G3VGR MALERWEG     Conclusion      



Generally, I was pleased with the Malerweg and it was a worthwhile hiking project. This little-known area of Germany is very picturesque and the local people are friendly. However, due to it being an area in the former DDR, English isn't widely spoken, especially by people over 40 years old. In fact, I only met two people during my visit who spoke English. Fortunately, I speak and understand German well enough for this to not present a problem. Apart from some visits to Berlin after the country was re-unified, this was my first stay in the former DDR. I didn't really notice much difference from the former West Germany, apart from the regimented collection of apartment blocks in certain areas (Copnitz and Dresden). All the villages I visited were affluent, with modern, well-maintained houses, each having the neat gardens seen in similar other villages all over Germany.

When eating out, the prices seemed marginally cheaper in this area. Accommodation prices were similar to what I paid previously along the Rheinsteig, usually around 40 euros a night for bed & breakfast. I made all of my bookings via the Internet prior to my trip. However, as it wasn't such a busy period, it would have been possible to find accommodation on the day from the local Tourist Offices.

Although the Malerweg has been meticulously planned, not all the stages were to my liking and with hindsight, I would have walked it differently. Also, I had not scheduled any rest days and probably regret this as there are many sights in the area worth visiting. I did manage to compromise by using my free time constructively for short visits to Dresden & the Czech Republic. Dresden looks to be one of the more impressive cities in Germany and it is worthwhile to schedule at least a full day to visit the city. Unfortunately, I had insufficient time, so only quickly experienced some of the highlights. The Malerweg only requires 8 days to complete, but I would recommend adding a few more days if possible, to adequately do justice to this area.

The Stages

Both stages 1 & 2 seem much too short. I compensated by using the free afternoons to visit tourist attractions (Dresden, Prebischtor). It would probably be good to extend the first stage to include the stretch to the Bastei and end the day at Kurort Rathen. The Bastei visit could also include the Schwedenlöcher. By starting the Stage 2 at Kurort Rathen, there is sufficient time to also climb the Lilienstein. This impressive mountain seemed to be present in every vista from almost every viewpoint. When I last admired the Lilienstein from Festung Königstein, I felt despondent that I never had time to climb it.

I have no idea why the third stage ends at Altendorf. It is such a useless place to end a stage. I carried on to Bad Schandau, which amazingly isn't even included on the Malerweg, despite having the National Park Information Centre. In fact, the section after the Brand Baude to Altendorf isn't very inspiring and as Frank Nunn's bus stops at the Brand Baude, this is possibly a good place to finish the day.

The three stages along the left bank of the Elbe are generally less satisfying than the previous five stages. The section on stage 6 from Schmilka to Kleinhennersdorf isn't very interesting at all and best ignored. Instead, the day could have been improved by getting the ferry across the Elbe from Postelwitz and starting at Krippen instead of Schmilka Bahnhof. A big disappointment on stage7 is the section from Festung Königstein to Weissig. As well as contributing nothing useful to the day's experience, it also meant time at the fortress was curtailed. The fortress is far too important a landmark which requires much more than the single hour I could afford.

I considered the final stage to be a complete waste of a day. Although the Rauenstein was OK, I'd already climbed enough flattop mountains in the previous 2 days. The remainder of the walk from here was completely bland. Even my Wanderführer recommends abandoning the walk at Pötzcha.  In my opinion, the Malerweg should end at Festung Königstein as everywhere afterwards offers very little. Looking back, I would have also liked to have spent more time in the National Park, which would have been more satisfying than much of the last 3 stages. The Wandern Sächsiche Schweiz website has some good walking routes in different parts of the National Park.

Transportation and Logistics
I stayed 3 nights in Pirna, 3 nights in Bad Schandau and a night in each of Kurort Gohrisch and Weissig. As the Malerweg is a circular trail, I would recommend basing oneself in Bad Schandau for the whole duration. This graceful spa town is very comfortable with enough accommodation, cafes and restaurants to make it a good base. An added bonus is a decent post office and a supermarket which is open 0700-2000. On the town outskirts is a Lidl, although I never visited the store. The bus and train network in Sächsiche Schweitz is very good indeed and Bad Schandau is a good hub from which to travel easily throughout the area. To add variation, there is also the possibility of using the boats along the Elbe. Frank Nunn's antique buses also run at convenient times to many useful stops.
I was glad I brought my trekking poles for this trip. I never took them on the Rheinsteig trip, but they were invaluable on some of the rougher sections of the Malerweg. Footwear is also important in the National Park. I wore my Merrell Moab lightweight boots for all eight stages. Generally, I've found these to be good comfortable boots for non-alpine trails, but on stages 4 & 5, I wished I had my heavy leather Meindl boots that I wear in the Alps. The Meindls could probably have also prevented the problems with my left little toe, but there is a limit to how much one can comfortably carry. My Osprey Talon 22 backpack was completely full anyway, even after I mailed home some clothes from Bad Schandau.

If I had stayed the whole duration in one centre (Bad Schandau), I could have brought a greater variety of clothing and equipment and used just my lightly loaded daypack for all the daily stages. This daily weight saving also would have allowed me to bring a SLR and travel tripod instead of the point and shoot cameras.

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