Saxon Switzerland in a Day
My friend Dirk & his family will travel to Dresden this summer, and they are planning a day trip to Saxon Switzerland to see the characteristic sandstone mountains alongside the Elbe river. One of the most popular tourist destinations there is the Bastei Bridge near Rathen, and the place gets fairly crowded during the high season. Locals therefore prefer to go to Königstein, a 40-minute train journey from Dresden, to climb the Lilienstein mesa or the Pfaffenstein mesa, each a 1¾-hour hike. Our kids prefer the latter because of its steep & narrow ascent through the so-called ‘eye of the needle’, and for the slender Barbarine pinnacle & the horrific legend that comes with it.
After conquering Pfaffenstein, a next possible target is Königstein Fortress, the mighty stronghold from which the Saxons helplessly watched the Swedish army invade the country in 1639, and the Saxon army surrender to the Prussians in 1756 without fighting. From the foot of the mesa, it takes roughly one hour to walk to the fortress; from the railway station it’s close to 45 minutes. Another thing to do in Königstein is rent a boat and paddle down the Elbe river to Rathen (1½ hours), or further, passing the Bastei rocks, to Wehlen (2 hours) or Pirna (3¾ hours). Whatever you do, also take the ferry to Halbestadt to enjoy the appetizing home-made food at Das Steingut, a charming eatery open on afternoons from April to October (except Mondays & Tuesdays). Your VVO bus & rail day ticket (€ 20 for a family of six) is also valid on the ferry.saechsische-schweiz.de