Letter from Germany, part 4
In this final installment, I’ll take you to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of southeastern Germany. This is an area I had never visited; in fact, I had never even heard of it until last year. Located deep in the former East Germany, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are part of Saxon Switzerland National Park which, in turn, adjoins Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the Czech Republic.
|View of the Elbe River from the Bastei|
One source I consulted called the Elbe Sandstone Mountains the “Grand Canyon of Germany.” While this comparison is a bit tenuous, there is no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful areas of Germany.
|Panoramic view from the Bastei overlook in the photo above|
The biggest attraction of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains is a rock formation called Bastei, located near the village of Rathen (seen in the photo below).
|Village of Rathen on the Elbe River|
This rock formation has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. A wooden bridge spanning several rocks was built in 1824. In was replaced thirty years later by the sandstone bridge that is still in existence today.
|Bastei Bridge as seen from the overlook|
|Approach to the Bastei Bridge|
|Bastei Bridge from Ferdinandstein|
|Bastei Bridge from Ferdinandstein|
Viewed from a distance, the Bastei Bridge almost looks like a movie set for, say, the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Harry Potter movies.
|This view reminds me of the Li River in China (see here)|
|I loved the narrow rock passages|
In the Middle Ages, the Bastei rocks were home to Neurathen Castle, the largest “rock castle” in the region. The purpose of this fortification was to protect the trade routes along the Elbe River. After major excavations in the early 1980s, an open-air museum was established. Very few of the original features are left (the cistern is one of them) but metal walkways spanning sheer drop-offs give you a pretty good idea of how precarious life in this fortification must have been.
|View of Bastei Bridge from the Neurathen Castle open-air museum|
|Reconstruction of an onager used in medieval times to the bridge against attackers|
|Shaped sandstone rocks used as projectiles for the onager (while the onager in the photo above is a reconstruction, these are original projectiles found during the excavation of Neurathen Castle)|
|This tree is growing straight out of the rock|
|Panoramic view of the Bastei formation and bridge from Neurathen Castle|
|One of the many sandstone formations|
|This rock formation is called “the Monk” (there’s a figure of a monk on top)|
|View of the valley far below where we were standing. Everything was shockingly green.|
Visiting the Bastei was the highlight of my whirlwind trip to Germany. The scenic beauty of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains really took me by surprise, and I’m already planning a return trip with the whole family.
Whenever I visit Germany in the spring, the sight I most look forward to are the rapeseed fields in full bloom. The flowers are so intensely yellow, you can spot a rapeseed field from a mile away.
Rapeseed is used as animal feed, to make biodiesel or simply as a winter cover crop. In North America, a particular cultivar of rapeseed is used to make canola oil (according to Wikipedia, the name “canola” was coined in 1978 from “Canadian oil, low acid”).
I find these expanses of yellow to be immensely cheery and I enjoy driving around looking for rapeseed fields.
Because under the communist regime in East Germany agricultural production was handled by collectivized farms called “Agricultural Production Comradeships,” fields in the east are much larger than in the west.
This field was particularly immense; the expanse of yellow stretched to the horizon and wrapped beyond it.
I hope you enjoyed these photos from my trip to Germany. Starting tomorrow, it’s back to gardening in Davis, California.