Today all I wish to achieve is to post these amazing photos from one of my favourite places during our travels across Europe. Although you can't expect me not to write a bit can you? I've been fighting a bitch of a headache all day and no matter how much water I drink it hasn't disappeared, so I've resorted to a neurofen in the hope it'll leave quicker. It's just going to hurt a bit as I type this.
We must of got off the train around 5.30pm in a town called Bad Schandau. We were the only ones to get off the train and on inspection had arrived without any internet or phone service. We walked to the train station building and found a map on the wall that gave us a vague idea of where we were and where we needed to go. We only had a name of the campsite we were supposed to stay in that night and no real idea of where it was. On the map before us we saw a sign for 'Ostrau' and our campsite being called 'Ostrau Muhle' seemed we now had a rough idea of what direction to head. We crossed the main bridge leading us into Bad Schandau and were amazed by the beauty of the area, hills on either side with the great river Elba gushing through the center. I have to say we managed to get pretty lost on our way to the campsite. We luckily found a Aldi on our way which allowed us to stock up on food supplies for the next two days, but beyond that point we were pretty hopeless. After asking a few people if they knew of Ostrau Muhle we still ended up walking up the wrong valley. Thankfully our phones, although not giving a detailed map, allowed us to pinpoint where we were and it seemed to us not the correct direction. We found a path that lead us up over a mountain and then back down it into the correct valley and the center of Bad Schandau. From there it wasn't too complicated thankfully, as we had a tram-line that would take us along the road to our campsite. And so after a short break for some food we carried on our way and arrived at the campsite past 8pm. On arrival we realised that there was no one in the reception to check us in (it closed at 7.30pm). We decided to set up camp regardless and then pay for everything in the morning.It was the first time using our tent!! How exciting! It turned out to be perfect! Although we didn't have room for our bags so that had to stay outside the main zip and we then covered them with the waterproof cover. The ground we realised was uncooperative, with rocks in every other spot we chose. But it was so nice to relax in a tent again and after observing some fireflies that danced by us close the river, quickly fell asleep.
The next day we were up and ready early. As soon as the reception opened we paid for two nights of camping and bought a map showing perfectly all the available walk paths around the national park. We prepped our day while having a basic breakfast in the tent, packed our bags and were ready to set off. The day was due to be quite overcast, but in the lovely heat, alongside the freshness of the mountains it didn't bother us at all. Our first destination we wanted to head to was the Lichtenhainer Wasserfall, that was easy to get to as both the tram-line and the river headed in that direction. We chose to follow the river and on crossing a bridge got our first experience of hiking the trails, of course it was short but it was so incredibly fun, always having to watch your step, clambering over rocks and branches. We arrived at the waterfall close to lunch and stopped to take a picture or two and also have a German hot dog and a beer for Tom. After that we were all set for our afternoon of walking. Our next destination, not too far from the waterfall but certainly higher up was the Kuhstall. That by the looks of our map illustration was a walkway under a balancing rock. I don't think it took us too long to get there, but the view that met our eyes took my breath away. I couldn't believe it, before us you could see all of the forests below you for miles and with peaks of mountains poking up amongst it all. I was so happy that we had made it to a good view point! We saw a few people walking a certain direction that led higher and followed them and ended up climbing up a set of stairs squeezed between a crack in a rock. That was a bit nerve-racking but the view then above was even more splendid. We carried on walking around the rocks exploring any part we deemed interesting. It was incredible, you could walk right to the cliff edge if you desired and we certainly found a way to some bone-chilling drops. But we stayed safe and made the most out of the incredible views. Sheltered from some rain and snacked on an apple each, feet dangling over the edge. We headed back to the path and then from there began following a set of coloured paths that led us all round the area and eventually back to our campsite. It was such an amazing day and although we were in the middle of nowhere, at no point did we feel entirely lost. Every so often we would come across signs that told us clearly the directions of different paths and then on those paths every few minutes we would come across a rock or tree painted with the colour of said path. It was so well done, and meant we had a lovely day of exploring stress free. The only strain being the amount of mountains we must of climbed up and down and then along so high up from ground level. It was so so breath-taking, I feel emotional writing about it because it was so beautiful and you were basically alone surrounded by nature with nothing but each other and a map as a distraction. That was literally my happy place, I felt so blissfully at ease. *sigh* We made it back to the campsite around 6pm, fully worn out from a successful day of hiking. We had a quick snack and then had dinner in the campsite restaurant, before crashing out for the night.
The following day we had planned to see more of the National Park, a more popular area with the well-known Bastei Bridge that I was eager to see. But I'll leave that for my next post :)