The last section of the Eisenach-Budapest long distance trail in Germany runs through the very popular „Sächsische Schweiz“ (Saxon Switzerland). This area, that is part of the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains) is a hilly hiking and climbing area and also a national park around the valley of the river Elbe, south-east of Dresden, and bordering the Czech Republic.
To be honest, I was quite torn apart between liking and loathing it. On the one hand, I was looking forward to some spectacular nature and landscape, but on the other hand I expected crowds of people. The Sächsische Schweiz is already a popular tourist spot, however, even more during this corona summer of 2020. Having hiked in solitude for a mere amount of time in the Ore Mountains, I was afraid that I wouldn’t like hiking in the Sächsische Schweiz. As an already not-so-good start, it was impossible to arrange accommodation for one night and I was even snapped on by some inn-keepers because they are stressed out these days out of excessive demand. Without accommodation (and as it is a national park, camping is definitely not allowed) I wouldn’t be able to hike the remaining kilometres of the EB-trail. Therefore I had to improvise a bit and put together a new route. But that last bit I didn’t hike alone! A former colleague and good friend joined me and together we tackled 30 kms and about 1450 m/4785 ft of climbing. That last day was by far the most exhausting one as it was very hot, in many parts exposed to the sun and there was a lot of straight up climbing.
When I arrived in that area the day before I met up with my friend, I was overwhelmed by cars, tourists, the noise. I actually wanted to leave ASAP as I was purely horrified. But, the next day, after we left most of the day-trippers behind, we surprisingly enjoyed a lot of solitude.
The landscape is terrific: in the valley of the river Elbe you find table mountains, varied sandstone formations, dome-shaped mountains, eroded long ridges and fascinating rock pinnacles. Many artists were inspired by the beauty of this area. The most famous might be German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, who got inspired here to paint his „Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer“ (Wanderer above the Sea of Fog).
Even though I technically didn’t hike the exact routing of the EB in the Sächsische Schweiz, my whole hike came to a wonderful end when we reached the river Elbe right before sunset. In order to get to the tiny town of Schmilka on the opposite side of the river, we had to take a passenger ferry to cross. In Schmilka, where I met „my“ trail again, we celebrated my finish with some good drinks overlooking the river and the scenic valley. The town is right at the border and the trail continues into the Czech Republic from here, but I said good-bye for now.
Oh I had so different plans for the summer! I am not gonna hide, that spending the summer in Germany is not an alternative, but an unintentional compromise. However, it was quite a hike! The past 4 weeks have been everything from fun to misery, cold and rainy to hot and dry, I enjoyed hiking on spongy forest floors but also tortured my feet on asphalt roads. I got to talk to the locals, saw the change of scenery, learned a bit about history and the specifics of the region.
Even though I enjoyed solitude most of the time (but, yeah, sometimes it was just plain boring to hike all by myself. Oh-so-happy that podcasts exist!), I had the best of times when hiking together with friends! Catching up, talking, laughing, but also being silent together on trail is a precious gift to be grateful for.
My hike on the Eisenach-Budapest trail is over for now. The end of one thing is always also the start of something new.