Malerweg or Painter’s Way

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

Wake-up call 6am…Why did I say I’d drive?  Basti and I leave for our 8 day vacation to hike the Malerweg.  But before I pick up Basti to drive 4.5 hours to Prna, I need to get my apartment a little tidy because my mom arrives while I’m gone.  But’s that’s a whole different article.  What I’m really wondering is if my slight aggravation has to do with me getting the apartment ready or that Basti is probably hitting the snooze button for the second time right about now…

I gather Basti (he hit the snooze button three times!)  and road trip it to Prna.  We park Sally (my VW Bus) in a parking garage and head to the train that will take us to the trail head for stage 1.  I had checked the train online and it looked solid.  HOWEVER, when we arrived at the station there was a big red sign saying that the Liebethal line regional train had been closed…since July!  I guess I looked online in June.  No worries.  We check the map and decide to add roughly 4kms to our day and walk it…we’re young and fit.  We get to the trail head, snap the “start” photo and we’re off.  The trail is very picturesque from the start.  Beautiful stream on the right and sandstone on the left.  We eventually come to the first tribute in the form of a statue of the late, and great, Richard Wagner.  There’s even a solar powered (how 21st century!) music player and speaker with a button you push to hear the prelude to Lohengrin.  Directly behind Mr. Wagner will soon be the Walhala Spa which is currently under construction.  We quickly move along and think to ourselves, YIKES and thank goodness we visited before it’s completion and first guests arrive.  The rest of the trail to Stadt Wehlen is fantastic.  Beautiful trails, wonderful sandstone formations and great views.  The trail ends above the Elbe River and here you  see just how romantic the Elbe is in its natural state.  We find our accommodation, head down for a bite to eat, and eventually head back where we crash.  Day 1 — 19.7kms

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

We’re very excited about today!  Today, we get to see the Bastei, which is basically the beginning of the sandstone formations that you see throughout the Saechsiche Schweiz National Park.  It also, long ago, was a fortification used to defend the Felsenburg Neurathen.  They had bridges from stone column to stone column and wooden slingshots large enough to propel boulders.  We arrive and it’s unreal…but also very crowded on a warm Sunday morning.  We came, we saw, we took our photos and we left.  A must see though…truly amazing!!  A short way after the Bastei is the amphitheater built into a rock wall.  We’d seen pictures and wanted to check it out.  No luck though as it was closed to spectators.  SO, Basti and I, being the law abiding citizens we are, jumped the barrier and hiked through the woods to get our photos.  “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, nobody gonna slow me down, oh no.”  We take a break after our mischievousness, drink a coffee from our bialetti, eat some chocolate and have a couple of pulls from our flask.  After that it was a long walk to the Hohnstein through incredible landscape’s, up and down steep stairs carved into the trail floor and dodging baby snakes along the way.  We learned that they used to keep bears in Hohnstein for the University of Dresden to “practice” on, and we quickly walked through the burg there (seen one, seen them all?).  Our second night was spent in Brand which was a little further along the trail than I’d thought…which helped hatch a tremendous idea the next morning at breakfast.  Day 2 — 16.1kms

Monday, September 16th, 2019

I’m not saying that Basti and I are a couple of Einsteins, BUT we had a look at the map over morning coffee and marmalade rolls.  Our next stop was supposed to be Altendorf and a mere 6.9 kilometer hike.  That sounded…hmm…WEAK and so the idea was hatched to combine stages 3 & 4 (we’d already walked 4 kms of stage 3 accidentally to Brand).  We quickly called all the remaining room reservations and moved them up one night.  Shoes tied, let’s do this!  We guessed roughly 8 hours of hiking.  The first thing I felt that morning was a very tight right achilles and right calf, and the first kilometer was walking down 1001 natural stairs only to walk immediately thereafter 1001 stairs back up!  With every stair my achilles raised it’s hand like a good schoolboy and yelled OUCH!  Eventually the tightness eased and I felt better about the 7 hours we had left.  We passed through Waitzdorf, saw an incredible old coal factory in Sebnitz, walked for kilometers on soft sandy terrain and pine needle paths, and were constantly surrounded by incredible blocks of sandstone.  All of which looking “climbable with a rope”.  7.5 hours later we reached our hiking hostel  only to find no key to get in.  Oh, and no cell phone coverage to call anyone.  So we did the next smartest thing in that situation…we walked 10 minutes down the road to a small restaurant and ordered 2 beers, each.  Luckily, there was another family there who were staying in the same hostel.  We were saved and ordered dinner.  I barely made it back to the hostel with my tired legs and full belly.  Day 3 — 24.7kms

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

…the morning after.  Wow, everything is tight and sore, and I think I’ve accepted for the first time in my life that I’m not 39 years old anymore.  Plus, it’s been a while since I slept in a room with 36 other people on mattresses.  I totally forgot how many different styles of snoring there are.  Needless to say I slept little and am excited about coffee and a stroll through the woods today.  We’re headed to Schmilka which is a German town right on the border to the Czech Republic.  What kinda of name is Schmilka?  If you ask me it sounds like the town Stephen King is going to base his next “IT” book.  Guess I’ll find out when I get there.  The walk through the woods is fantastic.  Soft sandy trails covered in more pine needles and Basti and I have traded sandstone blocks for a majestic forest.  We complete the stage in just over 4 hours and only the elevation loss of roughly 600 meters down stairs at the end hurt a little.  But otherwise a really nice section of the “Painters Way”.  Oh, and Schmilka…flat out SCARY town!  Day 4 — 14.3kms  (Anecdote: we ran into a barrier about halfway through the day.  They had closed a bridge on the trail to replace the beams and told us we needed to detour adding about 1.5kms to the stage.  I had a short discussion with my legs and feet and we were in complete alignment…screw that idea.  I shed my shoes and socks and waded through the knee deep stream.  It was ice cold and my feet and legs thanked me.)

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

It’s 1 a.m. and I have to go to the bathroom.  BUT, we’re in Schmilka where horror novelists meet secretly every year to “sharpen their pencils” for new ides.  I’m literally laying in bed wondering if Basti locked the front door and if “IT” is in the bathroom waiting for me…I’m 8 years old again and have just watched Gremlins for the first time.  6 hours later we wake up alive and breakfast is waiting (and I still need to pee).  We eat, pack and head for the Elbe to board a ferry that takes us to the other side to start our stage.  Another easy day with a trail that goes from village to village and from grassy trail to wooded.  Nothing really spectacular about this stage and I kind of feel like they needed to connect two stages and did the best they could.  Our finish is in the Kurort Goehrisch and I had issues finding a room for us when I put the trip together.  We are in a “high-end” domicile and it’s very posh.  Sauna, activity room AND a TV!  Basti and I swear not to tell anyone the name of it…we’re sure Martin L. will make fun of us for a veeery long time.  Day 5 — 17.5kms

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Time to check-out of the 6 star residence and get back to the trail.  We’re motivated to get to the Pfaffenstein and see

Schmilka

the Barbarine.  Amazing!!  We get there and it’s this high plateau with a fantastic old forest and sandstone towers you can rope climb (not that I’m crazy enough to do it!).  We hike down the other side and start our ascent to the Koenigstein Fortress.  We literally fall apart halfway up the hill.  Not really sure why but our legs just stop working and we decide to stop for a snack and coffee.  We snooze a little in the grass and are re-energized.  We make it to the fortress but decide not to go in.  It’s huge and you’d need an entire day to tour the massive structure.  We hike down and make our way to Weisig.  We find our awesome little cabin and decide to feast on Pad Thai and Mac n’ Cheese from the backpacker’s food producer Backpacker’s Pantry (highly recommended!).  Our rations are running low.  Inventory check: whiskey=gone, chocolate=gone, coffee=gone, toothpaste=sharing the last of what I have because Basti’s ran out 2 days ago.  One last stage tomorrow.  Day 6 — 17.5kms

Friday, September 20th, 2019

We knew from the start that this stage was going to be the most boring, if there is a boring stage.  4kms of walking on asphalt along the Elbe (okay, the Elbe is nice here in its natural state), then up a hill and a short walk along a traverse until you get above Prna.  Then the short descent down to Prna…Painter’s Way complete.  But, it felt like an empty end.  After days of hiking with lots of eye candy in the form of trees, blocks of sandstone and views that make you feel like you could paint a masterpiece, I feel like maybe it would have been better to do it the other way around.  But, I’m not complaining.  Basti and I had a fantastic time and we’d recommend to everyone to do this hike if you like this sort of thing.  Just be prepared for Schmilka…gruesome!  Day 7 — whatever was left to walk ;o)

A big thank you to Martin L. for hyping this trail and pushing me to do it.  It was a shame that the calendar didn’t work out so that he could join for a couple of days.  And, a big thanks to Basti for accompanying me and for all the great talks.  WHAT’S NEXT?!