A bit of research just before we left Berlin recommended getting seats on the east side of a train traveling from Dresden to Prague. We reserved to seat but had no choice on the on the side of the train, which, fortunately, happened to be the right side. And the recommenders were correct in their advice. As the train heads south to Prague, the tracks closely follow the Elbe which opens up to some dramatic landscapes.
The Saxons refer to the portion of the Elbe as Saxon Switzerland because of its hilly character. There’s a section in Normandy which also appropriates the term “Swiss” or “Switzerland” to suggest a mountainous terrain. In this section of Saxony, one finds rugged hills, which will suffice for anyone leaving a city to be suddenly confronted by abrupt steep hills, cut on occasion by narrow valleys. (I took a number of photographs from the train window, speeding at 100-120 kph, so there might be some blurring.). This counts for rugged, one of a series of cragged hillsides. The area must still be early fall since only a hint of yellow and emerges on the edges of the river.
The Elbe originates in the Czech Republic and wanders north through German to empty into the North Sea. Riding for just a few miles along the river makes clear how it served as a major barrier for thousands of years between the world the Romans created and that of the inexorable barbarian tribes who were held at the river for only a short while.
Rivers become most dramatic when then bend and turn.
This stretch of river with its low, wide banks does not look particularly threatening as a barrrier, but for many miles I saw no bridges, so there could not be much connection between the east and west sides. Every mile or so, on each bank appeared matching docks, with a small boat moored at one. I suspect that ferrying passengers with bits of freight remains a viable occupation.
We arrived in Prague in gray and gloom, setting off on a easy walk to our hotel. We arrived an hour and a half later, since the detailed maps I had downloaded were not detailed enough for the twisting and narrow streets of old Prague. We were misdirected by a clerk in an Information office and by two other locals. Our hotel is on a narrow alley and few people in the neighborhood seemed to know that it existed. When we finally discovered it, I realize that early in our back and forth confused wandering, I had seen the extrance to the alley but took it as some kind of driveway.
Settled in late, we took a quick walk into the Old Town Square where we found a level of energy and excitement unlike any I’ve encountered. At 7:00 o’clock on a Monday evening people were teeming across the cobblestones under that lighted spires of Tyn Church.