A picture of a landscape
It was the Romantics who first discovered the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and who made them famous. First it was the painters, then half of Europe's artistic avant garde. Thus, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains found their place into numerous works from the period.
A landscape becomes a place of pilgrimage and a study subject.
The artistic discovery of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains actually began during the first half of the 18th century. Back then, Johann Alexander Thiele was already raising awareness of the beauty of the picturesque, rugged scenery through his landscape paintings. Bernardo Bellotto, more commonly known as "Canaletto", who, like Thiele, was working as a court painter for the Saxon electoral prince, was having a similar effect. However, the region did not become a fashionable subject until later, in the late 18th century.
First it was the painters from the Dresden Academy of Art, including the Swiss pair of Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, who are thought to be responsible for the Saxon part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains being referred to as "Saxon Switzerland". The landscape was, quite simply, a perfect fit for the aesthetic ideal of the time: The "sublime" and the "beautiful" – according to the popular aesthetic theories of the period – combined here to create an exemplary version of the "picturesque".
The region became a Mecca; an object of study that spanned genres. Caspar David Friedrich, Johann Christian Clausen Dahl, Carl Gustav Carus, Ludwig Richter, Carl-Maria von Weber, Richard Wagner, Mary Shelley, William Turner, Hans Christian Andersen and many more: The list of famous visitors to the region reads like a who's who of the European Romantic period.
A trail is created, forgotten about and rediscovered.
The artists tended to follow the same route on their way from Dresden into Saxon Switzerland. Their precise route was, however, forgotten after the construction of the railway during the mid 19th century. In the years leading up to 2006, the Tourist Association worked together with partners from the region to rediscover the current Malerweg, which is largely based on the historic route. Since then, the Malerweg has been snaking through the landscape, covering a distance of 112 kilometres. It begins in Pirna-Liebethal, leads along the right side of the River Elbe through the National Park to the Czech border, and then heads back in the direction of Pirna on the opposite side of the river, passing five table mountains en route.What is likely to be the most traditional hiking trail in Germany is now signposted throughout. Signposts labelled "Malerweg" or with a sweeping "M" (black on a white background) lead the way. A red dot next to the "M" signals that you are walking on the historic route.