I’m very lucky to have an awesome mother. Not only is she fantastic and tirelessly enthusiastic, but also really clever. She singled me out as the one bean in the family that won’t ever say no to an outdoor adventure and then proposed a weekend full of hiking, some cycling and rock climbing and an easy, shared drive in a campervan into one of the most picturesque corners of Germany. I couldn’t really say no.
Our trip headed south-east ward to what in Germany is called the ‘Elbsandsteingebirge’ (the Elbe Sandstone Mountains) and is considered the birthplace of free climbing. The sandstone towers are encircled by green forests, spilling down the valleys until they reach the Elbe river. These pillars somewhat reminded me of the epic stone towers in Zhangjiajie, China or of less colourful cousins of those found in Bryce Canyon, USA, even though the size and rock types are somewhat different. They spiralled up into the sky, and we both gazed up in admiration and climbed up fearlessly.
Our first experiences were shared with many other tourists- it was a long weekend in Germany and the weather was fantastic. We climbed up for a view of the Falkenstein and then continued up a scramble to the Schrammsteine, from where we had an incredible view of the valley (and the chance to watch some free climbers at work). On these lookouts people sat and enjoyed the sun, had a snack and were even barbequing. There was a bit of jostling for the best camera angles, but nothing like our experiences in national parks in China and Japan.
The day’s walk also meant that by the time we reached possibly the most famous site in the area, the Bastai bridge, many of the tourists had headed home for dinner. The last rays of sun hit the rocks above the bridge and we pointed out the fortress Königstein and the prominent Lillienstein behind the stone pathway. The Bastai was once actually a fortress, high above the Elbe in a key strategic position. Remains of living quarters, fortifications, and weapons are found scattered on the rock platforms. I tried very hard to imagine living so high up, and although the view would have been a welcome one every morning, I don’t think it would have been cosy enough for me!