Weather report: sunny in the morning but storms in the afternoon. We decide not to cycle but to visit Battei Rocks in the morning and Honigstein in the afternoon, despite the fact that it’s Saturday and both places will no doubt be full of vistiors. It’s 11 am by the time we reach the closest parking lot to Battei Rocks but it’s not full, we’re relieved to see. We walk the couple of kilometers to the start of the various lookouts.
All the paths are very safe and easy but I can’t help it, my old fear of heights resurges. The rocks look like a mini version of the Grand Canyon where I think my fear first started over 35 years ago. I go slowly, applying the method an Australian psychologist friend taught me and manage to approach near enough to the fences to take photos.
They are nothing like the magnificent autumn photos that Anda published in Travel Notes and Beyond last year but it is very hard to do justice to such stunning natural scenery. Fortunately, the sun is out but the result is somewhat hazy.
The visit takes about an hour and we head back down to the Elb for lunch at Stadt Wehlen, the little village with the unusual sundial. We find a restaurant called Hotel Café Richtel on the water and order our usual glass of weiss wein. Jean Michel chooses matjes, which seems to be the house speciality and turns out to be salted herring. I choose baked lamb and dumplings. It’s good to have a meal that’s not deep fried.
Afterwards, we head off for Honigstein, a 13th century fortress which is one of the largest in Europe and contains 50 different buildings. We leave the car in the Parkhaus and take the little train, thus saving 40 minutes on foot in each direction.
Set on a rocky landscape, Honigstein overlooks the Elbe and offers stunning 360° views of the surrounding countryside, including one of the loops in the river that we cycled along the day before.
Once again, our photos are hazy but Anda’s photos of Honigstein taken in autumn are perfect. They will also give you an idea of some of the buildings.
As it’s still early and sunny (we’ve had a couple of very short spitting spells but no storms), we go back to Bad Schandau to collect our cycling maps for a quick ride to the Czech border 8 km away before dinner. Bad luck – Jean Michel has a puncture, probably the first either of us has had since we began our cycling trips several years ago. The pump won’t work so I ride off to a cycle shop Jean Michel remembers seeing in the town to buy another one. I can’t find the shop and the entire town is shut down except for eating places!
He changes the inner tube and gets the pump to work which makes us think there may be a problem with the valve on the old tube. By then it’s starting to spit very lightly but we decide to take a chance.
The ride towards Czech Republic takes us past an amazing number of holiday rooms and flats with vacancies. We still don’t understand our difficulty finding a place to stay. After we leave the town, the river views are not as impressive as they are towards Pirna. As we approach Schmillke, we see there’s a ferry and we understand why when we reach the Czech border where the bike path abruptly ends. Crossing the ferry takes you to the path on the other side that goes right to Prague.
By now the spits have turned into light rain so we don our capes and ride back to Bad Schangan where our weiss wein is waiting in the fridge in our lime-green pension. Was is das? The wine is sweet! I check out the dictionary which provides an answer for once: Riesling Spätlese lieblich, it says – sweet late harvest riesling. Sigh …
Tomorrow, we’re off to Dresden.