Dave the motorhome is spending tonight in a Park and Ride car park in Bastei (N50.98669 E14.05581). It’s car park number 2 for the tourist attraction that is Bastei, part of Saxon Switzerland which lies about half an hour’s drive South from Dresden. Last night the rain fell, the sky lit up with lightning and the roars of thunder told us that the storm was a comfortable six miles or so away (or does it become kilometres when you’re abroad?).
I spent another couple of hours trying to sort out motorhome insurance for Dave. Being part Scottish I’m loathed to pay out nearly all the savings we have left for a policy which is going to radically change in a little over a month! I’ll write a post about full time motorhome insurance at some point, once I’ve calmed down, so you don’t face the same pitfalls we have, but needless to say we’re doing something out of the ordinary so don’t fit into the tick boxes for most companies which is frustrating. As Jay keeps pointing out, it’s a small price to pay for the adventure we’ve had over these last 22 months.
Once I’d headed to bed insurance stuff was whirling around in my head stopping me from going to sleep, this meant that I got up several times to check out odd things I was hearing – a car driving slowly around the car park, a drip landing somewhere inside Dave etc. As I lay there the wind started to pick up outside, yet Dave stayed as steady as a rock, it looks like the Dutch couple who’d parked their motorhome next to us must have taken the brunt of the wind and had inadvertently become our ‘wind shadow’ as our friend Marc from Germany named it.
This morning the rain had eased, but one of Dave’s floor mats was soaking. I hadn’t been hearing things, there was a drip from the rear skylight last night, another job for the ‘to do’ list when we get home. We decided today to take a detour from our original plan (that’s what I love about this lifestyle, plans change easily) and pop over to the only National Park in Saxony; Sächsische Schweiz – Saxon Switzerland.
Satnav led us a merry dance to get here, although admittedly she did manage to reroute us around a few sets of roadworks. We arrived at the main car park and pulled in to speak to a man dressed in a high vis jacket and hat. Yes we can sleep here, it’s €5 for day and night as opposed to €3 for day only. We paid our €5 and parked up. Not really sure what was here, we’d seen one photo of some rock formations and read a little bit about the place in our guidebook, we set off to walk to Bastei. The Park and Ride bus was sat there waiting for us and because we didn’t have a clue how much walking or climbing would be involved once we were in Bastei we coughed up €3 for two return tickets.
The bus immediately set off, a small counter on the driver’s ticket machine counted down the metres to the next stop; it was only about one and half kilometres. As we arrived I was surprised at just how many people were there, the car park hadn’t seemed that full. Car park 1 (where the bus dropped us off) was more expensive, and didn’t allow overnight parking, and wasn’t all that full either. We followed the crowds walking down the road away from the bus stop. Then I spotted that to our left through the trees the land dropped away; we were walking along the top of a cliff. We nipped down a path which took us to a view point on top of the sheer cliff.
As we looked out across the valley at the strange rock formations, it started to rain. There was no lightning, or at least none that we could see, but huge guttural roars of thunder around us. The rain got heavier and as the seconds passed a stream formed down the steps to our viewpoint. We huddled under our umbrella, lucky that we were one of just a few who had brought one. Charlie whimpered as he was getting soaked – he refused to stand under the umbrella – so we treated him to an early lunch which was strategically placed by our feet. Eventually the rain passed and we were able to pick our way through the stream back up to the main path. The little café a few paces away was doing a roaring trade as it had an undercover section.
We followed the throng of people and found ourselves at another viewpoint, this one even more impressive than the last as it had sheer cliffs on three sides. It looked out over the River Elbe and the expanse of flat land which made where we were stood seem even more special. Of course Charlie doesn’t do heights, so we took it in turns to admire the view while he whimpered non-stop like a cricket at dusk. People stopped and cooed at him, ‘Ihr haben angst’ (he is afraid) I would tell them, they would smile, laugh and coo some more, and that is pretty much how the rest of our walk around the place went.
Our guidebook wasn’t wrong when it said that this is one of the most breathtaking spots in Germany. The tall fluted rocks (up to 305m high) provide panoramic views of the surrounding forests, cliffs and mountains as well as a great view along the River Elbe. We could see the busy car parks on the other side of the river and queues of people catching the foot passenger ferries over to the side we were on. The red faces of people at the top of the steps gave away the fact that it’s a decent climb from the river to the viewpoints, I’m glad we opted to head for the northern shore of the river. Jay told me earlier that Dresden is planning to build a bridge but UNESCO has threatened to revoke the sites listing if they do as it would spoil the area – I think I’m on UNESCO’s side, if you really want to be on the north bank of the river, just drive across it a few miles closer to Dresden like we did.
It’s not just the spectacular views that have got this place on the UNESCO world heritage list, there also used to be a wooden fortress here in the 13th Century. You can pay an extra €1.50 each to walk along a series of footbridges linking the crags on which the castle was built, but the remains of the castle are so few and the views just as spectacular elsewhere from free viewpoints – oh and Charlie’s whimpering would have gone up an octave – we didn’t bother. Instead we wandered a couple of times over the Basteibrücke (Bastei Bridge) which used to be made of wood so that when the fortress was under attack it could be torn down. Thankfully it’s now made of stone or we would never have got Charlie over it.
After we were convinced we’d climbed to every viewpoint we could we set off back towards Dave. The sun was shining and the temperature has cooled down a lot since Berlin, so we opted to walk back instead of getting the bus. We took a footpath through the trees which ran parallel to the road, then we switched to another which would take us the long way back via a nearby village – after all we could all do with a bit more exercise. As we reached the village the thunderous booms from the sky got closer and once again the heavens opened.
We took shelter next to an information board to wait it out, before continuing our walk back on a paved path through corn fields. If you’re ever visiting this area, there is free parking here – just head to Rathewalde and follow the signs for parking to the right once you are in the main village, a couple of hundred metres outside of it the pay machines stop.
We’re back in Dave now so the rain can come and go as it pleases. Jay is reading his new book Slaughterhouse Five which is about the Dresden bombing and I’m getting my CV up to scratch – eeek! We’re right down next to the border with the Czech Republic, so we might nip over there tomorrow as a short cut and to pick up some cheeky cheap beers!