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trivago Experience Academy: Climbing Elbsandstein

trivago experience academy is inspired by the core value of fanatic learning, that aims to enable you face unique experiences, in unique places. One needs to be lucky enough to get into the gang of usually 10-15 adventurous fellows who get to attend the event! trivago‘s team of over 1,300 creative and driven entrepreneurs from all corners of the globe, look forward to such experiences!

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This time it was Hiking and Climbing in Saxony! Exciting as it could be, I got lucky to the part of it right in the next month after trivago on-tour! So off we were above the clouds to spend 4 days of adventure, solidarity and experience in the beautiful area of the Sächsisch Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland).

It was a cloudy Thursday evening when we arrived the beautiful Sächsisch Schweiz !

That was our small cottage Neumannmühle, right under the hills and at the core of beautiful nature! In the middle of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, nestled between bizarre sandstone cliffs and a clear mountain stream, Neumannmühle was an ideal starting point for hiking, cycling and climbing tours.

Although the sun was about to go down, we decided to do a quick hike to get started! By hike, I expected walk by the steep forest, but never did I think that we are actually caving into that hill in the photograph!

The way started to get exciting. The small little metal stairs helped now and then!

As the way got intense, it was time for me to pack my camera in the backpack!

Soon we could see the forest and hills from a sandstone crack! I stood by the crack experiencing the sunset to soak in for a while!

Once we climbed out of the cave, the view was mesmerising!!!!! There was Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone)!

We made it till here without any guides or caribanas! So I could sense what was coming up over the next 2 days! Being my first time, I was both scared and excited!

The Elbe Sandstones range: the view up here could not be captured in a photo frame!

One could look around 360 degrees, and it was beautiful all the way round!

After some good 20 min soaking in, it was time to climb down before it got dark!

Some of the guys stayed a bit longer, enjoying a can of beer each up the hill!

Represantating the never-ending relationship between Germany and Beer!

We made our way back to the cottage after an hour walk through the rocks and forest.

We spent a really nice evening at Neumannmühle , getting to know each other! In typical trivago style, we were already friends in no-time and were having dinner together talking about anything and everything!

When you google images for Häntzschelstiege, you get the above. This was exactly where we were going the next morning. Time to curl up in the sleepiing bag!

The next morning we began our hike guided by the two guys from Ketterschule Lilienstein team.We went through the forest in the rain till we reached a humongous sandstones in the middle of Häntzschelstiege!

The 2 guides had been amazing throughout. I would like to promote Ketterschule Lilienstein a bit with the picture of the leaflet I had from them.

I was pretty scared to be honest when we were told that this is what we are going to climb! But the excitement overpowered.

It was here that we were given instructions about the next couple of hours of hiking and climbing from the 2 guides of Ketterschule Lilienstein .

We prepared ourselves with the harness, steel ropes, caprihanas, helmet and belts. The trivago experience academy gang was now ready to climb the hills!

We began our climb in no time. Beginning was the most difficult psychologically. To get started, it was important to actually take a step forward and upward without looking back. but later on there were steeper steps across ridges of hills of which I don’t have any photographs! They looked impossible to me. but i did it! The guide was really good and taught me every step how on to manage the caprihanas and the ropes.

Everytime I reached a decent spot, it was a sense of relief and accomplishment!

The way got more and more difficult every passing step. I thought I wasn’t scared of heights, till I looked behind! For a first-timer like me, every step mattered! Looking behind gave me chills! What was needed from my end was only courage and confidence!

We were almost there. I just couldn’t wait to finish the last part and finally reach the top. But every step required immense concentration.

It was unbelievable when we had a foggy sneak-peak up the top!

Harness, Steel Ropes, Caprihanas.. And overcoming the fear inside! One heck of an first time hill climbing and hiking experience! That feeling to have reached the peak and looking around gave immense confidence like never before!

I stood there staring at the vastness for a while. Cold wind touching the face and innumerable thoughts passing by.

As the clouds came over, it was a magical transition into darkness!

Beginning with wooden stairs now look easy. The higher we got, more we had to depend on caprihanas and natural rocks. A journey that taught me so much.

We started walking towards the next part of the sandstone. Everything around seemed beautiful.

Right now, I was more confident. And looking forward. We were supposed to enter the crack between those hills.

As we side-walked those dark and amazingly narrow sandstone cracks, I seemed to explore a new-self!

Crossing those ridges was the most difficult part for me of the entire adventure. I needed a lot of self-belief to step-out and actually cross them overcoming the fear. At some point, I ended up looking at life differently!

I couldnt have dared to take this picture, but Robin did. How beautiful it was to climb out of the crack and win it all together!

As we slowly started to peep out of the dark cave, it was fresh air after some tremendous hard work!

Every step counted!

At the end, everyone was a winner!

We were almost done with the crazy hike and climb at  Häntzschelstiege! It was time for us to chill for sometime and have lunch we were carrying in out backpacks!

After a break, began the long walk.

I still look back and feel good to have climbed such a height all by the sandstone rocks!

Soon we had such stunning views. The monster like Elbe Sandstones stood between the borders of Saxon Switzerland in Germany and and Bohemian Switzerland in Czech Republic.

The trivago experience academy team that evening at the top! Happy and content faces!

It was the season of fall and there was no better time to walk along the forest!

Soon we were getting prepared for a short zipline across the canyon! The two guides tied ropes across the trees on both sides of the canyon. The pulley suspended on the rope was mounted on slight slope, to be propelled by gravity cross the canyon!

It might have been too short a distance for ziplining for some people, but for me it was good enough for the first-time experience. That leap you take to zipline, meant a lot to me.

At the end of the forest we reached a very tiny and pretty village!

It was here that we sat down at an amazing bakery to have some food together!

Each of us were tired with our sore foot! And we randomly found a hot tub in the bakery!

And what could have been better than having the chance to plunge into hot water with the seasons first Glühwein!

We were back to our cottage by sunset. After some long shower and quick nap, we spent the evening eating, drinking and playing a lot of card games together. It was good to always have traditional German food. And I still can’t forget the amazing pumpkin soup!!

The next morning was when were heading out for top-roping.

It was cloudy all throughout. Fortunately it wasn’t raining atleast.

So we arrived the sandstone we were going to rope-climb today.

From some rock climbing experience of bouldering over the last few weeks at Dusseldorf, I was actually looking forward to this.

It was here that we settled down with out backpacks, ready for the day!

But wait, before top-roping, we actually went for Abseiling. I did not know what to expect being my first time. But by now I was a more confident persons. I turned around to see the amazing view.

I was supposed to have a descent off a vertical drop of a cliff using a rope tied to my waist.

In no-time I was half-way down rappelling along some sandstone cliff! It was funny when I lost control of being in contact with the cliff and had to simply rely on the rope rotating and revolving around to reach the bottom! Yes, I reached the ground thrilled, but safe and sound.

Now we were at the top-roping spot. This kind of rock climbing was way less adrenalised and adventurous than the previous day since the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up through an anchor system at the top of the climb. But here it deamanded more flexibility, arm strength. We were ready with the climbers shoes. There were three trails prepared and setup by the guides. Easy, Medium, and Difficult.

I started with the Easy trail and although it took some time, I made it to the top. Not once, but twice. It was a very enriching experience.

Already I could see my skin peeling off from the palms. When I started with the Medium trail, I was already exhausted. At some point, my arms just gave up and I didn’t make it to the top. I dropped half-way. But it was a lot of fun to actually realise your own body, its strength and its weaknesses.

It was fun to see everyone experiment and putting in die-hard effort to make it to the top. Some of the guys did a commendable job to reach the top of the difficult trail. After a lot of cheering and bruising we were done for the day.

We completed the experience academy this evening!

We were back at .Neumannmühle . This cottage had its own beautiful regional cuisine, specialties from their own clay oven and beer garden with fire pit right on the rocks.

Back at our cottage this evening, we stayed up late. We ate and drank to glory. We spoke for ages, became good friends and played games till late at night!

The next day we were supposed to leave early morning to catch our flight from Dresden.

There was a huge storm last night and all the roads were blocked and unsafe with broken trees and rolling rocks. And Lufthansa had cancelled both our flights! We were basically stranded now. But to be stuck at beautiful cottage in the middle of forest with some awesome people wasn’t too bad!

We panicked but handled everything well. Ann had been an awesome organiser and she was really worried. A huge shout-out to Ann Schilling and Rico Wilcke from trivago for such a wonderful job in organizing!

We had to wait for a long time in the cottage till all Plan-Bs began to come up. Instead of flights, we took buses followed by innumerable delayed and cancelled trains. Instead of arriving at 2pm, we reached back Dusseldorf at 11pm that night. But no regrets really, because of the amazing people around. An experience academy indeed!

This was all about the 4 day adventurous trip that can change the way you look at life, and make you a different human being all together.