Alighting from the train at Kurort Rathen, one immediately knew that this was going to be something special. The Bahnhof is in Kurort, a short walk down to the Elbe takes one to the Ferry and a short hop across to Rathen. Rathen lies at the confluence of the Elbe and a stream which literally lives up to its name – Grünbach. One is in Sächsen Schweiz, Saxony Switzerland, above Rathen lies an of Rocky Pinnacles, some connected by Bridges. Indeed, the Stone Bridges date back to the end of the Nineteenth Century, and were the first ever built anywhere solely for Tourism.
The most famous Peak, the Basteifelsen is immediately above Rathen, arriving at 17.30 the light is perfect, Hector resolved that we would be there at this time tomorrow. Meanwhile there was the Hotel Amselgrundschlösschen to discover, it turned out out to be exactly at the start of the ascent up to Bastei.
One can make a short walk to the Amselsee, a ridiculously small Lake created by damming the Grünbach. Thereafter lies the Amselfall, a Waterfall which performs for the visitor. The flow is a trickle, then every fifteen minutes or so there is a sudden eruption of water cascading over the Amselfall. It’s for The Tourists! Given how pitiful the Lake is, there has to be some reward for the walk.
One can choose from a large array of walks which are all clearly signposted, well this is Deutschland. Some start on the Czech Border at Bad Schandau, some are local loops based at Rathen. They all involve walking up hills through Forest Paths, as the freely available literature says, the muscles will ache, they did.
Hector and Marg chose their first big walk of the day with Hockstein as the objective and Hohnstein, a Village high up on a hillside as the second. Some may marvel at Hector’s insight into where to go, others will have seen Julia Bradbury’s excellent TV Series on the Deutsche Wanderlust. After our days on Rügen, the inspiration for the core of this vacation should now be evident.
Hockstein was a view over a Gorge, a sudden halt which Hector could just about walk to the end of. Hohnstein was across the Gorge, no way would I now walk down the path and up the other side just to repeat the process on the return leg. I could clearly see Hohnstein across the Pinztal, enough already. A Mountain Hut gave shelter from the rain, however, with Brolly in hand we made our descent back to Rathen, was just a shower.
Wienerwurst and an extensive Bowl of Pasta for lunch in Rathen set us up for the next leg, the Felsenbühne. This is a natural Amphitheatre shaped hollow surrounded by the High Peaks, an open air theatre has been created within this natural setting, it cost €1.00 to be permitted to walk up the steep path to see this.
The path up to Bastei had the heart pumping and the legs moaning. After the walks on Rügen there was no doubting the overall fitness. This was indeed a steep climb, but on proper pathways far easier to handle than the scramble up say a Scottish Munro. (Hector is an expert on Scottish Munros, he climbed Ben Narnairn – once, enough already.)
Of more concern to Hector was the width of the Bridges at the top and how many people would be on them. The Fear of Heights becomes worse with each passing year, yet this is the man who piloted a Cessna over Stirling a few weeks back.
There was a fenced off area – Neurathen – to access this cost €1.50. Here the Pinnacles were connected by Steel Bridges with Slats, if I can see through the slats then the situation becomes worse, I could. On every photo one should observe the Hand of Hector holding on for dear life, the facial expressions are grimaces, this is me at the limit of endurance. One has to wait for others to leave the various platforms before I can go near them, each Steel Bridge crossed at a sprint, no looking down, just to the far side.
The views were worth it, only from here can one get a decent view of the Stone Bridges. The surrounding Stone Peaks are of course what one is really here to marvel at, the Kleine and Gross Gans, Honigsteine, Feldsteine and the Talwächter are the affectionate names given to Nature’s Creations.
And then it is on the Bastei itself. The famous Stone Bridge arched its way between the Peaks, again the view of the aforementioned Pinnacles was stunning. One now wonders why I really paid money to torture myself on the Steel Bridges. There was now a view of the Elbe Tal, but better views of the Valley lay a few metres across the Stone Bridge and upwards.
One climbs a hill in the UK, you get to the top, if your lucky there is no haze or mist and there is a view. This is Deutschland, there was a large fenced viewing platform, occupied by what looked like a Bus Trip, how did they get here? This is Deutschland, there was a Café, so Hector must be due a Bier, Andechs Dunkels had to do! We let the Bus Trip leave and make it safe for Hector to take his photographs looking down upon Rathen. Upriver lies a Plateau which is something out of Edgar Rice Burroughs. With trees somehow clinging on to the near vertical slopes, this flat-topped landform looks inaccessible. But wait, what is this to the right? Another Plateau, this time with Walls surrounding it, a Schloss! What is this – how come it has not been mentioned in the literature, where is it, how does one get there? The Schloss lay on the periphery of what the camera could tolerate, and was lost in the haze, yes even Germany has haze, but only in the far distance.
Below this level there is none
Hector was keen to see where the footpath we had ascended headed to thereafter. The Map sketched out the Route, we knew we were going back the way we came, but one has to look. Behold the Souvenir Shop, another, and even bigger Cafe, no two, and a Post Box. Oh, a Car, and a Hotel. No doubt there was a Coach Park beyond, a Helipad and enough room to land a 747. This is Deutschland.
One can choose to stay, we stayed three nights which was perfect and allowed a more leisurely day with a sail on the Elbe and visits to Königstein – where the Castle is! And downstream to Pirna, worth a visit.
We stayed at the excellent Amselgrundschlösschen, eating there on the middle night with the Rosengarten and Burg Altrathen the other nights.
These are the places where Bier was consumed:
Burg Altrathen – Am Grünauch 10-11, 01824, Kurort Rathen
Hotel Amselgrundschlössche – Amselgrund 3, 01824, Kurort Rathen
Rosengarten – Kotte Steig 1, 01824, Kurort Rathen