On Monday 15th February, I took a proper ‘day-off’ and went for a near 20km walk in Ceské Švýcarsko – Bohemian Switzerland, the beginning of keeping the promise I made at the end of my previous but one blog post. I saw enough during my day trip, to encourage me to return and further explore this attractive area.
I drove north-west from Prague, to the port town of Decín on the Labe River, and then a further 12km north alongside the Labe, (which becomes the Elbe on entering Germany), to the border settlement of Hrensko. Here I turned onto a minor road along the Kamenice river valley to the eastern end of the settlement, where there was a designated car park in which I duly parked the ‘Carly’. According to a sign, its costs CZK 30 per hour to park, or CZK 120 for the day. But being a Monday in February, there was no attendant waiting to collect my fee!
Hrensko basically consists of hotels and other forms of accommodation, together with several bar-restaurants, all aimed to meet the needs of the visiting walker and tourist. Unfortunately, because of its proximity to the German border, it also has a number of ‘night clubs’ which are little more than euphemisms for brothels. These are almost exclusively patronised by visiting German males, especially at weekends.
From where I parked the ‘Carly’, I first walked for over 1.5km along a minor tarmac road, following the waymarking for the red walking route, to a point where the red route leaves the road and climbs up into the hills. I was glad I hadn’t followed my original instinct and driven to this point and tried to park, because there was a large sign saying that doing so, would result in a CZK 5000/£145.00 fine. It was either park back where I was parked, or alternatively a further 3km further on.
Climbing the red route took me to the most famous feature of Ceské Švýcarsko – Bohemian Switzerland – Pravcická brána. It has a span of 26.5 metres, an inside height of 16 metres, 8 metre maximum width and 3 metre arch and is the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, a hotel and restaurant was built alongside this amazing natural feature, as you can see on the left of my photograph. These days, it functions as a National Park information centre and restaurant. Between November and March, it is only open at weekends meaning I couldn’t reward myself with a cool beer after my steep climb. Quite how supplies are delivered to the place I have no idea as there is no access road – just the footpath.
I met or passed a small number of other walkers on this route, all of whom were Germans! My ‘Dobrý den’ was greeted with blank looks, whilst ‘Guten Tag’ gained a positive response 🙂
Having descended 500m from Pravcická brána, I continued eastwards along the red route for a further 6.5km. This first gave me a rear view of the sandstone arch.
It then took me past rock cliffs…..
…….and a series of amazing views. Unfortunately, at this point, my camera batteries decided to die so I have no further photographs.
The route itself was occasionally undulating but mainly level, until the last couple of kilometres when it descended to the small village of Mezní Louka. Walking this route I only met one other couple, coming in the opposite direction. Otherwise, I had the whole of the wilderness to myself.
I made my return journey to the ‘Carly’, first walking a green waymarked route along a minor road to the village of Mezná. Then it was the yellow waymarked route along a gravelled forestry track, finally followed in the reverse direction, by the same 1.5km minor road that I’d set out along several hours earlier.