Saturday, 29 November 2014

Bastei Bridge

Bastei Bridge, Saxon Switzerland

This story should probably never emerge here because of the location, but since it’s a part of our Bohemian-Saxon Switzerland trip, I decided it should find its place among other posts.

Bastei Bridge, a perfectly well-known lookout point with over 200 year history was our destination on day 3. We used several kinds of public transport, but it was worth a while.

For most of you the trip would start in Hrensko. Because the only bridge is within 10 kilometers, you should hop on a ferry boat right here in Hrensko and transport yourself on a German ground on the other side of Elbe River. The next step is to buy a train ticket to Kurort Rathen and jump on a train. Unfortunately the train goes only aproximately once per hour, so if you miss one, you’ll be forced to wait almost an hour. Guess what… Bastei Bridge is on the other side of the river, so you need to hop on a ferry boat again. Those few simple steps will take you to a lovely little touristic city full of hikers, back-packers and seniors. The city made a great impression on me- it’s clean and beautifully groomed, brimful with maps and other hints for tourists. It’s more than 20 kilometers from Hrensko, so quite a distance to go on foot, but if you choose to go by car-the way is really simple, you just need to park in Rathen and ferry on the other side to get to Bastei.

Only several kilometers separate you from a fantastic view. Choose the designated path or just follow the crowd-most of the fellows you’ve seen on a ferryboat will go exactly the same way.

No one seemed to complain, so maybe it was only me, but as I ascended the stairs, I realized that stairs actually make the climb harder. I cheered up once I've seen a snatch of Bastei Bridge and a spectacular first of many viewpoints.

Back in 1824 people could also admire picturesque landscape from 200 meters above ground. At the beginning of XIX century the bridge didn’t look the same, but had the same purpose as nowadays. It was reconstructed from wooden to sandstone in 1851. 

For us hiking started the moment we got back to Rathen. We set off to Lilienstein Mountain remote another few kilometers from the city, then in Konigstein city we took the train and returned to Hrensko. Lilienstein Mountain high more than 400 meters is one of the salient symbols of Saxon Switzerland. It lays at the right bank of the Elbe River. At its top you may find 16 meter tall Obelisk built to remind of the existence of Saxon dynasty and a restaurant, which may be a good place to rest and fill your supplies. If you’re not afraid you may also sit at the edge of the rock and look on the little world below you. You may go around Lilienstein Mountain and admire the views on each direction.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Hike to Belveder viewing point

Hike to Belveder viewing point

Hiking to the observation point Belveder was one of the most captivating and adventurous trip among all we did around Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland.

Once we entered the forest, which compared to common trekking path was completely desolated, we felt like we were trapped in a mystical and other-wordy place. Inside the forest dominated secret and sometimes even dark atmosphere. The further we trekked, the more engrossed we felt. I personally had the impression that we will be eaten by some creatures outside this world. My husband on the other hand appeared like he was pretending to be a character in one of his games following the quest. I rushed my way, he had the time of his life, but after all I must say-the nature was exceptionally beautiful, almost like mankind did not lay a hand over there. Green forest bed so soft and delicate one could lie on it. Various in shape and colour rock formations. High and strong trees. This is what a call a place, where you can run away form city's turmoil and forget about all the problems of mundane life. I wish we could stay there longer, however because we set off a bit too late we had to hurry before twilight. We combined the trip to Pravcicka gate with Belveder. As soon as we got to Hrensko, we took a lunch break and tramp to Belveder. 6,5 kilometer long red path, which starts at the Elbe riverbank opposite to Tourist Information Centre in Hrensko, will go along the road at first, then will turn to forest. You may return to Hrensko following the green path, which in U Suche Kaminice will turn again to red. It’s about 12 kilometer long trek in total.

Belveder is one of the oldest viewing point in Bohemian Switzerland, the huge terrace looks onto Elbe River from 180 meters. In XVIII century the balcony was used for different theatre performance and other events. Nowadays a hotel with restaurant stands there. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Pravcicka Gate

Bohemian Switzerland, part 2-day 2-Pravcicka Gate

Many claim Pravcice Sandstone Gate to be the main attraction of the National Park. It’s like Tower Bridge in London or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona- must see on your trip list.

While it’s truly extraordinary and unbelievably beautiful natural phenomenon, it’s unfortunately also one of the most visited hiking trails in the whole region. Unless you plan to have a date with nature only, go ahead. There’re more tourists than you can imagine, especially at the gate itself. People coming from different directions all meet here. I don’t of course imply that you shouldn’t go there, because it would be a pity no to see 16 meters tall and 26 meters wide gate, but bide your time.

There’re several ways to get to Pravcice Sandstone Gate, depending on your accommodation choose either Hrensko, Tri Prameny, Mezni Louka or Mezna as your starting point. If you start in Mezni Louka, follow the red path which goes along educational trail as well. There’re interesting points described at the information boards (German and Czech subscriptions only) It’s good to stop and read at least for a moment. It’s around 6 kilometers to the Gate. Then you may follow the red path to Hrensko and combine the trip with a boat. Hop on a ferryboat on Kamenice River(so called Edmundova souteska) and get back on a green path from Mezna to Mezni Louka.

You may also start in Mezna-then choose one of two directions-either to Mezni Louka and follow the path I described above or to Hrensko. Follow the yellow hiking path or enter the Edmund’s Gorge as well and enjoy the ferryboat ride to Hrensko. Then follow the red path together with educational trail to Pravcicka gate. You will walk by Tri Prameny - a spring of underground water, spruce forest until you reach the gate and Sokoli hnizdo, a restaurant and lodging house. The entrance free to the area cost 70 kc - there're two view points on the Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland and the gate.

During the peak season bus drives every hour or so between Decin and Mezna. Sadly in late October the situation looks differently. It runs only few times a day, the last one in direction to Mezna leaves after 6, it's better to study the schedule thoroughly beforehand. Take notice of tiny, little marks-they all have meaning.

If you want to go by car, park at one of the parking spaces in Hrensko, close to Tri Prameny or Mezni Louka. Full day admission is 120 kc or 20 kc per hour. Besides chargeable parking spots I didn’t see any free parking over there.

Maybe because of the season or because of the restrictions, I didn’t see many bikers around. No bikes are allowed in the first zone of the National Park, the same goes for path leading to Pravcicka Gate. There're around 55 kilometers of cycling paths in the area, however as long as you want to get to some attractions, either it's forbidden or barely possible on a bike.

The terrain was without doubt varied, some climbs were difficult and gruelling others child's play and restful. The 3 hour walk among the majestic rock villages and sandstone formations, combined with view on picturesque villages, dreamy valleys or romantic rivers will last in our memory forever. No matter if you visit Bohemian Switzerland during summer or in the middle of autumn, breathtaking panoramas will remain the same. Everything started 90 millions years ago, when the area was covered by shallow and warm sea. Sand laying on the ground gave birth to this empire of rocks. Each and every of them unique in shape and colour.

In October and November mind the earlier arrival of nights and sudden drop of temperature as you plan your trip, because you may be trapped in the middle of the forest and since sleeping in the first zone of BH National Park is prohibited it may be a tough night. Take your light with you, no matter how early you set off, it may get useful on the way.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Bohemian Switzerland

Bohemian Switzerland, part 1-day 1-Hrensko, Edmund's Gorge

As long as I remember I always wanted to visit Bohemian Switzerland. The first I moved to the Czech Republic, I knew I will be at the Pravcicka Sandstone Gate someday. It took me a while to get there. It was always too far away, too cold or the season was not right. But finally, after four years my husband and I decided to take a chance and pay a visit to unknown.

It’s more than 300 kilometers from Brno in total and a bit more than a 100 kilometers from Prague. First we took the D1 highway in directions to Prague, then we followed D8 highway. It seemed like it was not finished between Lovosice and Teplice, so we were directed to north east to Usti nad Labem, Decin and to our final destination Mezna after 4 and a half hours. The moment we crossed Lovosice I knew our next four days will be full of adventure and I couldn’t be more right.

I planned the whole trip meticulously. My plan seemed perfect, but as it came to real life, I have to make small adjustments. Instead of hiking to Belveder observation platform as I wanted in the first place, we went to “sightsee” Hrensko only. I used the quotation marks, because Hrensko on its own is so small you can barely call visiting it a sightseeing. One main street separated by Kamenica River filled with Vietnamese selling cheap cigarettes and clothes. We hardly found a grocery shop among booths with cheap counterfeit of brands such as Adidas, Jack Wolfskin or GAP. It’s better to bring food supply with you or buy everything in Decin. Also remember to withdraw money from ATM as it’s pretty impossible you can do that in Hrensko and that you’ll find a restaurant where you can pay for meal by card.

There’s one more thing I will never forget about Hrensko, rude service in restaurants. Never in my life have I been treated in such a bad manners by a waiter. I can only hope we happened to be in a wrong place at a wrong time and not everyone visiting the gateway to Bohemian Switzerland National Park would be discouraged like we were.

Room prices, no matter how far from the National Park, started with 400 kc per night per person, so the closer we were the better. We stayed in Mezna, which is 6 kilometers away from Hrensko. There’re several lodging houses and hotels to choose from, each equipped with restaurant serving home-made food. Mezna was not only peaceful and soothing place, it’s also a perfect starting point for our journeys or a gateway to Kamenice River. I may say, it’s just behind the corner, as the 1,5 km distance covered on green trail led us you directly to Edmund’s Gorge. I was completely speechless when I saw tall cliff walls covered with moss, extremely green forest and see-through clean water. It’s like a natural phenomenon, environment not destroyed and not polluted by mankind, but at the same time more than one hundred tourists visit Bohemian Switzerland every year.

The main attraction of the day was the ferryboat cruise. Full of funny comments, guided by an experienced ferryman using self-made long pole to steer the boat, voyage took us only 20 minutes to get to Hrensko. I think everyone on the boat, no matter how old, moody or exhausted was, enjoyed the cruise.

The ferryboat cruises from April to November, this year until November, 2nd. Between April and October from 9 6 p.m. and between October and November from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every ten to thirty minutes.

The full admission in 80 kc, reduced 40 kc. More info here.