Zittau: The train for a weekend that can be hiked

The Zittau Mountains and the neighboring Czech Republic are not just a common cultural area. With Bohemian Switzerland and the adjoining Saxon Switzerland it also forms a common natural area. And this space is now even better connected to each other. A Trilex tourist train now runs on weekends, coming […]

The Zittau Mountains and the neighboring Czech Republic are not just a common cultural area. With Bohemian Switzerland and the adjoining Saxon Switzerland it also forms a common natural area. And this space is now even better connected to each other. A Trilex tourist train now runs on weekends, coming from Liberec for the first time to connect Zittau to Mikulášovice (Nixdorf) – and from there a connecting train even continues to Bad Schandau on the Elbe. SZ went on tour for a day.

If you want to go hiking in Bohemian Switzerland, you have to get up early on the weekend too. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Trilex on line T9 leaves Zittau station at 8.26 a.m.. The display technology at the station has apparently not yet been converted to this new offer – because the train indicator does not announce the next train on platform 1 that morning until sometime after ten o’clock. Günter Höhne and his friends Hans Günter Kruse and Willi Vock from Zittau do not let themselves be unsettled. A good quarter of an hour before the train departs, they are well prepared on the platform – in sturdy casual clothing and with their three bicycles. “Today we’re going on a bike tour,” says Günther Höhne.

Explore the national park by bike

The three 80-year-olds go on tour together almost every weekend – sometimes as hikers, sometimes on their bikes. Günter Höhne was a designer at Robur until the end of 1991. “We used to be a much larger leisure group,” he says. Back then, they also went skiing together in winter. “But you have to stop doing that at some point,” he says. But hiking and cycling, that still works fine. “We can still manage up to 90 kilometers a day,” says Höhne.

They approached the new offer of the tourist train in stages. “Two weeks ago we went with us, albeit without bicycles, because we first wanted to see whether there was enough space for it,” says Höhne. If the train comes from Liberec to Zittau with a lot of cyclists, you won’t get in with it. “That day we hiked from Nixdorf over the dance plan and along the border there,” he says – one of almost 50 popular hiking routes in the region. On this day, the senior trio want to take a bike tour over the Ungerberg and Sebnitz do a lot of vertical meters. “We have planned a tour of around 60 kilometers,” said Höhne.

Unbeatable cheap

From Varnsdorf, many Czechs get on the train with backpacks or bicycles at every station. Günter Höhne is pleased: “If the train were not accepted, it would soon be stopped again,” he says – and that would also make the popular excursion destinations a long way off for him and his friends. And for those looking for relaxation, the connection is not only practical, but also unbeatably inexpensive. “As senior citizens in the Czech Republic we only pay 25 percent of the regular price. Anyone who doesn’t use something like this is stupid,” says Höhne. The three of them pay 200 kroner (7.80 euros) together for their ticket to Nixdorf – including their bikes. “The bicycles are the most expensive, there are no discounts,” says Höhne.

The three gentlemen also know the sights on the edge of the route. “Here is the administration of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park with an exhibition that is worth seeing,” says Hans Günter Kruse halfway in Krasna Lipa (Schönlinde). The museum there also tells of the textile industry that was once dominant there, the decline of which also caused places like Krasna Lipa to shrink considerably. But at least, in contrast to Upper Lusatia, there were still numerous train station bars in Bohemian Switzerland. “And of course we will also enjoy a Bohemian beer today,” says Günter Höhne.

Bumpy ride from Krasna Lipa

From Krasna Lipa it’s a crawl with the Trilex. You have the feeling that the train is rumbling from one pothole to the next and could jump off the track at any second. “The route was only reactivated a few years ago,” says Höhne, enjoying the forest backdrop that slowly passes by. The mogul slope can be endured for around half an hour – and then the train rolls into Mikulášovice. The three seniors swing on their saddles. Good ride!

If you like, you can take a direct connecting train from Rumburk to Sebnitz or Bad Schandau for a few minutes. From the local train station you can take the vintage bus “Basteikraxler“the world-famous rock formation in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains or embarks on one of the umpteen hiking routes in Saxon Switzerland. Due to construction work on the track section between Mikulášovice and the Dolni Poustevna border station (Niedereinsiedel), a replacement rail service is currently operating there. The bus journey takes around 15 minutes.

The world-famous bastion can now be reached from Zittau by train through Bohemian Switzerland.

The world-famous bastion can now be reached from Zittau by train through Bohemian Switzerland. © Markus van Appeldorn

Janelle B. Smith

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