The region was given its name because of its similarity to Switzerland’s rugged landscape. Containing both the Ore and Lusation ranges – as well as the Elbe river – the Sächsische Schweiz is one of the most mountainous areas in Germany. If you like climbing around on rocks, you’ll find its fissured, craggy landscape ideal; with over 1,000 climbing peaks it’s become something of a mountaineering Mecca. It will also suit you if you are into hiking, biking, kayaking or just about any other outdoorsy pursuit you can think of.
Set at the far edge of this natural wonderland, within the Saxony Switzerland National Park, is Camping Thorwaldblick. Cosy and intimate would be apt words for this diminutive campsite, which has been up and running since 1996. Run by the downto- earth Peh family, there’s only room for 20 or so tent-carrying souls (caravans and mobile homes are located on the other side of reception), but the campers get to inhabit a lovely garden-like area fringed with fruit trees and surrounded by fields.
The site has only basic amenities (reception, toilets, washing facilities), but tiny Hinterhermsdorf – once the proud winner of a ‘Germany’s Most Beautiful Village’ award – is just down the road. Despite its size, Hinterhermsdorf is a popular holiday haunt, boasting lots of handsome half-timbered houses and plenty of fresh mountain air. Plus, it has all the usuals: butcher, baker, restaurants and a mini-market.
The Saxony Switzerland National Park covers two areas of 35-odd square miles (90 sq km), most of it covered in beech and conifer forests and criss-crossed with trails, peaks and voluptuous vistas. Apart from hiking and biking your way through this topnotch rural scenery, you can make a beeline for such specific stop-offs as the striking 13th-century fortress Festung Königstein (a 30-minute drive), the equally dramatic Stolpen castle (a 45-minute drive) or the famous Bastei bridge (another 45-minute drive), with its distinctive rock formations and grandiose views.
For urban thrills, head to nearby Dresden (a one-hour drive), which wasn’t nicknamed the ‘Florence of the Elbe’ for nothing. It offers an array of rebuilt Baroque architecture (it was controversially firebombed by the Allied Forces at the end of World War II), world-renowned museums and a truly engaging buzz. It makes for a fantastic day trip and, since it’s one of the greenest cities in Europe, it’s a decent option for families, too.
If that’s not exotic enough for you, strike out in the other direction across the Czech border. Right next door lies the Šumava National Park (a natural continuation of the Saxony Swiss one), with plenty of charming Czech villages. A two-hour drive will bring you to dark, mysterious Prague.
But you don’t need to go quite so far to enjoy yourself: there are hikes and bike rides aplenty nearby. And whilst the onsite facilities are limited, there’s an adventure pool in Neustadt (about 12 miles/20 km away) and a relaxation swimming pool and adventure park in Sebnitz (6 miles/10 km away). You can canoe on the Elbe or hike up to the Weifbergturm (a 40-minute walk) for a panoramic view of the Ore and, on a clear day, even the Czech Krkonose mountains.
When you’re done exploring, head back to your intimate garden retreat, cook up some food on the stove and relax. Now, what was that about cracking open some bottles?
FacilitiesThere’s only space for 20 or so tents, and not much in the way of onsite facilities. The facilities are humble but adequate – a room with sinks; fridge; cooking facilities; and washing machine. The site has a small playground with a sandpit, swings and a table-tennis table.
NearbyIn Hinterhermsdorf you can hire a horse-cart and take a tour around the local countryside or try a ceramics painting course (ask at reception for details). In Sebnitz, the Forellenschenke (www.gasthof-forellenschenke.de) has an obstacle course, adventure park and minigolf. For serious relaxation, try the Toskana Therme spa (www.toskanaworld. net) at Bad Schandau, where you can unwind in a wonderful setting. There is also a gliding school in Pirna (www.aeroclub-pirna.de) if you want to earn some romantic air miles.
Food & DrinkYou can order bread and brötchen from the nearby bakery, as well as steaks and bratwürste (sausages) for a BBQ, plus ice cream, beer, wine and soft drinks. The closest shop is Dorfladen (open until 8pm) in Hinterhermsdorf. Also in Hinterhermsdorf are restaurants such as Erbgericht and Wanderstübel, which offer traditional food. Gasthof zur Hoffnung is a bit nicer. Sebnitz has a Bauernmarkt on Mondays and Wednesdays (9am–6pm).
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Contact Thorwaldblick, Schandauer Strasse 37, 01855 Hinterhermsdorf, Germany
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