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Friday, 27 May 2016

A day at the Sächsiche Schweiz

In the 1874 diary of Helene Bruun, a distant relative of ours, Helene wrote of taking a trip out from Dresden to what she described as 'the most beautiful thing that I had seen until now' - the Sächsiche Schweiz.  She wrote of the beautiful rock faces she saw there and of going to Schandau.  It was a trip she enjoyed with her sisters as well as other close relatives.  Today, we did the same.
Massive rock faces stand tall above the river Elbe, like giant retaining walls.  We arrived at a place called Rathen, and caught the ferry to the other side of the river.  No engine for the ferry - it is engineered to the other side by both an anchor and the downstream current.
We entered a track leading to the Bastei, forever climbing to a spot high in the hills above the Elbe, where tourists have been coming, according to information etched into a large rock face, since 1797.  In English, Sächsiche Schweiz means Saxon Switzerland.  The name is meant to suggest that here in Saxony, there is a little piece of the beauty of Switzerland.
Helene Bruun's diary does not give the impression she visited the Sächsiche Schweiz with her cousin, my great-grandfather, Felix Thode, but he may have visited this place in the nineteen years in which he grew up in Germany before sailing to Australia in 1884.  If Felix had later visited the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters west of Sydney, he would have been reminded of the Sächsiche Schweiz.
The Elbe
When we first arrived at Bastei, there didn't seem to be many people.  But later, when we descended, crowds had arrived in large numbers - Germans, Spanish, Italians, and many Eastern Europeans.  Here, they compete for a spot at the edge to gaze upon the flow of the Elbe, which begins in the Giant Mountains (or Riesengebirge) on the Polish-Czech border, passes through Poland, the Czech Republic, past Dresden and Hamburg, and empties into the North Sea near Cuxhaven, not far from where we were less than a week ago.
We had a cherry cake and a coffee in one of the restaurants at the Bastei
Since time immemorial, large rock faces have guarded the forests below, while the Elbe passes by.
In the middle of this look-out bridge is Christine, taking a photo.
We admired the engineering and construction of this stone bridge in precarious surroundings.
After returning to the ferry and our car below, we went upstream to Schandau, as did Helene 142 years ago, and had lunch.  Christine and I didn't think much of the town - its saving graces were it was located on the Elbe with surrounding hills and forests.
Schandau is only about 20 km from Decin, which is inside the Czech Republic, or 'Bohemia' in Helene's time.  Christine wanted to visit Decin, as some of her ancestors (not mine) originate from here.  The above is a church in Decin.
We had not expected to visit the Czech Republic during our holiday, but here we are.
This is the steep road leading up to the old castle in Decin.  Renate saw a cyclist ride his bike all the way from the bottom to the top.  She also saw a woman run all the way down, wearing high-heeled shoes!
The old castle in Decin.  After an hour or so in the city, we drove back to Germany in rain, which had only just begun.  So now, Jean and I have visited the Czech Republic twice - but never been to Prague..

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