Combining the cultural riches of Prague and Dresden with the dramatic scenery of the Malerweg trail (voted Germany’s most beautiful hiking path), our new Bohemian Rhapsody tour proved inspirational for Jane and Richard Anderson.
Die Bastei! The fortress! We had already looked up at the massive man-made defences of Konigstein, high above the Elbe, glowering over this border country. Now we gazed at die Bastei, a series of sandstone rock formations, wreathed in mist, just as the German Romantics depicted. Evocative, awesome ... I could go on. The first weekend in Prague had introduced us to the rich history of the Czech Republic; now we were embarking on the 70-mile Malerweg trail (Painters' way), based around the Elbe valley and named for its dramatic landscapes. Deservedly winner of 'Germany's most beautiful hiking path' within a year of opening, this circular route starts at Liebenthal and ends at the Canaletto House in Pirna. The area is also known as 'Saxon Switzerland', as it reminded 19th century Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff of their homeland.
Our eight walking days provided contrasting but always beautiful landscapes, from dried-up river beds to waterfalls that operated after putting a euro in the slot machine! Efficiently installed steps led us into the valley of the Polentztal – we counted 870 down, then 550 back up to the village of Waitzdorf – we had earned our kaffee und kuche! On 'village days' we noted the popularity of quirky wood carvings and stunning flowers; even the disused linoleum factory, bizarrely lurking in Kohlmuhle, did not detract from the charm of the village, hiding deep in the forest. The view from the famous Schrammsteine ridge reminded us of Towoomba in the Blue Mountains, NSW (but much easier to visit!) We spent our rest day commuting downriver to Konigstein by paddle steamer from Bad Schandau, and investigating the fortress which proved even more impressive at close quarters.
The final two days in Dresden provided yet more stunning history and architecture, with the additional treat of touring the famous opera house, home to the oldest orchestra in Europe. Bohemian Rhapsody ticked all the boxes for us.
And made us think. In the German countryside many of our generation spoke very limited English, if any.
This area has come under many regimes; its inhabitants have changed nationalities and even had different religions imposed upon them. Yet they have retained their cultural identity through art and literature, inspired by the beauty of their landscape. We thoroughly recommend the Malerweg! They had been educated during the Soviet era; their second language was Russian.
This was our second holiday with Ramblers Worldwide and we are already looking at possibilities for next year!