After our last holiday trip took us to a foreign far away island, we decided that we would like to discover in our summer holiday … other foreign far away places – but this time in Germany! Truth is that even in this small country for us there are still so many ‘blind spots’ that we only have vage ideas of or not even that.
„Willst du immer weiter schweifen?
Sieh, das Gute liegt so nah.”
(J.W. Goethe, Erinnerung)
Time to roam Germany and find the good that lies so close as already Goethe pointed out. And we came across Goethe on our trip not only once…
We started our journey through – at least – some parts of Eastern Germany with a short stay in Leipzig, known for its alternative scene, its creatives and artist, most famous probably the so called Neue Leipziger Schule (New Leipzig School).
The area of Spinnerei – at the turn of the last century one of the biggest spinning works in Europe – with its slogan “from cotton to culture” thus seamed a fitting location for our stay, especially as the Meisterzimmer incorporate this industrial heritage as well as the surrounding creative spirit in the apartments, formerly workshops of the Spinnerei work masters.
Of course you could spend much more time in this city, but during our short stay we tried to get an impression by strolling through the city and its different quarters: the ‘wild west’ with its picturesque Karl-Heine-Kanal, the famous ‘Karli’, the varnished city centre with its glossy shopping malls.
The city guide Stadtschwärmer inevitably had too much information for our glimpse into Leipzig but is really recommendable. With its help we found our way f.ex. to delicious cake, pelmeni, oven potatoes, and Bratwurst, not the last one!
On our way out of Leipzig we stopped – of course as historians – at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument to the Battle of the Nations) which really is monumental. Sadly, the monument, its construction and its commemoration in the 20th century was very vagely contextualized by the exhibition, a missed chance in our view.
The road led us to the national park of Sächsisch-Böhmische Schweiz/Českosaské Švýcarsko. Already the name tells that this mountain range along the river Elbe/Labe ranges over Germany (Saxony) and the Czech Republic. Two different websites for the nationalpark for Saxon Switzerland and for Bohemian Switzerland make clear that natural coherence doesn’t simply level out politicial borders.
Exactly at this border, which has lost at least some of its relevance with the Czech Republic joining the EU in 2004, lies Schmilka, the village we stayed in.
Schmilka can be truly called a special place: A small village surrounded and formed by the mountains in its neck and the river Elbe at its feet. A village that was characterized since the 19th century by tourism, but kind of fell into sleep during communist era. Until Sven-Erik Hitzer discovered Schmilka and turned (nearly) the whole village into an ecological, sustainable hideaway, including a restored water mill, a bakehouse, a beer brewery and of course different acommodations in different restored houses. We f.ex. stayed at the rustic Forsthaus (Forester’s Lodge).
A great concept with a most picturesque outcome. But: Is this place just a too perfect idyllic world in all its cuteness and insularity? The running water mill, the organic garden at the Elbe, the organic craft beer and the rustic pies that are baked freshly in the village bakery? I guess you can argue about that, but it rescued the village and as a tourist it definitely works as a cozy hideaway where you can slow down for a few days.
Schmilka lies en route of the famous Malerweg, a 112 km hiking trail along the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains) with picturesque views that inspired painters (hence the name) like f.ex. Caspar David Friedrich. But there are also a lot of other smaller walking or hiking paths you can take. Climbing is also very popular in this region – but be aware of the special Saxon climbing rules.
We didn’t miss the nearby Bastei, one of the major attractions of the region. And we were lucky to be at this impressive site in the morning before most of the tourist coaches arrived. Highly recommended if you don’t want to feel like being thrown into a fish swarm (a fish swarm with selfie sticks and GoPro’s of course).
Through the Bahra valley we also drove across the border to the Tyssaer Steine/Tiské stěny (Tissa Walls) – a sandstone rock wall with all kinds of bizarre formations: gorges, holes, steles, table mounts. All of them are carrying funny names like “frog crown”, “gaunt doctor”, “stone mushroom” or “Napoleon’s shoe”. Although I have to say that the names we invented were even more creative 😉
I’m closing these impression of our remote ‘out of the world’ stay at this magic place between amazing stone formations and the Elbe valley with an excuse for the inflationary usage of the word “picturesque” in this blog post and with some … views of the Elbe banks when the sun had set and the clouds expanded into the valley – a scene for legends of knights, magicians and mythical creatures.