How to get to the Rakotzbridge (Rakotzbrücke) – from Leipzig/Dresden
– Scroll down for tips and things to do on the way to the bridge –
When I first saw a picture of the Rakotzbridge (Rakotzbrücke), I knew I wanted to see this place. It looked like a postcard or movie scene, or even a fairy tale illustration. I googled its location and – surprise – it was located in my home country Germany in the state of Saxony close to the Polish border. Luckily, one of my friends lives in Leipzig, which is about 2 hours and 30 minutes away from my bucket list location.
Because it was supposed to rain for the whole time I was staying at my friend’s place, we picked the warmest day with the least amount of rain – a Saturday. Comparing public transportation versus a rental car, we decided on an automatic rental, which luckily came with a GPS (otherwise, we would have been screwed).
We took off early in the day to not only see the bridge, but other cool spots in Saxony. After mostly Autobahn (the German freeway which has NO speed limit in some areas), we passed through tiny, sometimes deserted villages which looked as if nothing had touched them since the 60’s. I really wondered if they had Internet! Barely anyone was on the streets. Being the city girl Los Angeles has made me, I wondered what people here were doing all day long because in some places there was not even a bakery (almost every German town has a bakery!), no grocery store, and sometimes no store of anything at all. We also drove on streets without marks or lights in the middle or the sides, through forests and even a military practice shooting range.
About 45 minutes off the freeway, we reached the village of Gablenz, which we passed on our way to Kromlau. Before we reached Kromlau, we spotted the “Rhododendronpark Kromlau” where the Rakotzbridge was located. It had started to rain and thus – fortunately – there were not many people. The parking lot was almost empty.
A sign took us straight to the bridge, which looked way bigger than I had imagined it. First, you get to the spot, from where you can see the bridge and its shadow forming a perfect circle on the water. You can take a stroll around the lake where you can get close to the bridge. It is prohibited to step onto it, apparently because it doesn’t hold people’s weight anymore; however, I believe it’s because of the bridge’s steep, unsecured walkway, which looked extra-slippery today due to the rain. In 1882, Traugott Wolsch died during construction.
I said to myself: There’s nobody patrolling who would keep me from stepping onto the bridge, I might only be here once in my life, and I want a picture of myself on this bridge. So, I climbed up the bridge on the right size, jumped into a hollow area and climbed again to come out on the bridge’s walkway (what a construction!) which at least made me get a photo on the side of the bridge rather than all the way in the middle on top of it (I wasn’t daring enough to risk my life on the wet, steep ground, but I will be if I come back!).
Tips for your trip aka what I could have done better preparing this trip:
- Go either when the trees are covered in snow, green or autumn leaves – the barren pre-spring trees didn’t make for a very nice picture but rather a gloomy ambience.
- When you go on a rainy day, be aware of muddy paths and the slippery bridge walkway.
- The best timing for great pictures are sunrises and sunsets of course.
- When there’s almost no one around, the park is not only super nice and peaceful (and a great place for a romantic picnic), but you also have a chance to sneak onto the bridge and take a picture (do this at your own risk – don’t blame me if you fall or get caught :p).
- It is possible to reach the bridge with public transportation. That definitely takes planning, walking, and a GPS and should be done on a weekday because trains and busses run more frequently.
- If you get a rental, note that Germans will give you a manual if you don’t specify that you want an automatic. Often, you pay extra for an automatic.
Things to do/see if you’re coming from Leipzig or Dresden:
- Bautzen/ Gedenkstaette Bautzen: Bautzen is a beautiful (but racist – no joke) city with a pretty view, a castle, and a prison memorial from 1904, which features heart-wrenching stories about war and political prisoners. Not a happy place, but super interesting!
2. Outside of Bautzen you can find a dinosaur park and a free labyrinth.
3. Monastery St. Marienstern (Kloster St. Marienstern): If you come here before 4 p.m. (especially on weekends), you have the chance to walk around the many different parts of the monastery such as the school, their nutrition garden, or their church, where you can witness a service with the nuns.
4. Look at the brown freeway signs and exit where you see an interesting one or take a random Ausfahrt (=exit) and explore its surrounding nature or towns.
5. If you’re coming from Leipzig, Dresden is definitely a place worth to see & explore!
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