Saxon Switzerland

Saxon Switzerland

Saxon Switzerland is a mountainous climbing area and national park near Dresden in Saxony, Germany. It continues as the Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic.

Saxon Switzerland alone has some 1,000 climbing peaks, as well as several hollows. The area is popular with Dresden locals and international climbers.

The administrative district for the area is Sächsische Schweiz. The fortress of Königstein is a well-known landmark.


Saxon Switzerland was originally settled by Slavs and only fell to the Saxon Margraves of Meißen in the 15th century.

Saxon Switzerland area has a number of fortresses built to protect trade routes; remaining fortresses include Festung Königstein and Castle Hohnstein. Hardly anything is left of other castles and fortresses like the Small Bastei or the castle on the Falkenstein, today a climbing peak. Some fortresses were also used as nests for medieval raids.

The area became popular with tourists during the 19th century. Romantic artists were inspired by the beauty of wilderness, like the painter Ludwig Richter or the composer Carl Maria von Weber, who set his famous opera Der Freischütz with its Wolfsschlucht ("wolf's gorge") scene near the city of Rathen.

Medieval castles and anchorages

About 1000 years ago Bohemian-Saxony Switzerland was the borderland of three Slavic tribes. The tribe Nisane (easterly of the Elbe from Dresden to Pirna), the tribe Milzane (today's Oberlausitz) and in the south the tribe Dacine shaped the political and economic landscape at that time.When in the 13th century Germans began to settle, it came to a systematic banishment of the Bohemian influence and numerous local military conflicts around the strategically important fortifications. These fortifications primarily served the saving of the border and transportation routes. Due to missing central power this "protective function" was led by the residentiary knight orders. By a progressive dismembering of the area due to distribution of an estate, the economic balance of the region was not safe anymore. Many castles degenerated to robber-knight castles. Only in the middle of the 16th century when the Wettiner conquered numerous castles the situation could be changed.Today pleasure seekers visit the in part well preserved castles or climb the purged rock fortresses on arduous climbing routes.

The selection of castles includes:

Saxony: Hohnstein, Hockstein, Neurathen, Altrathen, Königstein, Lilienstein, Falkenstein, Frienstein, Rauschenstein

Bohemia: Schauenstein, Falkenstein, Kreibitzer Burg, Tollenstein, Khaaer Burg, Schönbuch

Rock Climbing

Saxon Switzerland is characterized by its sandstone rocks which draw many rock climbers. There exist ca. 14000 routes on over 1000 rock towers. At the beginning of the 20th century the 'Saxon Rules' for rock climbing were established. This is considered as one of the origins of free climbing. Ropes and bolts may only be used for protection but never as a means for climbing. The use of chalk and common means of protection such as nuts and friends is also not permitted; instead knotted nylon slings are used. With few exceptions climbing is only practised and allowed at freestanding towers. A Saxon peculiarity is the concept of a "Baustelle" (literally "construction site") where climbers pass a difficult part by climbing on top of the shoulders of other climbers (sometimes several people on top of each other) with everybody involved only holding himself by holds the rock provides. Though this would normally be considered a form of aid climbing, it is here accepted as a form of free climbing.

As the summits often stand very close to each other, jumping from one rock to another is also somewhat popular and even has its own grades of difficulty.

See also

Saxon Switzerland National Park
Elbe Sandstone Mountains


External links

* [ Saxony Switzerland] (en)
* [ Sächsische Schweiz] (in German)
* [ Official portal of the destination Saxon Switzerland] (in English)
* [ Saxon Switzerland]

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