Bohemian Switzerland: A Story in Photos

Once Upon a Time…

Last Saturday, to be exact, we went on an excursion with Discovering Prague to Bohemian Switzerland National Park (in Czech, it’s České Švýcarsko).

We met at the train station at 7:30 a.m. (ahem) to board a blessedly air conditioned bus for a 2-hour ride toward the northwestern border of Czechia. Bohemian Switzerland is close to the German border and has a sort of sister park on the German side called Saxon Switzerland National Park.

What’s all this ‘Switzerland’ business in Germany and Czechia?

The name was coined by 18th century Swiss artists Adrian Zingg, an engraver (his works), and Anton Graff, a portraitist (his works), who were reminded of their homeland by the Bohemian landscape. By the 19th century, outdoorsy tourists were tromping through the area and Romantic era artists like Ludwig Richter (his works) were all over it. The composer Carl Maria von Weber even set his opera Der Freischütz nearby, an opera with such lasting impact that it inspired a stage musical—The Black Rider—by Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, and William S. Burroughs (!).

We did not take the time to paint or compose operas on our trek, but we did eat a lot of good snacks, pose amidst gorgeous greenery, and walk more than a half marathon on terrain that included pavement, large flagstones, medium-sized rocks embedded in the soil, pebbles, tree roots, smooth sandstone, and sand.

On our morning bus ride, we ate Breakfast Pizza (new recipe in our soon-to-be-released meal plan magazine) on gluten-free bread and tried to play cards. When the road became too twisty for cards, we watched the greenery out the window while looking for werewolves and dragons.

Our hike started with a switchback descent on a smooth flagstone path. I’m not too proud to say that I am a big baby when I walk downhill, but my spirits were lifted by a group of German ladies and gentleman who shared the trail with us and sang a song in German at the steepest, twistiest part. Danke meine Freunde!

I was very happy when we got to the river and crossed a sweet wooden bridge.

For about an hour or so, we followed the course of the river to our first rest stop—where Dave and Pepper took advantage of the snack bar hranolky s tatarkou (french fries with tartar sauce). No photographic evidence of fries, but here are our happy faces. Photos of us decreased as the day went on and our sweat factor went through the roof. High temp on Saturday: 91F/30C.

After our snack break, we walked a bit to the dock for a boat ride on the river Kamnitz through Edmund’s Gorge. Here’s everybody in our hiking group—the other half of the crew took a longer route and we met up with them at a secret rendezvous. (It wasn’t really a secret spot, but I like to pretend.)

The 1km boat ride was the perfect mix of relaxation and entertainment. Our boatman pointed out rock formations along the way in Czech, and our guide Filip translated into English. If you squint and give yourself over the whimsy, there are rocks that resemble Bart Simpson, a gorilla, a sperm whale, a mythical family, an elephant, and a snake—plus there are a few statues along the way, including this dragon. But, alas, not real dragons (as far as I know.)

We were delighted to see that the park is open minded enough to employ dalmatians as boat captains.

Here’s a bit of video to transport you to the river:

After the boat ride, we walked for a bit and enjoyed another break—ice cream and iced coffee for the gang! Then we started our 45-minute, uphill climb to the Pravčická brána, the geographical highlight of the trip. We were a sweaty mess by then, but exhilarated, too—and looking forward to the view and lunch break at the top. There was a lot of scrambling onto tall rocks and declaring ourselves kings and queen of the world, as well as the singing of showtunes. There is no video of these antics.

Pravčická brána is the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe: 86 feet long, 52 feet high, and 26 feet wide. Back in the day, an intrepid adventurer could walk on it, but now we can only gaze upon it.

That gingerbread house on the left is a hotel built in 1881 by Prince Edmund (of Edmund’s Gorge). It’s called Hotel Sokolí hnízdo (Falcon’s Nest) and had 50 beds. Now it’s only a restaurant, but I can imagine how spooky-awesome it would be to spend a night there.

At the tippy-top, there’s a lovely patio area where we ate our picnic lunch—schnitzel meatballs (from Well Fed Weeknights), raw veggies, blueberries, and deliciously cold, refreshing radler (beer mixed with Sprite).

Our trek continued with a short walk to a lookout point where we could see into Germany…

… and get a clear, lovely view of the Gate.

And that is where our photos—but not the walk—ended.

From the Gate, it was a 90-minute stroll on a winding path through lusciously cool woods and over sunny sandstone worn smooth by so many feet. By the time we returned to the bus, around 6:00 p.m., we were sweaty, dirty, smelly, and smiling—just as it should be.

The end.

We’ve been on several trips and weekend hikes with Discovering Prague, and they’ve all be really awesome. If you’re visiting Prague or are lucky enough to live here, definitely check out the fun stuff that Filip has on offer via the Discovering Prague web site or the Meetup group.

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