Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saxon Switzerland Part I

At the crack of dawn (well, 8am) we met Anja Gipp, the English teacher at the technical school, to go to a national park called Saxon Switzerland about two hours northeast of Leipzig. Anja owns a minivan, which is pretty rare for Germany, so we all fit inside. We headed for the Autobahn and were soon zooming northeast. Anja is a conservative driver, so we only went about 110mph, and there were cars flying past us in the fast lane. Time went by quickly admiring German cars and the surrounding landscape, a patchwork of yellow blossoming fields and forests, sprinkled with small villages, church spires and farmhouses. We arrived in Schmilka, a town right on the border with the Czech Republic, got into our hiking shoes and headed straight up the mountain. First we hiked through the village of Schmilka, which has an operating flour mill and a wood-fired oven that bakes amazing cakes.
The national park encompasses a large area of sandstone cliffs and outcroppings etched out of the terrain by the Elbe River over thousands of years. The climb up to the top of the mountain involves a lot of steep ascents up ladders, stone steps, and along massive cliffs, caves and boulders. Everyone in the group was enthusiastic despite some lingering sore muscles from our long bike ride yesterday. And, as it turns out, the view from the top was well worth it! Far in the distance, you could see the looming outcrop of K√∂nigstein, a mountaintop fortress where all the treasures of Dresden were taken for safekeeping during World War II. 

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