A breathtaking hike in the Bohemian Switzerland to amaze you

Spectacular bounties of nature in Czech Republic…

There are travellers who thrive on hiking and trekking. Me…I’m not in that league. Yet, a trip to Bohemian Switzerland National Park was topping the ‘this-we-have-to-do’ list, while we drew up our Czech Republic itinerary. Just what was I thinking? I don’t know. A comfy coach that conveniently drops us off to ridiculously high vantage points for insta-worthy photo-opps, maybe. I’m aerially-challenged. And vertigo-prone. And exercise-averse. And plain lazy. (Nose wrinkle). But obsessively fascinated by that Youtube clipping on my laptop.

So, when we landed in Prague, and started digging around for details, I got my first major setback. I actually slumped back on the couch as I read the fine print: ‘6-8 kilometres of hiking’. No can do. Next morning I woke with a rethink. Let it go so easy? More research. Discouraging advise from pessimistic hotel concierge. Too tough. Too inaccessible. Locals don’t speak English. (I’m not making it up, he actually said that). Hmm, so we drop it then. Shrug. Next morning, new day. The Youtube clip is back to haunt me. A visit to the Czech Tourism Office. Positive recommendation…Ales Kubica, guide. Email drop. The reply reconfirms the 6-8 kilometres. Scowl. Give it up now. Wait, last ditch effort. Message good friend, Rashmi, who’s been to Prague just a week before. Whatsapp chat delivers inspiration. Motivation. And a decision. We are doing this!

Alec informative chitchats create the atmosphere as he drives us for an hour-and-half out of Prague until the silhouette of mountains starts defining the horizon. Anticipation already. The little village of Hrensko in Ústí nad Labem Region, bordering Germany heralds the arrival of the destination. The gentle Elbe breaks the harmony of thick forests and a bunch of half-timbered houses complete the portrait. The road snakes deeper, trees tower higher. Drop-off point at the edge of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. A light drizzle tests my determination, and I give it a flying kiss. I’m so ready for this. Deep breaths. Fresh, misty air softly tickles my nose. Hoodie check. Umbrella check. Hiking pole check. Here we go…

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Moment of glory

First steps into the 80 square kilometres of woody heaven. Wide open eyes. Lifted eyebrows. Soft whispers. Deep sighs. A mystical landscape of pine and beech. Dissolving into earthy greens and browns. Skimming over rain-drenched carpets of gold, amber, russet, scarlet, maroon leaves. Treading the sole-challenging, rough, stony path. Spotting mushroom bunches spring up from trees stumps. Crossing broken and fallen trees that lie undisturbed. Getting dwarfed by giant skyscraper trees. Shrinking under ancient, mammoth, sandstone mountains carved from a shallow sandy seabed, millions of years ago. Trudging along a narrow path that hugs sheer cliff-faces and sinks under jutting precipices. And refuelling with mysterious energy at every undiscovered bend.

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Staring at gnarled tree branches forcing their way through the mountain cracks and crevices towards the light. Spelling eventual destruction? Wondering about soft sandstone crumbling under your hands. A beach here maybe, thousands of years later? Shhhh!! In the distance, a birdsong…can any composer create a sweeter symphony? Closer by, an  incessant rhythm…silvery, tinkling teardrops dripping from leaves. And even closer…a gentle, pulsating, thudding, drumming…wait that’s my own heartbeat! Getting enveloped in the embrace of a wordless peace that soothes the soul. So why the irresistible urge to break into a dance?

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Downpour. Glimpse of an insurmountable vertical rock. A twinge of doubt. No, not up there! Brush it aside. Vision of the iconic Pravčická Brána, the 399 meters high, largest natural rock arch in Europe. Wowwww! But first, shelter in the Falcon’s Nest perched precariously on a rocky outcrop. Once a hotel, now a restaurant and photography gallery. Unbeatable location. Coffee, soup or beer. And prayers for the rain to stop. Luck! Rain gods in our favour. Carefully up a narrow, slippery flight of steps. Not looking down. Clutching the handrail. Finally at the top. Whoa, the views! The Views! THE VIEWS!

Pravčická Brána, Bohemian Switzerland 2

This is a dream! Reliving Chronicles of Narnia. Rock city. Deep valleys. Soaring towers, walls, labyrinths, ravines, ledges, canyons, gorges, ledges, pinnacles, cliffs. Steely-grey wrinkly mountains. Unthinkable shapes. A sea of rust-green forests. A romantic, soft grey mist hanging over nature’s most surreal painting. Infinity. And that victorious feeling. Whoohooo! Cakewalk!

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Gorgeousness and a gorge

Back to the parking lot and another drive 30 minutes away for lunch. And the next hike. This time, down to the Edmund Gorge in Hřensko, the lowest point of the Czech Republic (114 meters). Alec drops the critical question. It many be raining down there. Yay or nay? No brainer, actually. I’m up for it. Is that adrenaline talking?

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Deep in the gorge, where sunlight can barely penetrate through the trees. Into a deep and narrow valley carved out of sandstone. Down. Further down. Through secret groves and a moss-veiled trail. Through shady glades. A gentle trail leading to the most charming wooden foot-bridge over the gently flowing Kamenice river. Walled in by the sheer grey rock of the Edmund Gorge. Strewn almost artistically with warm, wet autumn foliage. Discovering mushrooms that blow air as you pinch them. Chasing striped salamander through the ferns. Navigating a labyrinth of rocks, tunnels ledges, admiring stone art that nature sculpted and upholstered with moist fuzz. Some smooth as marble, others as if sliced by a sharp knife, some as if shaped by moulds. Can’t stop grinning.

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The magic continues. An idyllic boat trip through the river. With a gondolier who pole-glides you over the dark shallow waters, fascinating you with Czech legends of stone giants hidden in the sandstone rock formations rising from the secretive waters. There’s a frog. And a crocodile. Even King Kong! Imagination running wild. Tinkling of the crystal clear Kamenice. Floating into nothingness. 

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More hiking. Now uphill. The great lungs and legs challenge. I can feel the strain now. Huff and puff. Nature, as rugged as it comes. No benches to catch the breath. No funiculars in case I give up. Just me, the tireless mountain path and the unadulterated air supply. Gulp away, exhale and march on. Incessant rewards…unreal gorgeousness.

Finding Fairyland

Cutting through the German border into Saxony for a subtle, yet sudden change. A new standard of symmetry and order…roads as if newly painted, farmlands framed perfectly, even curves as if designed by computer graphics. Half an hour later, another spectacle awaits at Saxon Switzerland National Park.

An even more dramatic ‘city in stone’. Complete with craggy sandstone cliffs, vertigo-inducing gorges, surprising spire-shaped peaks, raw ravines and tabletop mountains. Several rocks and peaks with lookouts that can be accessed via stairways and bridges. Thousands of vertical rock pillars for adrenaline-junkie rock climbers. Hundreds of hiking trails for nature lovers. Meadows, moors, and extensive forests for the romantic at heart.

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Heading for the most photographed location: Bastei (German for bastion) Bridge, suspended 200 meters above the valley floor and blending in seamlessly with the  natural sandstone rocks. Built in 1851 to replace the original wooden bridge over a narrow valley, this bridge served no other purpose except as a viewing platform. Jaw-dropping then, jaw-dropping now. Gaping. For as long as I can. 

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From the Bastei Peak, (even higher at 305 meters), pinching myself that this is really happening and is not a fantasy of my errant mind. Age-worn fortress-like sandstone rock towers framing the elegant curves of the Elbe River far below in the valley. Countless shades of blue from the skies reflecting on her glassy surface. The soft sun rays glistening and showing off her delicate waves. Pretty red roof houses lining the banks complementing the hues of green. Its not a painting, its paradise. And I know why the Swiss painter duo, Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, gave this area its fairytale name.

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My hair is stringy, my calf muscles are sore and my feet are wet. My fitness app has clocked 15 kilometres for the day. I still have that grin pasted on my face. Despite the fact that I am the lead contender in the ‘Reluctant Hiker of the Millennium’ award. It must be the exhilaration because its certainly not the exhaustion. And I desperately need a long, warm soak now.

 

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Breathtaking hiking trails in Bohemian Switzerland

 

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68 thoughts on “A breathtaking hike in the Bohemian Switzerland to amaze you

  1. Worth it just for the amazing photographs. It must be brilliant on a clear day, but you certainly made the most of the conditions.

    Hope you didn’t have to carry a big heavy camera too far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, you really paint a beautiful picture of this walk – despite your reluctance to embark on it in the first place. It looks like it turned out to be worth it in the end. I love those tall rock towers, they look like something out of Avatar the movie 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s very pretty! Especially that aerial view of the small houses and the river. It’s funny that you seem really not to like hiking haha, but I guess it was definitely worth it eventually. Sometimes you need to do things you’re a bit insecure about!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The name was a bit confusing, because of Bohemia forest and Switzerland in one sentence. I bet with you a lot of people will think you are talking about Switzerland! Is the Bohemia forest (Böhmerwald) the same as Bohemia switzerland, or the latter maybe situated in the first one?
    Over the years I heard a lot about this corner of Czech republic. After all it’s also a rich region with an intriguing history. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lol I love how honest you are in the first paragraph but still couldnt help giggle at seeing you hike with a handbag and boots. The photos completely speak for themselves and this looks like an unmissable hike. The sandstone rock formations are amazing! I’m glad you went!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations Punita! Now that you have “discovered” how amazing is hiking (great views do not come without some effort) will we see more hiking posts on cobble roads? Maybe an Himalayas post? Amazing views with all those pinnacles, a pity you chose a rainy day but I am sure you feel very proud of yourself . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elisa, this was my first attempt, and I certainly am tempted to embark on more such adventures. Himalayas…hmmm, no promises 🙂 Rains are our constant companion and I love the rains, it added to the romance of the day.

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  7. Ha, you are just like me. Aerially-challenged, vertigo-prone and exercise-averse! SPOT on! I would not want to do miles of trekking even to get those amazing insta shots! I’m so impressed that you pushed onwards, even through the rain! Love that gorge path in particular, carved into the hill itself and the boat trip but I’d haaate the climb bak up again afterwards!

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  8. Bohemian Switzerland National Park sounds incredible! So glad to hear you weren’t discouraged by the hiking in the end. I can almost smell the pine from your photographs, looks like a beautiful forested wonderland. What an area to explore! Had no ideathat the Czech Republic had the largest natural rock arch in Europe; Falcon’s Nest sounds like a good place to have stopped to wait out the rain 🙂

    Sounds like a huge challenge for you, but the hardest are always the most rewarding right! I mean, those views!! What I would give to walk across Bastei Bridge. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Switzerland is just so beautiful! I had never heard of Bohemian Switzerland National Park but it looks like an incredible place to hike – even if it was on the challenging side. I always find those hikes more rewarding as you really feel like you have accomplished something by the time you get to the end – and then you always sleep well afterwards!

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  10. I love Switzerland and I love the Czech Republic. This is one of those slightly bizarre things which clearly works brilliantly, although on paper it shouldn’t! So glad you enjoyed the hiking – I’d be just as apprehensive as you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Absolutely LOVED reading this post. It was like reading poetry — so descriptive and moving! Stunning photography of an area I had never even heard of before. I had no idea there was such a beautiful canyon and mountain vistas here! Thanks for an enjoyable read!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this part of the world and being able to get onto the water is just so amazing. I thought about the last time I got caught in a thunderstorm when I was hiking too, so completely understood what was going on when this happened to you. I just love Switzerland too, although haven’t been to this incredible looking national park. Perhaps next time….

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    1. The rain actually added to the atmosphere. I don’t know where we would have taken shelter if it was a thunderstorm! But loved every micro-second. The National Park is in the Czech Republic region, not Switzerland 🙂

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  13. This is such a gorgeous hike, I wish I had known about its existence on my trip to Prague, would’ve definitely visited. It’s so green, peaceful and pretty! I love such places. What a misleading name though, who would have guessed its in the Czech Republic and not actually Switzerland, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a gorgeous place for a hike. It combines so much natural beauty with unique and gorgeous architecture. Plus it looks like you did it at the best time of years to see amazing colours.

    Liked by 1 person

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