Saxon Switzerland Germany

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Saxon Switzerland National Park
Saxon Switzerland National Park

[ source: Wikipedia]

The Saxon Switzerland is one of Germany's few national parks. It is located in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, 30 kilometers south of Dresden (Dresden vacation rentals | Dresden travel guide), and derives its names by the now famous commentary by two 18th century Swiss artists who compared this region favorably to their homeland. The area covers approximately 700 square kilometers, and is one of Europe's last large wildernesses. Its natural beauty has been attracting tourists since the early 1800s, and one of the first trolleybus lines in the world was constructed in 1901 to help open up the Saxon Switzerland to eager visitors.

In recognition of the region's transnational importance, the national park is actually a cross-border entity, administered by the governments of both Germany and the Czech Republic. To protect this wilderness area, the national park was established in 1990, prior to German reunification. Germany's Saxon Switzerland National Park is extremely popular among rock climbers. This area is actually considered the birthplace of the practice of free climbing. The park has over 14,000 climbing routes over 1,100 rock pinnacles. The Bastei, a towering rock formation that reaches 194 meters, is the Saxon Switzerland's most famous peak. Commanding a stunning view of the Elbe River, the Bastei has been a tourist destination for over 200 years, and it is reachable be a sandstone bridge that was constructed to provide access to the rocks in 1851. The national park also offers 400 kilometers of hiking trails for those seeking more earth-bound activities.

Visitors to the Saxon Switzerland in Germany should make an early stop at the park's visitor center in Bad Schandau (Bad Schandau vacation rentals | Bad Schandau travel guide). The center offers exhibits on the national park region in German, Czech, and English. Besides the natural wonders of this area, there a numerous historic sites that will appeal to those who are more culturally minded. The Saxon Switzerland's rocky beauty became a popular motif for Romantic era artists. Carl Maria von Weber set his opera Der Freischuetz in the Saxon Switzerland, near the town of Rathen (Rathen vacation rentals | Rathen travel guide). Iconic depictions of the scenery were painted by numerous artists, such as Caspar David Friedrich and J.M.W. Turner. In the Swiss House on the Bastei, one can view some of the paintings showing various landscapes around the Saxon Switzerland. This area also has an array of castles and fortress ruins, most of which were built in the 13th century to protect the border between Saxony and Bohemia and to defend trade routes through this part of Germany. Among these castles, the most famous is Koenigstein Fortress, one of the biggest mountain fortresses in Europe. Over its 750-year history, it was considered one of the most secure locations in Saxony, and when threatened, dukes and electoral princes moved their courts and their treasures here for safekeeping.

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About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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