Saxon Switzerland

As dry and diminutive as was the Elbe during our anticipated cruise, over a million years this river, which once flowed within sandstone banks 194 meters above present levels, has eroded the sea floor to form mesas, gorges and spires which today comprise a “city of stone”, the Saxon (and Bohemian ) Switzerland National Park.

Within the National Park are several attractions; we visited The Bastei and Koenigsteinönigstein_Fortress

The Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. Early on the Bastei (“bastion”) included the towering rock formation providing a defensive ring around the Neurathen Castle and later became a prominent lookout point in Saxon Switzerland. Indeed, Goethe is quoted as writing: (Gotthold Sobe: Die Reise August von Goethes 1819 in die Sächsische Schweiz. in: Sächsische Heimatblätter 16(1970)1, p. 42) “Here, from where you see right down to the Elbe from the most rugged rocks, where a short distance away the crags of the Lilienstein, Koenigstein, and Pffafenstein stand scenically together and the eye takes in a sweeping view that can never be described in words.”   In this case pictures might be better than many words.

Climbers are permitted on the sandstone pillars.

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Several catwalks were required to negotiate the path through the stone formation.


A view of the sandstone bridge built in 1851.


Note the outdoor auditorium.


This sandstone bridge was built in 1851, has seven arches, and at 76.5 meters, spans a 40 meter deep ravine.


We were told that the catapult and these balls never had to be used.


Imagine that once the Elbe river was much deeper than these days.


I think this ferry is tethered and uses the river’s current to cross it.


A view across the Elbe river of Koenigstein from the Bastei .


Koenigstein, , one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe, was first mentioned in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to 1233 associated with a stone castle. In the past, Koenigstein had been used as a prison, and more recently, as a place for safekeeping during WWII of national treasures now shown in The Green Vault in Dresden. Living on this plateau became more secure from attack when a 152.5 meter deep well was completed after six years of boring in the mid 16th century. Today there are 50 structures within the fortress, the oldest being the chapel, built at the turn of the 13th century, which is an example of a post Reformation protestant (Lutheran) worship space. [Compare to the castle worship space shown on the Torgau page.]


Arial view of Koenigstein from a poster.


Pedestrian entrance to the Bastei.


A walk way, with guard posts at intervals, surrounds the circumference of the plateau’s summit.  The path below was built for maintenance.

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Treasures from the Green Vault in Dresden were kept in this powder room during WWII.


This is the chapel for the Bastei built at the turn of the 13th century.


The simplicity of its design is influenced by the Protestant Reformation, and today this worship space is Lutheran.


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