Breakfast is served! We woke and made our way down to the dining hall. Our noses led the way as they followed the aromas of all the delicious food waiting for us below. It was amazing and the view was incredible. We ate Cliffside and were joined by curious bees that seemed to take a liking to the breakfast ham. I watched closely at the worker bees nibble at the ham. It was amazing to see that they didn’t actually eat any of it, but rather they used their powerful mandibles to cut pieces of the ham off and carry it away back to the hive. Nature is so amazing. I poked around the inside of the dining hall admiring the interior and the old stove in the strategic center of the hall.
Before leaving the hostel we explored the grounds that surrounded it. My cousin Abigail is gifted, and speaks fluent goat. She quickly made friends with the two goats who took up residence in a fenced in area just behind the hostel. After our short introduction to the goats, by our translator, we came across a small cave with an inscription that was too faded to make out. The cave was most likely made when they harvested the sandstone to make a small foot bridge over a split in the cliff face.
All the boys puffed their chests a bit showing off their strength on nearby tree branches. After several pull-ups we all posed hanging upside down in the tree like a bunch of monkeys. Goofing off is strongly advised and necessary. Matthew reminded us that we have plenty of physical exercise ahead of us with all the hiking to do, and set the pace on getting a move on it. He had the whole trip planned out to the minute and everything in a little folder that he carried around. I compared it to the way I usually do things. My organization is replaced with spontaneity and somehow it all works out. It was nice to have someone plan things out for a change. I am always putting together little adventures stateside and it was pleasant to have my cranial activity set to an idle.
On our way out more animals. Abigail again translated for us and we made more friends as we left the hostel.
We climbed to a high spot from which we could see the Elbe and a small town nestled just on the other side of it. I could pick out cozy looking castles that had been converted into hostels. I was adoring the architecture and took plenty of pictures back home to use in some future projects.
Our goal today was to reach remnants of a small settlement near one of the highest peaks in the park. It was a sort of “Pirates Cove” up in the very top of one of the sandstone formations at one time. There used to be a castle there called the Felsenburg Neurathen. The robers where called “Raubritters” or noble knight robbers. The original castle had several wood bridges leading to it. They would catapult stones at their own bridges when they would be full of intruders, collapsing the bridges and letting the intruders fall several hundred feet to their deaths. Since then there had been a more modern stone bridge constructed “Bastei” in 1851 and is probably the most popular landmark of the entire national park.
From the here you could look out onto the landscape and find climbers on nearly all peaks of the sandstone protrusions. Extremely popular climbing place and could quite possibly be the birthplace of free climbing.
After a brief lunch with lots of laughing and joking, we said our farewells to Rachel and Von. Right before walking back towards the trails one of the lot found a snake (while taking a leak) and we gave chase. It was fighting with a massive toad when he came across it and we rudely interrupted what could have been its delicious meal. We lost it immediately as it was colored the exact same as its surroundings. It probably just stopped sliding away from us and camouflaged in with the forest floor. we continued on the narrow trails, passageways, and staircases. On one of the sections of the trail the sound of our footsteps, the birds, and the monkey business was interrupted by music. It was beautiful how it rolled along the hillsides, and winded its way around the trees and through the thickets to make it to us. There was an opera singer singing songs in the middle of the woods. It was absolutely glorious; I left several Euros for him in his collection hat.
We hiked back to where the car was parked and cut across a field with a small town just at the other end of it, nestled in the valley just before the next batch of hills picked back up again. I could hear sheep just on the other side of the field, it all just couldn’t be anymore perfect.
We were down to one car so Marc and I stayed behind while Matthew made a trip to drop off half of us to the next location. I took a liking to my cousin Marc. He is the age that my brother was when I wasn’t around. I missed so much of my brothers life, missed how he made his transition from a child to a teen to a man. Marc was just embarking on this journey and I was glad to have spent a few days with him. I had a hammock and gave him a boost on my shoulders to tie it up high, as the only trees that were spaced correctly happened to cross the hiking path. One of the sides was in a patch of nettle and we had a blast trying to secure the hammock and avoid the nettle stings. This was unavoidable. As I lay in the hammock I enjoyed the stinging and itching from the nettle, it reminded me of my youth and getting into all kinds of trouble that sometimes included plenty of nettle.
Our transportation arrived just as I began to drift off to sleep with thoughts of my childhood. We made our way back to Shmilka and hiked back up to our night’s accommodations. By this time the clouds came in and it started to sprinkle. I thought for a second that our climbing might be compromised, but it didn’t worry me much as I was enjoying immensely the time I was spending with my cousins. We set up camp in a small cave and I was again reminded of the overabundance of rules here. No fires. We rigged one up regardless, with a red balloon within a yellow one. We inflated the balloons and secured it to at flashlight to at least enjoy a fire like glow. We had dinner and everyone got to snoring fairly quickly. I stayed up a bit and let it all soak in. It's become somewhat of a habit now, to stay up a bit longer and think of all the blessings I’ve got to experience throughout the day and thank God for them.