During this year I have been living in Leipzig, a very flat city and where its surroundings have a lack of mountain chains. However, there is a hilly climbing area and national park around the Elbe valley south- east of Dresden: Saxon Switzerland (not to be confused with Switzerland, a country hundreds of miles to the southwest). This area is popular with local and international climbers, as it has around 1000 climbing peaks, as well as several hollows.
This is a mountain area made of sandstone. Bizarre stone formations and spectacular views are only a few characteristics of this region that is ideal for hiking, but also for a relaxed day out. For those who like nature, it is surely the most beautiful landscape in Saxony. It can get crowded along the river at summer weekends, if you don’t like this, try the colder days. In late autumns or even winter you will nearly be alone outside the villages. There are also many rock castles and caves within the region, most worth a visit. Further up stream along the Elbe/Labe one enters the Czech Republic. However, the rock formations and the natural splendor continue and this region is known historically as the Bohemian Switzerland or “Böhmische Schweiz” in German.
Although almost entirely covered in forest, the national park is comfpisdd of fissured and rocky canyon landscapes. The tallest point reaches a height of only 1814 feet (556m), however, thr neighboring Elbe river is at a lower elevation ranging from 360 to 390 feet (110 to 120 m).
The national park features an array of habitats that include steep ravined, flowered and grassy meadows, moors, plateau mountaintops, and an abudance of forests.
One thing that is unique to the national park as compared to much of Europe is areas of the forest that is void of human interaction. The city in stone is part of the highlights of the park. These sandstone cliffs, mesas, gorges, and spires create a “city” of stone.
The mountain range was formed after the sea reteated and left (Cretaceous era, roughky contemporary with T-Rex) sandstone as the remains. It was once a wild area, known for robbers and hard to conquer strongholds. Many of those still remain and can be visited. The most impressive is certainly the fortress of Königstein that was used for centuries ay jail for high-ranking prisoners.
There are currently 250 miles (400 km) of hiking paths and another 31 miles (49.9 km) of paths for bikes. The climbing options are almost endless.
Wildlife is litimed; however, it is present. Otter, lynx, deer, are some of the more popular species. The peregrine falcon and horned owls make for great animal sightings as well.
I had the chance to visit this area a couple of months ago, and it was breathtaking. Sadly, two days ago I was informed about wildfire ravages in this national park. This large fire in the Elbe-Elster district has already destroyed an area of about 850 hectares and continued to spread quickly because of gusty winds blowing from changing directions.
Although there are fires in Bohemian Switzerland every year, this situation is very serious as they are not on such a scale. There are fears for its naturally formed sandstone arch, the largest on Europe.