Adršpach Rock Labyrinth (Adršpašské skalní město)
HISTORY OF DISCOVERING THE ROCK LABYRINTHS
People did not know much about the rock labyrinths in the Adrspach and Teplice vicinity for centuries. Local settlers only ventured to go there if they felt endangered in their homes as they could find refuge in the narrow gorges and caves of the rock area. Only around 1700, the first tourists and hikers began to come here from the neighbouring Silesia. In the 18th century, most of the labyrinth was covered with a dense beech and fir forest. The oldest depiction of the Adrspach Rocks dates back to 1739. The Rocks were visited by a string of prominent historical personalities such as the Prussian Queen Louise, the Polish King and Saxon Prince Elector Friedrich August, the Emperor Joseph II, Karl the Emperor of Austria and many others.
Nevertheless, the breathtaking formations of the Adrspach Rocks still remained unknown. After the great fire of 1824 lasting for several weeks almost all the forest covering the rocks was burned. Only then did the labyrinths become visible and more accessible. At the beginning of the 19th century, the owners of the Adrspach demesne began to build the first network of pathways.
ADRSPACH ROCKS – THE BIG LOOP
The Adrspach Rocks’ big loop marked with green signs is 3.5 km long and it will take you approx. 3 hours. In the following description, we have intentionally omitted most of the rock formations that have been named and marked with arrows on the spot. Some names given to the rock formations by the first hikers such as the Lovers, Sugar Cone, Elsa Tower, etc. have been used since then, others are newer. Almost all these names try to catch the likeness of a particular person or scene. Using your imagination you will certainly find other names of the numerous boulders, rocks, towers and spires.
The entrance to the rock town is next to the tourist information centre, close to the train station. After buying a ticket at the ticket office, you get to the lake (a former sandpit) with a separate tourist trail. Turn right and follow the green tourist sign which leads you to the heart of the rock town of Adrspach. In the text below, you will find a range of interesting places and natural tourist attractions.
The Jug – a huge sandstone tower on your left-hand side climbed for the first time by Josef Janeba, Miroslav Jedlička and the climbing pioneer Rudolf Otto Bause in May 1935. The route of the first ascent leads into the big window along the crack in the left-hand side of the face wall and from there to the top. The unique six-metre-high rock window is actually “the handle” of the jug.
After another one hundred metres you will pass a junction leading from the Echo Point from which you will return back to this pathway after finishing the big loop. Now, however, continue straight ahead towards the Sugar Cone.
The Sugar Cone is the name of one of the strangest rock formation in the area. This amazing and surprising spire is seemingly standing upside down on its top. A nice description of this spire can be found in the “Reliable Guide to the Adrsbach” by Jindřich Kindl published in 1903: “It is a huge boulder resting on its top in a small pool covered with water plants. Being considerably wide at its top its height comes to 52 metres. Having 13 metres in diameter at the top and merely 3 metres in diameter at the bottom, the whole rock weighs about 40 000 kilograms. It looks like an upside-down skittle or a club for it has been considerably eroded by the weather and winds. As it seems to be leaning once to the left and once to the right, many visitors being afraid of its collapsing walk by carefully. Nevertheless, a lot of mankind shall pass by until this picturesque giant collapses.” We recommend you to add another stick to its foot. Only because of the sticks supporting the tower it has not yet collapsed.
At the Sugar Cone, cross a footbridge across the Metuje River which flows through the whole rock labyrinth.
The Metuje River – the exact location of the source of the Metuje River was discussed for many years. Finally, the problem was solved by an official decree issued in 1975. Since then the Metuje River has been rising on a plateau to the west of the Adrspach Rocks above the villages of Hodkovice and Janovice. It flows through the upper part of the Wolf’s Gorge (Vlčí rokle) and the artificial Adrspach Lake from which it falls down to the “Rock Town” leaving it at its entrance.
The Metuje River is 71 kilometres long being a left tributary to the Elbe River near Jaroměř. The area of its basin is 610 square kilometers.
Fifty metres after the Sugar Cone you will cross the Watercress Creek (Řeřichový potok) flowing from the right at the Small Organ (Malé varhany) formation.
The confluence of the Metuje River and the Watercress Creek is an example of the community of flowing and submerged plants including our largest species of bryophytes the dark green thalli of which can be several decimetres long. As mosses do not have any roots, they are anchored to bigger stones at the bottom of the creek. Although the flora of the rock labyrinth is relatively low in species, you can find a series of rare plants here. Long gorges of tectonic origin sometimes in the form of narrow corridors divide the rock blocks into many sections. Such a ragged terrain causes the socalled redistribution of precipitation by flowing, by water penetration and by blowing snow into gorges. For that reason, the top part of the area is relatively dry while the bottom part is damp or even wet.
From the confluence of the Watercress Creek and the Metuje River keep left and continue to the Gothic Gate followed by narrow gorges.
The Gothic Gate along with a network of pathways, footbridges and staircases was built by Ludwig Karl Nadherny-Borutin in 1839. It was here where the original entrance into the rock area was located. The rock formations you have already passed by used to be described as the “Rock Suburb”.
The pathway winds here and runs via the Elephant Square out of the gorges to a place near a tall tower called the Tooth. If you look forward you will be able to see the imposing Devil’s Bridge with its twenty-one-metre-high vault and finally the breathtaking Elsa’s Tower on your left.
The Elephant Square – here you can see the flora of the cold parts of the Rock Area as this is one of the gorges having the inverted microclimate. The species growing here can usually be found at elevations that are 200 metres higher.
The Tooth – A tall, gorgeous tower bearing an inscription showing the water level after torrential rain on July 23, 1844.
If you look ahead you will be able to see the imposing Devil’s Bridge with its twenty-one-metre-high vault.
In the direction of our tour you can admire the tall Elsa’s Tower above the rock passageway up on the left side.
Following the Metuje River, you will soon see the Thunder Boulder.
Thunder Boulder – There is a story attached to this huge boulder. The story is said to have taken place in 1772: That year, the Adrspach Rocks was visited by two Englishmen. Having seen the “Rock Town” they were very impressed. Therefore they decided to experience a thunderstorm “in the midst of the rocks”. They were considered to be very brave at that time. They were waiting for eight days for the thunderstorm. Then, one day after nightfall, dark clouds began to gather above the rocks and both the Englishmen rushed to the heart of the wilderness alone without a guide. The thunderstorm soon began and all hell broke loose. Thunder rolled through the gorges, it was raining cats and dogs and frequent lightnings illuminated the neighbouring cliffs. The Englishmen found a shelter under a pendent rock. Scarcely had they sat down under the rock when a lightning stroke nearby. A huge boulder suddenly fell down from the opposite scarp thundering and flying over the frightened Englishmen. It was a miracle that they were not killed or injured. At daybreak after the elements calmed down they returned to the local inn, pale weary and completely exhausted. They claimed that nothing in the world would have make them spend another night like that in the rocks. The truthfulness of the story could be confirmed by the inscription on the boulder but it is completely illegible at the present time.
Fifty metres after the Thunder Boulder the loops turns right. If you use the left branch of the loop, you will get to the Big Waterfall and the Lake where you can take a boat trip.
The Small Waterfall – a spring of drinking water rises on the right-hand side of the waterfall. In the “Riesengebirge” tourist guide published in Leipzig in 1840, this place is described as follows: “Finally we get to a small area surrounded by rocks and bushes flowed through by a silver creek. There are picnic tables in the middle, harpists are playing, hikers are joking while having a rest and refreshing themselves at a stand with gingerbread. A silver spring streams from a dark crack lined with lovely forget-me-nots”.
The Staircase at the right leads past an inscription saying that it was built in 1820.
The Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s bust with a memorial plaque by Emil Schwantner unveiled by Baron Nadherny-Borutin in 1939 commemorates Goethe’s visit to these rocks on August 31, 1790.
The Big Waterfall falls into a rock gorge from the height of 16 metres.
The Lake – at the turn of the 18th century, Count Blümegen had a floodgate built here. The retained water served for floating timber. The lake changed into a tourist attraction in 1857 when the first boat trip was made here. From the Lake, use the same pathway to get back to the junction at the Thunder Boulder.
The loop continues here with the New Section. The pathway will lead you through this labyrinth to the first vista point from which you will be able to admire an unexpected and beautiful view of the highest spire in the area – the Lovers.
The New Section was opened for the public in 1890.
The Lovers – Measured from its foot at the Watercress Creek, the height of this huge massif, the tallest in the area, is nearly one hundred metres high with a ten-metre-high window between them. This significant tower was first climbed by German climbers Otto Dietrich, Wilhelm Fiehl and Otto Rülke on June 18, 1923.
From the vista point, the loop continues downstairs to the Watercress Creek and to the parting of the ways below the Uhlířská spire. If you turn left, you will, after 60 metres, come to a rock chapel just below the north-west wall of the Lovers.
The Memorial Plaque in the cave to the left above the Watercress Creek (Řeřichový potok) commemorates the tragic end of Count Josef Emanuel Nadherny-Borutin when climbing the Lovers in 1929. The Nadherny family owned the Adrspach Demesne between 1828 and 1945. Owing to extensive improvements and building new hiking pathways the rock area became a sought-after place. The other names on the metal plaques belong to the climbers who devoted their lives to the local rocks.
From the junction below the Uhlířská Tower continue in the direction of the big loop upstairs to the Great Panorama Overlook.
The Great Panorama Overlook – Just in front of you on your left you can admire the smooth tops of the Guillotines with the Lovers in the background (this time from the other side). If you look right, you can see the beginning of the Watercress Gorge.
Watercress Cave at the bottom of the Watercress Gorge with the length of 205 metres is the longest debris (detrital) cave in the Adrspach Rocks. Similar caves are common in masses of fallen rock at the bottom of gorges and canyons or at the foot of rock walls. If the mass of fallen rock is huge, the caves can have more parallel corridors or even several levels. Such caves are often flowed through by underground streams.
From the Great Pano-rama overlook, return forty metres back and continue to the Mayor Vista Point past the tall and slim Sugar-refinery Stack.
The Mayor Vista Point located on the rim of another amphitheatre offers one of the most breathtaking and well-known views of the Adrspach Rocks. You can admire the massive wall of the Stephen’s Crown on the left, the majestic “Mayor” in the middle and the “Mayor’s Wife” on the right. Her head is a balanced rock almost separated from the body. All the three towers were first climbed in the twenties of the twentieth century.
Continue down the steep stairs and then upstairs again between the Mayor and Mayor’s Wife. After passing the Mouse Hole – a narrow gap between two rock walls, take a comfortable way to the Echo Point.
The Echo Point – In this place, French horns were blown and a mortar was fired for tourists’ enjoyment as early as 1783.
The wide pathway will then lead you to the junction below the Sugar Cone where the big loop ends. You can return back to the entrance using the way you walked at the beginning.
The Former Sandpit – there is a small 1.5-kilometre loop around the lake in the former sandpit behind the entrance at the information centre with several rest points.