What to do on May Day in Berlin?
After 4 years the best answer to this question is: Leave the City and go out for a nice drive in the countryside. On the one side May Day in Berlin is fun. Youve got the MayFest in Kreuzberg with loads of free concerts and awesome food. On the other hand, its overcrowded and you’ve got a loads of idiots and assholes starting trouble with the police. (behold the idiocy that is may day in berlin). So to escape this mess I finally managed to convince the misses to drive out to the Bastei Bridge – something which ive wanted to see for quite some time now.
The Bastei, an impressive sandstone formation, is Located in the Saxon Switzerland National Park (The suffix Switzerland appears 62 times in the German Landscape and was coined in the 18th century to describe a particularly beautiful area) circa 40 kilometers south-east of Dresden.
The Bastei has been a popular with tourists for the past 200 years, with a wooden bridge linking the rock formations from 1824 onwards. As tourism increased the need for a sturdier bridge came up. In 1851 a sandstone bridge was constructed to replace the wooden structure.
Another popular tourist destination was (and still is) the Felsenburg Neurathen. First documented in 1289, the Castle (or what remains of it) was the largest rock castle in Saxon Switzerland. Since most of the buildings were made out of wood, the only remains you can see are the spaces which were carved into the rock.
You have to pay 1,50€ to get into the Castle Part – and despite there not being much Castle to see, you do have the best views over the Bastei, the Bastei Bridge and the surrounding areas. Well worth investing the money
Of course all the tourists had to be fed, so a butcher from the nearby town of Lohmen started serving up food (which even earned him praise from Goethe’s Son August). This became increasingly more popular (and lucrative) so huts were set up to cater to the masses. Over time the huts gave way to an Inn, and in 1979 new building was constructed and is now a (truly ugly) Hotel.
I would strongly advise to bring your own food and drinks. Buying anything to eat or drink from the Hotel is deadly expensive.
There are several ways to get up to the Bastei Bridge, the most tiring one probably being the way up from the Town of Rathen at the foot of the Bastei. A Staircase was built in 1814 with a whopping 487 steps – so unless you are really fit, I wouldn’t recommend this route. Judging from the look on the peoples faces who came up this way, it sure seemed like they regretted it. There is a Bus Service which runs on a regular basis and stops directly (more or less) infront of the Hotel. A Return Ticket costs 1.50€
The Bastei forms the heart of the National Park, which offers wonderful hiking trails and a plethora of oppertunities for rock climbers.
A word to the wise – its worth visiting the Bastei and the Bastei Bridge either early in the morning or late in the afternoon/early evening. The reason for this being that the masses of tourists havent arrived yet (or have already left) and more importantly the Sun will be low enough to take pictures of the bridge from the Rock Castle Side of the Sandstone formation. The Sun Rises directly over the bridge making it nearly impossible to take a good picture.
The Bastei and the region around it is classified as a “Luftkurort” – literally meaning an “Air Spa”. This means that the “climate and air quality is considered beneficial to health and rest, and even recommended by doctors.
Despite this area being an Air Spa, do not make the foolish assumption that this place is a haven of peace and tranquility. Visiting the Bastei is an experience which can be likened to a visit to Schloß Neuschwanstein. Its cramped with tourists (for well over 200 years now) and unless you are one of the rock climbers you’ll be hard pressed to find a picturesque spot to enjoy the scenery without a worried mother shouting at her child not to stray to far off the edge.
All is not lost though, if you come early enough, or wait long enough all of the tourists will leave – aside from the ones which reside in the horrid hotel – letting marvel at the scenery like Caspar David Friedrich once did.
Dont wait too long though as though as the Bus stops running around 6ish on the weekends and you’ll be forced to “enjoy” a 40 minute walk back to the Parking Lot/Main Bus Transfer Station.
The Bastei is easiest reached by Car – as its circa 40 kilometres South East of Dresden.
There are various Train, Bus and Ferry connections to the Bastei which can be found here.