Saxony and the Swiss

This summer Derek’s Tour Company (Insider Tours) began running tours in Dresden. It involves a two hour bus ride from Berlin to the state of Saxony which Dresden is it’s capital city. During our two hour ride Derek and John (Hebrew speaking guide)  kept us well informed with historical facts. After sitting for that length of time (actually bus was very comfortable) walking was definitely needed and Derek made sure we did plenty of that.


Historical Dresden is filled with titillating tales, religious discord, a long line of royalty that filled Dresden with culture and artistic splendor which later would be almost completely destroyed during a still controversial aerial bombing near the end of WW II.  The image below is the courtesy of  Dr. Torsten Henning who released it to the public domain. I thank him for this as it beautifully shows the Elbe river which splits Dresden into the “old city” and “new city”. Click on picture for full size.


The death of his brother from smallpox given to who him by his mistress  enabled Frederick Augustus to become the Electorate (ruler) of Saxony in 1694. Augustus became known as Augustus the Strong for his physical strength and iron rule, somehow I think it had more to do with his sexual stamina. He had at least 10 or more mistresses and the exact number of illegitimate children will probably never be known, 365-382 has been suggested. Yet Augustus did leave behind a legacy of castles, Meissen porcelain and as mentioned before culture and arts.


The most flamboyant of his castles was the Zwinger it’s open square   once lined with pavilions and arcade galleries that later would become exhibition galleries and library halls. After his death an Opera house was added to the square.  Much was destroyed during the aerial bombings or carpet bombing raids in 1945. Dresden’s dedication to restoring the Zwinger and the rest of it’s city is an amazing sight to behold.


Like many times before from ashes and rubble  history waiting to unfold and perhaps turn into something beautiful.


Does August 17th, 2002 mean anything to you? It does for the people of Dresden. It is the day flood waters from the Elbe river reached historic levels 9.39  meters or how about 31 feet.IMG_3090 Derek is standing underneath a bridge where a broze plaque  marks the level the waters reached forcing over 30,000 people from their homes. It seems Dresden will always have a history of rebuilding itself.


Our last few days in Germany were spent in the great outdoors of Saxony called Saxon Switzerland. It is claimed that Swiss tourists in the late 18th century were the reason for this area’s name. The Swiss visitors would often comment that the beautiful landscape reminded them of their  Alpine region. Like the Alpine peaks this area is not rather it is a landscape of  lush green forests where one can find  sandstone peaks, rocky outcrops, hollows and caves a rock climbers paradise.


Saxony is considered to be the place of origin for free climbing when in the early 20th century “Saxon Rules” rules for rock climbing was established. Derek reveled in the opportunity to try his hands and feet in the art of free climbing I am became his director from below. Mind you I did a cave climb in the pitch dark with him and trekked across a rock peak which involved hanging onto rings that were slightly too far apart for me to grasp properly. For a split second dread ran through me then the big reach of Derek guided me safely to the other side.IMG_3310

Here we were to discover another wonderful cave where many a climber camped over night. As for Steve he decided to become oneIMG_3314IMG_3319

with nature as heights his not his thing. This trip really tested his fear of heights watching Derek hanging by the tips of fingers was not exactly helping.IMG_3320IMG_3240The  four days we spent in Saxony  Switzerland involved no less than 9 or more hours of hiking per day. With Steve and Derek deciding which route to take we did not always stay on the beaten path.IMG_3111In fact one day  we found are ourselves in the middle of a cow pasture while trekking towards Königstein Fortress.IMG_3125This fortress sits on top of a sandstone peak many parts of its structure seems to melt into the peak. The first mention of a castle IMG_3147IMG_3169

in official documents is in the year 1241. It’s ownerships changing hands from Kings of Bohemia to the Dukes of Saxony. It was converted into a fortress in 1589 by Elector Christian  upon which its defences were continually being modernized.


Included inside Königstein is a Celestines monastery, a wine cellar which once held the largest wine cask (238,000 liters) seems August the strong had a big thirst. During its 750 years it  served many diverse purposes aside from being a defence stong hold. The Saxon sovereigns used it as a retreat, art and state treasures were kept safe here and later on it became a prison that few could escape from. IMG_3183IMG_3200

Königstein offers one other thing that many tourists enjoy even to this day a beautiful


and varied view of the Elbe River.


No truer words could  have been spoken for Steve “To go where no man has gone before”.  After a nerve wracking climb down a cliff  via a dead tree  that Derek found we guided Steve down safely. You guessed it we went off the beaten path again Steve almost kissed the ground once he touched down.IMG_3308 Safe and sound for that moment Steve ventured onward to the next biggest challenge the Bastei.  Million years of water erosion created this rocky shelf  which was linked by wooden bridges in 1824 and  in 1851 the wood would be replaced with sandstone that still stands today.


Not only did walking across this wonder of nature take your breath away the view did all but stop you from breathing.

IMG_3279Be still, be still for in the silence there is beauty to behold. Steve did behold the wonder of this landscape and never regretted crossing the bridge.IMG_3270Once over the bridge we discovered the Small Bastei fortress seemed beyond comprehending that people eked out an existence here. Especially when you understood the physical labour involved to build the dwellings, fortifications and catapults in order to protect borders and transportation routes.

IMG_3266This top section of the stairway leads to where a catapult once stood. Little remains of the buildings that once stood here however with enough imagination you could be thrown back in time and be amazed at what it must have been like to live in those times.IMG_3247Our four days here was a splendor to behold and we hope one day to be captivated by its magic again.

Thanks for joining me in my 7 week journey now I must tend to my garden until the next big adventure.

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Looks like a fun tour!
    Now I’m sure to go to Saxon Switzerland for a hike – I was still looking for a nice place.
    Thanks for the useful info & pictures!
    Best regards, Amanda

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