České Švýcarsko

A trip to Vysoká Lipa, in spectacular 'Czech Switzerland'

It's said that in the time leading up to 1938's Munich Agreement, several high-ranking German generals believed that going to war with the Czechs would result in a costly battle, severely damaging their chances of conquering France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

As you take the train from Prague along the Vltava and later the Labe (or Elbe) rivers up to Děčín you can see why the German strategists were a little nervous. The wide river that snakes between high cliffs and creeps its way through dense forest up to the German border would be a perfect permanent ambush lane.

The town of Děčín lies 126 kilometers northwest of Prague and is the most accessible drop-off point for what is known as České Švýcarsko ("Czech Switzerland"). This area is the most recent addition to the Czech Republic's expansive National Forest, given National Park status in 2000.

Although the area was heavily deforested by the communists, a massive reforestation plan since 1989 means that Czech Switzerland is well on the way to full recovery.

Arrival in Děčín offers the visitor several options, one of which is Vysoká Lipa.

The bus from Děčín to Vysoká Lipa takes anywhere between 30 minutes and one hour (full details below). There are numerous camps dotted around the park area making for convenient bivouacking for the novice camper. There are showers, drinking water and electricity around the camp grounds and the little chaty (bungalows) provide much sought-after dry cover in the event of rain (a distinct possibility).

Unlike the United States, camping isn't allowed on national forest territory. This concept has its merits, maintaining the beauty of the limited number of forests in the area but for all you diehards who wish to escape the verbal diarrhea of the campground, there's another option...

Although Prague TV doesn't, of course, condone such behavior, it's still possible to camp in the woods. No rangers will check on you, and as long as you don't light a fire, no one will know you're there. You might end up having a bear sleep next to your tent, and there's a risk of being attacked by wolves, but if you really need to get away, you can.

The national park itself is incredibly green and hilly. High sandstone cliffs tower above you and the famous landmark Pravčická brána is the largest natural stone bridge in Europe.

The vegetation looks like the base of the Rockies while some of the cliffs resemble the temples of Angkor Wat. The area itself has surprisingly low elevation so even though you feel like you're are at a high altitude, in reality you're less than 700 meters above sea level. Regardless, there are breathtaking views and fun hikes through the woods of Czech Switzerland.

České Švýcarsko is a great weekend trip, albeit one better suited to a long weekend. The fresh air, fresh running water and lush forest make for a fine escape from the grime of the city. Below are some tips on transportation, and suggestions on where to go.

Official Website
http://www.ceskesvycarsko.cz/ (Czech and German only)

How To Get There
Take a train from Prague's Hlavní nádraží station to Děčín. Most days of the week, trains leave at 11:08am, 12:08pm, 1:08pm, and 3:24pm. The journey takes about one hour and 25 minutes. (The most luxurious train is the EC service, which leaves at 3:24pm).

From Děčín take the bus to Vysoká Lipa. The main bus station is approximately 350 meters from the train station - leave the train station, turn left past the post office and the bus station is on your right. See the IDOS site for more detailed timetable information.

Tip: If possible, buy train tickets in groups of three or more, to take advantage of considerable group discounts.

Accommodation
For a list of accommodation options, in Czech, see the official České Švýcarsko site.

One camping option is Mezní Louka (412 554 084) which is about a five-kilometer hike from Vysoká Lipa. It's a good starting point for most day hikes and you can rent little bungalows there for two to four people in case of rain. The cost is 140 Kč per person.

Hiking
You should have a trail map (turistika) of the area before you go. You can actually purchase one in the hotel at the Vysoká Lipa intersection for 85 Kč. The hiking is very easy with trails all over the area. Interesting sites include Dolský mlýn, Pravčická brána, and Kyjovské údolí.

Money
Tip: Take plenty of cash. Practically no České Švýcarsko establishments accept credit cards and there are no bank machines in the area.

České Švýcarsko Image Gallery

READERS' COMMENTS
"There is also very nice site about the area www.cztour.cz made by Local Tourist office. I do recommend it."
Alexei Krenke
April 26th, 2006

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