In New Zealand we live in a country that is gifted with loads of natural beauty and so consequently sometimes when tourists come to our little corner of the world we think not much of it when they say “it’s so pretty and pristine and the landscapes are so vast” and such like.
I am fortunate that I have been able to travel extensively in the past – both in NZ and OZ and also around Europe and I must admit that whilst I love the landscape of New Zealand – in particular the coastlines I also like the “cultural landscape” here in Europe – especially around my home town Dresden.
Perhaps this is why I love the outdoors – I grew up in a region with plenty of opportunities to hike, paddle or kajak and generally be on the outdoors – be it winter or summer.
So – to kind of remind myself where that love comes from I went on a few walks and hikes around here. Right behind my parents house is a small river valley – the Zschoner Grund – Zschone being the name of the small river that used to have no less than 5 water mills on it’s banks in their heyday. Now one is a Apartment block, one is a hotel – one is still a working mill but with a restaurant and puppet theater attached to it (the mill is only used for demonstrations really) – and the others I am not sure..
That valley is kind of divided into two parts – the front (wheelchair accessible) – offers a nice open landscape with a wide view over meadows and our old public swimmingpool at the beginning – it takes about 40min to walk from one end to the other.
Then there is a road – that kind of cuts it right through the valley (at the location of the working mill) and second part of that valley is the interesting part.. It is called the “Wilde Zschone” – the wild Zschone.. and for a good reason – no more wheelchair accessibility there… the valley narrows and the path becomes more like a trail rather than a path – with a few river crossings (some with bridges others just stones in the shallow river bed). The forest there is what the Germans call “Mischwald” – a mixture of pine and leaf trees – mostly beech and oak.
I have been there a lot as a child but not in recent years and neither had my mum – so off we went one afternoon – it was to hot to do anything else – and took the car half way to the mill (with the intention to have a drink after our walk…) and started our little walk. Loved it straight away – wanted to take some nice photo’s but as soon as I stopped I got attacked – attacked by hungry mosquito – they are so abundant now after the floods that they attack during the day as well (normally here only at dusk and at night).
So it could have been a nice little excursion but it was not to be – after half an hour or so we turned back.. to the safety of the bright and hot sunlight… and a good cold beer and icecream in the beergarden.
I am not easily deterred however – so the next day I headed out towards the Saxon Switzerland and this time a hike – not a stroll. Not a massive and long one – they predicted 35degrees that day – but about 2 hours I thought. Now the Saxon Switzerland is one of my favorite places in the world – not just mine by the looks of all the other tourists & hikers there. If you ever wondered why I can spot a German in NZ – go to Saxon Switzerland and you know – all kinds of high tech and very expensive clothing and gear – even for short walks… the Germans love their outdoor clothing..
The area there had been severely affected by the recent flooding – so I was not sure how far I would be able to drive or walk – so I was pleasantly surprised that the starting point of my intended route was the last place on the road that was accessible – the Kirnitzschtal.
I figured I could do with a bit of shade on a hot day and this valley is a great starting point for a hike up the hills through forest – rather than up some sandstone cliff – as most people would prefer for the natural beauty.
I got there (Felsenmuehle is the end of the road at the moment) around 9am and was not the first but by no means the last person to park the car there. However – most people would go on longer hikes and so on my chosen route I encountered only 4 people – one mother and her two kids and a crazy runner – I call him crazy as it is very steep in places and it was very hot.. but hey – who knows what he was training for..
Up top on the “Großstein” I had the most magnificent view over the whole valley – well worth the climb to “only” 360m.
Saxon Switzerland is also the home to one massive National Park that stretches over two countries (Germany and Czech Republic) and some area’s are the so called “KernZone” – where Nature is left to it’s own devices and access is restricted.
The area is known to have been the inspiration of the “romantic movement” in the mid 1800hundreds – writers and painters flocked to the area for inspiration and some well known names in German art circles have lived here for some time. If you ever get a chance to visit Germany and Saxony – you have to check it out!
There are some very pretty villages dotted along the main river Elbe (that also flows through Dresden and Hamburg) and the side valleys – they all live more or less from tourists these days – the more devastating the recent floods where for them.
If the weather stays this hot my parents and I will go for another hike this Sunday – early as during the day they predict 38° again but this time a longer and knowing my dad – more steep hike..I’ll keep you posted..