Travelling internationally right now is difficult, and not something I am personally comfortable with yet. Ideally, we would have made this holiday a trip back home, but the UK is currently drowning in a sea of messy Brexit talks, a highly concerning rise in coronavirus cases (recording 6,873 new cases on 25th September against Germany’s 2,153), and more hatred/division than I have ever seen.
I love Britain. I love my friends and family. But right now, a return to the motherland fills me with more dread than it does joy.
We decided to plan a short break within Germany itself. As we’ve only really explored our new home of Bavaria, I started to look further north. I knew that I wanted to steer clear of big cities and explore nature. Some Instagram searching lead me to Saxon Switzerland National Park and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
A quick search online for hotels showed that this area was extremely popular and I struggled to find anywhere with available rooms. Eventually, I found a cute looking hotel that offered a large double room with breakfast included. Just what we needed!
Room booked, I started to research hiking and walking trails. Hiking is something I’ve been wanting to get into for a little while now and I knew I wanted to use this mini-getaway as an opportunity to try it out. Luckily, the National Park has TONS of trails, most of which you can find online!
On the Road
My original plan was to arrive at lunchtime and head straight out for a small afternoon walk. However, Zac is currently undergoing some major dental work and had to attend an appointment on the morning of departure. No matter. I took the opportunity to take a good long stroll around Augsburg central, avoiding the main streets (and thus, people) as much as possible.
The drive up to Saxon Switzerland was 5.5 hours. We only needed to take 1 quick toilet/snack break so we still managed to make pretty good time – the perks of being childless and enjoying road trips!
Into the Wilderness
I knew that the hotel we were staying at would be in the forest (its name literally gave it away), but I had no idea just how out of the way we would end up travelling! It really was hidden away off a tiny single lane country road, right on the Czech/German border.
Unlike any other hotel I’ve ever stayed in, the Kräuterbaude am Wald is all on a single level, with only 9 rooms, separate to the main restaurant itself. There are Alpacas and tons of different plants/herbs growing around the place. There’s also hammocks and lounger chairs superbly placed with a fantastic view of the valley and forest. It’s a beautiful bohemian dream!
As it was already quite late in the day, we spent our first night relaxing at our hotel and flicking through all the leaflets of the area – we got super lucky with the weather as it stayed dry and warm enough for us to sit outside every evening.
Baby’s First Hike
We did everything right on our first morning. We filled up on the continental breakfast with bread, cheeses, fruits and that marbled German breakfast cake (does anyone know what it’s called?! Please tell me!). Our water bottles were full to the brim, we had snacks aplenty, I had already found our car park. I had even patched up my favourite backpack for the adventure.
The plan was to park near Bad Schandau and follow the river round to Bastei, where the famous Bastei Bridge sits. It was supposed to be around a 20km round trip (although we could catch the bus back to the car park if we were too tired).
As we had already parked at the top of a hill, we started the hike with a short detour to look at some big, beautiful, old German houses and a viewing platform from which you could see the river flowing through the whole valley. We then dropped down into the town and began to follow the river.
And then, we discovered that a long section of our trail was completely closed and the only way around it was to retrace our footsteps about 3km, cross the river and continue on the opposite side. We would then have to cross the river on the ferry to get to our final destination. Not only would this increase the hike by a number of kilometres, but it also meant we’d have to pay to cross the river again – we were on a budget!
We stopped next to the river for lunch and decided to simply head back through the town and up the hill. Although it didn’t go how I’d planned it, we still ended up smashing out 15km and were suitably tired by the end.
Try and Try Again
The following day, we completed our belly-filling breakfast ritual once more. This time, we drove near to Lilienstein Mountain and parked up here for the day. It turned out there were more clear hiking paths from here to Bastei and the route would be slightly shorter.
More good news, the payment machine in the car park had broken, so we gained an extra 5€. Beer money sorted!
We set off through the forest, reaching Bastei town in 45 minutes.
Then came the hard part – the climb to Bastei Bridge!
It was tough, and we did end up putting our masks on about 3/4 of the way up which made it harder. But the feeling of accomplishment and the views from the top made it all worthwhile!
We stopped for a beer and our lunch, before making the descent back down and heading back to the car.
On our journey home, we made a pit stop at the Baroque Gardens near Dresden for a short walk. Zac took great interest in the fish and ducks, plus I saw my first live snake in the middle of catching its lunch. Nature really is gnarly!
Do what makes you feel safe
We had a wonderful time in Saxon Switzerland and loved being in nature. But I definitely can’t wait for the world to open back up again so we can travel further afield.
I am glad that I travelled constantly with a bag of disinfectant wipes, spray and gel, along with extra disposable face masks. And I’m glad that we made the decision to wear our face masks, even in the open air, because the number of people trying to crowd onto a tiny old stone bridge was just too much for me.
There’s definitely tension in the air though. Between those that choose to wear a mask and those that don’t. It’s a little scary at times.
I say do whatever makes you feel the safest. And keep going, we have to come out the other end of this, someday.
Hope you enjoyed this little travel diary, I definitely enjoy writing them and documenting my navigation through this strange, strange world.
Bleib Gesund und bis zum nächsten Mal / Stay safe, and until next time,