “Olzin Pád”, which translates to “Olga’s fall”. It’s about a lady called Olga who fell from her horse in the 18th century.
We climbed up the stairs right up to the mountain summit beside the Pravčická Brána to get some wonderful views of it from above. And then according to Jan it was beer o’clock 🙂 so had to stop at the nearby chateau (now used as a restaurant) for a beer. Coming down was much easier and quicker and we made it back in half the time.
Having helped ourselves to a huge Czech lunch of goulash and beers we finally made our way to the last stop of the day which was a walk and boat ride through the Kamenice Gorges. Thank God, the hike this time was downhill. As we went deep down the gorges sunlight could barely penetrate through the trees moulding a very mystic feel over the river. After walking for about half an hour (digesting our lunches 🙂 ) we finally reached the spot for our boat ride and waited our turn to get on the dinghy boats. It was kind of a form of punting which we had already experienced in Oxford. The 20 minute boat ride was quite relaxing as it slowly started to rain as we neared the end.
Finishing our day, although quite tired from the hike but in a different kind of way we felt quite rejuvenated being in midst of nature and such a fairy tale landscape. On our way back without making any stops it took us 2 hours to drive back to Prague.