First published in German under „Small escapes“
Hrensko, Mezni Louka, Mezná
Entering the Czech Republic with the Elbe ferry
What do you do as a Saxon when you are fed up with all the Christmas droning, stress of the Advent season, feel completely overcrowded with orgies over the holidays and can’t see any relatives anymore? That’s right, one quickly drives to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. And to leave behind the last remnants of the German holiday culture, it’s best to go straight to the Czech side, i.e. to Bohemian Switzerland.
That’s super fast, especially by train, because from Dresden the S-Bahn runs hourly to Schöna. And on the other side of the Elbe is already the Czech Republic – just get on the Elbe ferry below the station, a short crossing and you are in Hŕensko – Czech Republic. This is the best starting point for hiking in the Bohemian Switzerland.
Unfortunately, the „German leading culture“ doesn’t let you go completely on the first few meters – here you’ll find stand after stand of the Asiamarkt with cigarettes, branded clothes, toy plunder and – German hits, which roar from several stands and quickly drive us on.
But behind it, a pretty little town with a baroque stylish church invites you. For the first hunger from the arrival there are different restaurants, small refreshment before the journey up. For vegetarians, besides pancakes either with a sweet filling or with mushrooms, often only cheese au gratin remains on the menu. But this is already the hoped-for energy boost for the upcoming hike.
If you want, you can of course also find a place to stay directly at Hŕensko (Herrnskretschen). There are enough hotels and pensions.
Hiking to Mezná
But it is nicer to stay in Mezni Louka (Rainwiese) or Mezná (Stimmersdorf), because it is even quieter there in the winter days. At the same time you are already „on the mountain“ and have the best overview. So hiking routes in different directions.
The direct way up there leads unfortunately first about 2.5km along the road, which is not so nice, even if this road is not very busy. Opposite the turn-off to the Prebischtor (Prebian Gate), a forest path begins on the south side of the road, which leads directly to Mezná. A somewhat more strenuous summer alternative leads through the Kamenica gorge (Edmund’s gorge) on the green path, but it is not passable in winter (partly boat ferries) and depends on the weather. The third option is the more southern and considerably longer path (marked yellow) via Janov (Johnsdorf).
A warm room in cold foggy nights
In Mezná we had a quarter in the „U Mareśú“ – an old inn with some rooms on the upper floor. The landlady speaks almost no German or English, but makes up for it with pure friendliness. Nevertheless we managed to arrange our wishes (o.k., with a little bit of school russian, a few chunks of polish and other gibberish you can manage that somehow). Anyway, the breakfast was extremely meat-heavy, which I didn’t like at all as a vegetarian and also as a morning sweetener. No problem, the next day the sausage was gone, but more cheese and honey, jam etc. Vegans would have a hard time anyway, but that is usually similar in the German province.
The room was already super warm. Considering the humid fog clouds that moved around the mountains outside, a relief. But for a good oxygen boost at night the heating had to be turned down properly. The equipment is now nothing special, simple pressboard furniture from the furniture market. For two nights without great demands but o.k. The bathroom was very spacious, clean, flowed in friendly colours and – super warm. For a hard outdoorer almost too much luxury!
Although it is getting dark early and we are already in the twilight, we started another exploration walk down into the Kamenice gorge. Because this gorge is located directly south below Mezná, the way to Janov and Růžová (Rosendorf) crosses the river at Mezná. Today, fog wafts through this narrowly incised notch valley and together with the advancing darkness it gives the scenario a mystical character. Above this river crossing is the Divoke Soutéska, the Wild Gorge, where the river squeezes between narrow rock walls. I would like to see this again in spring. Then the best way is to go by boat, down the river. From Vysoká Lipa (Hohenleipa) it is probably possible to paddle through the gorge and canyon by raft to Hrensko.
The disadvantage of winter tours is that it gets dark so early and the nights are long. So we start, almost in the dark, on the short but steep way back to Mezná. There we quickly explore the few streets and buildings, but apart from a few closed summer inns we don’t find anything really interesting.
Well, I have my eReader with me, there was fresh reading for Christmas too and so a nice reading evening remains in our little room.
Once Prebisch – Gate and back
After the really good refreshment with fresh coffee and an ample breakfast, from which we could steal some breads for the journey, we set off. Today’s goal is a round with the high-light Prebisch gate. (Pravćicka brána). First we take the forest path back towards Hrensko (marked red). It is relatively unspectacular, but a very pleasant forest path with spruces and beeches, some old mushrooms along the way and sometimes short views.
At the road we change sides this time and climb up again on the other side of the valley. Here there are always a few other hikers on the way despite the wet and cold weather. The Prebischtor has been attracting guests for over a hundred years. After a last ascent we reach this stone monument, which is the landmark of Bohemian Switzerland. It is a stone gate between rock faces, created by erosion caused by wind and erosion.
Next to it is a high, multi-storey building. The basement is three storeys high, built of Elbe sandstone, on which a two-storey wooden building was erected. It was probably the first explicitly large-scale tourist project in Elbe – Switzerland ever. And – oh wonder – while we use all possible good and best photo positions under the gate and around the gate extensively, the sun actually breaks through the clouds and rips the grey-covered sky to a friendly blue! So the world looks quite different. By looking over the mountain landscape in the surroundings, we see how from the ridges and the slope forests, there are everywhere some clowds coming off and rising from the valleys. An impressive scenery, already for this view the short trip was worthwhile.
Of course we don’t leave out any view and no ridge, so that we will be at the gate for over an hour. In the Baude we try to get something to eat. But in the winter time there is only an „emergency supply“ with hot sausage or some packed cookies. There we leave it with a hot chocolate and our brought breads. There are already some visitors, but the restaurant is only really worthwhile in the season. Everything has to be carried up the hill (or transported up with a material lift)…
We then continue our hike below the wall in beautiful sunny weather in the direction of Mesni Luka. This is not a great challenge either, but a varied path along the southern flank of Zschand and Großer Winterberg. By the way, the path is once again marked with a big red EB. This is the old long-distance hiking trail Eisenach – Budapest, which here leads through the Bohemian Switzerland. In my report on Mala Fatra I have already mentioned the path.
Rest in Mezni Louka
In Mesni Louka you will find a hotel resort with a good restaurant right at the first intersection. Hospúdka U Foŕta. Of course we have not ordered in advance, but the waiters find a place for us.
And here we have – gratinated cheese. Yes, there are also various other delicacies. But this time the cheese is really a real culinary treat – grilled goat cheese with cherry tomatoes and honey mustard dressing, all skilfully draped on the plate. The eye eats along! Add to that a desert and the goal of eliminating any Christmas bacon is gone again. Okay, we’re probably out of calories.
That’s what I’m talking about 😉
After this feast we continue our hike, now already in the dark again, towards Mezna. The direct way is the road, unfortunately there is nothing else left. But outside the village we can walk sideways on the meadow, which is more comfortable for feet and joints than hard asphalt.
Other interesting tours in the region
- from Mezná to Růžová (Rose Village), continue past Rúźovsky Vrch (Rose Hill, 619 m) – for those who want to dare to reach the summit, there are steep ascents – via Kamenická Stran back to Mezni Louka
- from Mezni Louka take the red trail east to the „Little Prebish Gate“ (Mala pravćická brána) and continue to Saunśtejn/ Loupeźnický Hradek and there turn back to the yellow trail west to Mezni Louka. Alternatively and a lot further, do not take the yellow path, but the road to Vysoká Lipa and from there take the blue path northwest to Mezni Louka.
- Especially nice is another tour at the Dittersbacher Walls. However, on foot the journey could be a bit long in winter. On the other hand, it might work out well to take at least one route from Mezni Louka by bus to Jetŕichovice (Dittersbach). There the tour begins on the red trail to the north (east) past the Falkenstein, Krkavi Skála, Mariina Skála, Vileminina vyhlidka (Willhelminen wall), Rudolfuv Kámen (Rudolfstein). The round trip closes over the green path back to Jetŕichovice. In summer, on long days, it is possible to take the red path further west past the small Prebisch Gate back to Mezni Louka.
It is important not to underestimate the short day length in autumn and winter! Even if you are used to longer hiking tours, in the afternoon the darkness will catch up quickly and it can get very dark between the stones. For this reason alone, it is highly recommended to take a good torch* with you. If you are not sure about the length of the tour and the time needed, you are on the safe side. Because, in both Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland, the official hiking trails are well marked and signposted. With a strong lamp you can easily find the markings.
Best time to travel:
You can actually travel to Bohemian Switzerland all year round. The only important thing is that there is not a wet rainy season – then the paths are muddy and slippery. In winter, as mentioned above, you have to consider that the days are quite short. You should plan shorter day trips. A good flashlight* helps when it has gotten a little longer. And good literature or games for long evenings in a cosy pension. But especially when the winter fog passes through the valleys, these mountains offer a special atmosphere.
Wonderful are sunny spring days, when the fresh green leaves on the many beech seedlings break open and the morning dew makes the stones glitter. In summer this mountain range is often very crowded. High hiking boots with profile are recommended in any case.
Journey to the Bohemian Switzerland
Via Dresden (Germany):
The variant presented here is based on Dresden in the German state of Saxony. For example as a small excursion from a city visit in Dresden.
The nearest airports are Dresden or Leipzig-Halle.
By land, take the train* or long-distance bus* to Dresden Hbf. From there take the S-Bahn* to Schöna Fährstelle, Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna. Last train 16:29, in winter last ferry from Schöna-Reinhardtsdorf 17:30!
Ferry across the Elbe – from Schöna (station) to Hŕensko only runs until 17:30 in winter! This is a pure passenger ferry, no cars. The Elbe-Labe – Ticket is valid, no Dresden compound tickets. Payment on board. Bicycles are possible. Possibly a little longer in the evening is the ferry in Schmilka (S-Bahn station Schmilka- Hirschmühle). From Schmilka it is about 1.5 km along the road to Hŕensko in the Czech Republic.
From Hrensko to Janov, Mezná and Mezni Louka (and further) there are regular buses.
You can rent a car* in Dresden. By car to Motorway A17 exit Pirna, then direction Bad Schandau, from there south to Hŕensko. To Mezni Louka and Mezná turn left and follow the road through the village. There is a gas station in Hŕensko. The only road crossings over the Elbe (bridges) are in Pirna and Bad Schandau and from the south in Decin (Tetschen). There are no car ferries in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Via Prague (Czech Republic)
If you visit Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, you can make a detour to Bohemian Switzerland from there. The best way is to take the train to Dećin and from there take the local bus to Hrenskó.
Accommodation in Bohemian Switzerland
The Hotel Praha* is located directly in Hŕensko. It is an old hotel from 1910 and a restaurant offers Czech cuisine. Some rooms are suitable for guests with disabilities. Parking spaces are available free of charge.
A holiday apartment* is hidden behind the title Chalupa 47, which is located in an old wooden house with a quarry stone base. The apartment has a living room and 2 bedrooms with a total of 5 beds. The sofa in the living room can be used for another 2 persons. There is a kitchen and a bathroom with washing machine. There is a sauna in the apartment. Your sleeping places are under the pitched roof and are accessible via a wooden staircase. The bathroom is tiled, otherwise most rooms are covered with wooden panels.
The guesthouse Pŕivoz* offers two suites with a river view of the Elbe ferry and a three-bed room with a terrace. A further room with a French bed is kept simpler. The suites each have 2 bedrooms with 2 double beds and are suitable for 4 adults and one child. The accommodation is pet-friendly. Luggage can be stored safely on departure. Bicycles can be included.
Already mentioned was the Resort Hotel U Foŕta* in Mezni Louka. A great place not only to go out for dinner. Otherwise there is accommodation in different categories from suite over apartments, simple rooms, bungalows up to the campground. These hotel also offers wellness facilities. The location is perfect, because from there you can start different hiking tours. A bus stops practically in front of the door.
More or less opposite you will find the traditional Hotel Mezni Louka*. The building is noble! An old manor house dating from 1893 was built by Prince Edmund von Clary- Aldringen. In summer, there is not only a restaurant with barbecue, but also a beer garden. All rooms have a bathroom.
In Trixi’s guesthouse* on the edge of the forest in Mezná, visitors feel at home in the garden or on the balcony with a mountain view. The 4 bedrooms can accommodate up to 10 people. A kitchen and a grill are available. Breakfast, coffee and bread rolls can be organized by the landlady.
In the holiday Apartment Renata* there is room for up to 6 people. 2 rooms distributed on two floors, a dining area and a self-catering kitchen are available. Parking spaces are free of charge about 50m away. The landlady helps with errands. Dogs are allowed.
The already mentioned Penzion u Marešů* can accommodate up to 20 people in 6 rooms. Breakfast is included, as already described above, very meat-heavy. But the landlady will gladly change this according to your wishes. In the season there is extended gastronomy on the ground floor and on a sunny terrace, from where you can see the Prebisch-Tor in good weather. Pets are allowed. Parking spaces are freely available in an adjoining garden.
In Janov about 3 km above Hŕensko the Hotel U Zeleného Stromu (To the green tree)* invites guests. From single rooms to the hall everything is available for rent. Several houses belong to the hotel complex, including an old half-timbered house. Some of the rooms are wood-panelled. All lovingly furnished and clean. A restaurant with a fireplace is located in the main house, as is the reception. Pets are allowed.
In Růžová (Rosendorf) the pension Růžák* is pleased about guests. Four double rooms are available, three of them can be extended to three-person rooms with additional beds. The varied breakfast is particularly praised. Community kitchen, grill and a garden can be used. The operators produce herbal soaps themselves – anyone interested can watch or help themselves.
The resort U Foŕta in Mezni Louka also offers a wellness program, either booked as a single massage or as a comprehensive wellness package.
Otherwise the Toskana Therme Bad Schandau on the German side, about 15km away, invites you to bathe and relax.
The Czech Republic continues to use the Czech koruna (Kcs) as its national currency. But no problem. In the border region Euro’s are accepted everywhere. In addition, you can pay more and more often by credit card. 1€ corresponds to about 25,5 Kćs.
As usual, there are a lot of maps and guides for areas that are well developed for tourism. This is no different for the Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland, especially as it is one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world. The discovery of the area for tourists already began at the end of the 19th century.
Hiking maps from the Rolf Böhm Verlag* are produced almost on site, namely in Bad Schandau. The title covers are striking, as they are a review of the old maps of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the contents of the maps are up to date, the last updates for the map Bohemian Switzerland were made in 2017. The map is at a scale of 1:40,000, which means that one kilometre of the landscape in its natural state can be accommodated at 2.5cm. This guarantees a high level of detail. A visual impression of the sometimes steeply rising heights is provided not only by the contour lines (which in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains can sometimes be millimetre thick), but also by shading.
Even more detailed is the hiking map Elbsandsteingebirge* with the scale 1:25.000, which is published by the approved KOSMOS publishing house. Here Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland are united in one map, which is together with the small scale quite a lot of information at once. Unfolded the map takes up already some area. This includes a small „Active-Guide“ and a free app. Hints for cyclists and riders are also included.
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The link offers with * are so-called affiliate links. If you click on the link and buy a ticket or a hiking map or book a room with the affiliate, then I get a small commission for it. This is already included in the price anyway, so you don’t pay more.