Saturday morning we set off to Saxon Switzerland. Of course we could have chosen a different destination for our trial run and left the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains) till September but I wanted Alberto to see this part of East Germany now. In six months’ time, after seeing Italy and the Alps and Spain, he won’t appreciate these quirky Elbe valleys with unique sandstone formations, that are so dear to me, the same way anymore. He’ll have climbed higher and more spectacular mountains by then. But now, after three and a halve weeks of flat land riding, the two and three kilometer climbs with 6-12% gradient were perfect for testing legs, bikes and the engine of the Hymer.
In this contest the bikes got away with the prize. As far as the motorhome goes, we will appreciate the old German saying ” Der Weg ist das Ziel” (The journey is the destination) once we reach the Alps. She goes alright on the Autobahn and travels comfortably at 90-100km/h. To overtake trucks she even manages 120km/h but put switchbacks in her way and, like an old lady, she takes her time in first gear. The legs? Well, I hope they will catch up with my bike once I reduce the intake of cheesecake.
We headed for Königstein, a gorgeous little township that clings to the valley walls of the river Elbe in the shadow of a majestic fortress by the same name. It was just after four in the afternoon, when we parked our Büsschen up on the highlands in Kurort Gohrisch. There was still plenty of daylight left for a short 30km loop that I knew from last October. Down to Königstein township for a quick look around and then up to the lookout on the other side of the river to catch the sunset.
Strava might tell you the meters we climbed and the speed of our descends, but only the pictures can tell the whole story of smiling faces, a magic fortress high on the rock, the evening light, long winding roads and old mythical forests and mountains. When I listened carefully, I could almost hear the ancient witches and gnomes whispering amongst the trees. It was one of those rides that will stay in my memory for a very long time.
A delicious meal accompanied by stories from the pub owner because we were the only dinner guests in this small rustic Inn, a walk back to the motorhome and a mulled wine before bed, a deep dreamless sleep, and we woke up to a magnificent cool morning with low hanging fog over wild meadows. The fresh, still warm, bread rolls were a treat and by ten we were off for another ride.
A short and sharp three kilometer climb to Festung Königstein warmed up the legs and saw me pulling off arm warmers, beanie and full finger gloves, only to put them back on after a short explorative walk along the fortress base (Patrouillenweg). The blue sky was deceiving. The wind still had an icy chill.
But the main destination of our ride was not Festung Königstein but Decin on the other side of the Czech border. Another castle towering over another picturesque and old township by the riverbanks, and I was wondering when Alberto will have enough of fortresses and castles.
Back in Bad Schandau in Germany, we stopped and did what all the other Germans were doing on this glorious Sunday afternoon: enjoying coffee and cake in the warmth of the sun!
The last climb up to Gohrisch, where our motorhome was parked, was a struggle. The guy on the Canyon mountainbike had no problems staying on my wheel and even overtook me again further up the climb. What an embarassment!
So apart from too much cake and too little power in the legs, the test camping weekend was a great success and we are now ready to start our big trip.