Friday, 31 October 2014

die Schrammsteine: climbing in the Sächsische Schweiz

The Schrammsteine are a jagged ridge of peaks in das Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains)  of the Sächsisch-Böhmische Schweiz (Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland). We set out one misty Autumn morning from the town of Bad Schandau to climb up to their peaks and get a top-of-the-world view of this area in South-East Germany close up to the Czech border.

Bad Schandau is a quaint town with a long history of tourism catering for visitors to its healing spa resorts or as a base for a bit of hiking in the rugged landscape around. I felt it reminded me of Keswick in the English Lake District, except Bad Schandau doesn't have a pencil museum. Thankfully. It does have shops that sell hiking gear though, so we got some new thermal socks, hooray!

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

We gained some height from Bad Schandau by taking a rather unique elevator, built in 1905 and part of the fantasy that is the film The Grand Budapest Hotel (see my blog about the elevator here). From the spa village of Ostrau at the top of the elevator we headed NE towards the Schrammsteine ridge in the misty distance.

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

As you get into the Elbsandsteingebirge the way up (and up, and up) is through dense forets, following a steep trail of steps.

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

The walls of stone start closing in on you, and the way is between dark clefts in the rock, carved out by streams flowing off of the rocky plateaus above. It all starts feeling a bit like you are heading towards the Misty Mountains of Middle-Earth, and you should be worrying about orc attacks!

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

Occasionally we get glimpses through the trees of the peaks we are heading for, and as we get closer they seem to get bigger and bigger.

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

After more and more climbing through the forest we begin to get to the feet of the peaks:

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

And we begin to see the strange stacks of sandstone peculiar to these highlands, that point like fingers up to the sky:

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

Soon the earthen steps are replaced with actual ladders ...

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

... and the cliffs are now high and sheer but still colonised by trees.

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

Eventually we reached the top, and the views from up there were worth the climb. Oh yes! Even worth the feeling I was about to have a heart-attack, or fall off through vertigo!

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

Once we had gained the first peak, it was merely a matter of following the ridge eastwards. Not that the climbing was done with, as remember these peaks are like fingers and it is all up and down, though aided by metal stairs and ladders, and even hand-rails (so German! You don't get this in the Cuillin mountains, that's for sure!).

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

It is all worth it for the views, like here over to the Czech Republic:

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

Eventually we had to start descending again, and like the way up, it was through a long, long path down through the woods. Some guys chose to take the quicker way down:

photo taken in the Sächsische Schweiz by Andie Gilmour

Back at the Elbe, we found ourselves in the small village of Schmilka, which is right on the Czech border. You can still see the old border control barriers and buildings on the road South-East.

We got a ferry across the Elbe to Schmilka Bahnhof, then grabbed the next train back to Dresden where our apartment was for the weekend.



A wonderful day tramping around the Sächsische Schweiz and along the Schrammsteine! (and I always want to say after Schrammsteine 'die Sonne scheint' - Herzeleid fans reading this will know why!)


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