The valleys hold lovingly restored historical villages and communities with fascinating museums, such as the chair-making museum in Oelsa (Rabenau), the world's largest miniature garden railway in the spa town of Rathen or the centuries-old castles and palaces. Königstein Fortress, visible from afar on its lone table mountain, is the largest fortress in Europe. Nearby, far older and perhaps even more impressive, the Bastei rock formation looms over Rathen, featuring the Bastei bridge, a popular image on Google. There is also Stolpen Castle, which sealed the fate of one of the most colourful characters in Saxon history: it is where King Augustus the Strong kept his mistress Countess Cosel imprisoned for 49 years.
SAXON SWITZERLAND AND THE EASTERN ORE MOUNTAINS
Rocky, hilly and picturesque
This is the centre of Saxony – yes, really: the state’s geographical centre is in the Tharandt forest, near the spa town of Hartha. Even the city-dwellers of Dresden or Chemnitz come here in their spare time, to the dense forests, the towering table mountains or the enchanting gorges of Saxon Switzerland.
With its 28 nature reserves, the rural district of Saxon Switzerland / Eastern Ore Mountains has some wonderful landscapes for nature lovers. Climbers love to scale the overhanging rock walls or man-made via ferrata. On the 112-km “Malerweg” (Artists’ Trail) from Pirna to Schmilka, known as Germany’s loveliest hiking trail, the panoramas are unique: gently rolling hills, rugged sandstone rocks and table mountains.
Every year, the Saxon Switzerland National Park – Saxony’s only national park and the only one in Germany noted for its rock formations – draws more than 2 million tourists, along with local people who enjoy spending their spare time in their own neck of the woods.
The same is true in the winter, when the winter sports bastion of Altenberg and the villages in the Eastern Ore Mountains boast countless kilometres of groomed trails and well-prepared slopes. If winter sports sound too much like hard work, you can always come to Neuhermsdorf for the snow sculptures, or cheer on the bobsledders in Altenberg, a venue for national and international competitions.
Germany’s oldest narrow-gauge railway puffs cosily through the Weißeritz Valley to Kipsdorf, a spa town famous for its curative air. Not far away is Glashütte, which is world-famous for its luxury timepieces. Visitors to the German Clock Museum can explore more than 160 years of the traditional art of watchmaking.
More art can be found at the “Sandstein und Musik" music festival. At carefully selected, changing locations in the district, such as the Wehlen quarry, the basalt edifice of Stolpen Castle or the Grosssedlitz Baroque Garden, music lovers can attend classical concerts featuring established world greats and up-and-coming virtuosos. Shows at the Felsenbühne Rathen open-air theatre take the excitement up a notch – the Landesbühnen Sachsen actors ride and shoot their way through scenes as if on the silver screen.
What is life like in the district of Saxon Switzerland and the Eastern Ore Mountains?
The district of Saxon Switzerland and the Eastern Ore Mountains has plenty of living space, building plots in its towns and countryside and a well-developed childcare and healthcare system.
The A4 and A17 motorways give commuters good links to the environs and the nearby cities of Dresden and Chemnitz. The neighbouring Czech Republic is just a stone's throw from many of the district’s communities.
All kinds of clubs, including several sports clubs, provide a varied programme of events. SC Oberbärenburg has gained an international reputation, having coached the double Olympic gold medallist and five-time world bobsleigh champion Francesco Friedrich.
Families love the shows at the Max Jacob puppet theatre in Hohnstein and the puppet theatre festival in Bärenfels. The district is also proud of its well-developed small-scale theatre scene, which can be experienced at the “Q24” in Pirna, among other places.
After work or at weekends, the water parks in Neustadt in Sachsen, or in Freital, make a great place to unwind, as do the many outdoor pools in the summer. The Toskana-Therme thermal baths in Bad Schandau have a unique selling point for anyone interested in wellness: visitors can experience “Liquid Sound®”.
When temperatures fall, the Gründel stadium in the little Ore Mountains town of Geising opens its doors to sledders and skaters in search of fun.
What is it like to learn and work in the district of Saxon Switzerland and the Eastern Ore Mountains?
Most of the businesses which have settled here are small and medium-sized companies involved in mechanical engineering and plastics processing, but there is an increasing number of high-tech industrial jobs which are of interest to skilled workers from all over Germany.
One prime example is the renowned timekeeping industry in Glashütte, with its fine and precision mechanics. But other international companies have their production facilities in Neustadt in Sachsen, Wilsdruff and Pirna, such as Capron, Europe's largest motorhome builder; the medical technology company B. Braun, or Litronik GmbH.
Most jobs in the district with enough hours to trigger social security payments are in healthcare. No wonder: the district of Saxon Switzerland and the Eastern Ore Mountains has the highest proportion of spas and resorts in all of Saxony. Bavaria Klinik, in Kreischa, enjoys an excellent reputation as one of Germany's leading medical rehabilitation centres.
The district's kindergartens care for 92 per cent of the children living there, and more than 93 percent of primary school children attend after-school daycare in the afternoon. Almost all early years centres in Saxony open before 7 a.m. and only close at 6 p.m. – that’s what real full-time care looks like.
Photo credits: BUR Werbeagentur, pixabay, Schmidt, Ernst Wrba