Forming a perfect circle with its reflection, the Rakotzbrücke in Germany is considered one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe.
In the German state of Saxony, there is an arched bridge which was explicitly built to form a perfect circular shape when it is reflected in the waters of the lake beneath it. It is called the Rakotzbrücke and is popularly known as the Devil’s Bridge. I went on a road trip to this 19th century design marvel, as well Instagram sensation. I found out, what makes it so special and how to make the most of a trip there.
Constructed with the help of the devil
Although there is not an exact date when the construction of the bridge started, experts estimate the Rakotzbrücke probably dates to the 1860s. Records state that a man, Friedrich Hermann Rötschke, bought the area where the Rakotzbrücke stands and ordered the construction of the most extraordinary bridge in the world.
The architect, who wanted to create something out of this world, brought basalt and field stones from the nearby Saxon Switzerland. His design was way ahead of his time and the strange shapes of basalt were so unusual that they scared more than one in the region.
According to a former local priest and chronicler, Adolf Aisch, such a weird design could not be completed without the help of the devil. So, the architected negotiated a price of “50.000 thalers and a human life” in order to finish the bridge. However, once the construction finished, the architect tricked the devil and sacrificed an animal instead of a man.
After the devil found out about it, he came back looking for revenge. Consequently, killing a local carpenter, Traugott Wolsch, after some additional wooden supports were removed in 1892. Now, there is even a plaque commemorating his sad fate.
Exploring the Rakotzbrücke today
Nowadays the Rakotzbrücke is part of the Azalea and Rhododendron Park, a natural area located 160 km from Berlin and 120 km from Dresden. Due to its very remote location, the Rakotzbrücke is not the place you can easily access via public transportation. I checked several connections from my home in Berlin and it would take me at least 3 to 4 hours just to get there. Furthermore, the Rakotzbrücke is not the place you spend more than just a couple of hours and simply traveling for such a long time is not worth it.
Nevertheless, the Azalea and Rhododendron Park is the perfect stop over if you are planning a road trip in Germany or if you are planning a daytrip from a nearby location. I rented a car with a couple of friends and planned a short daytrip from Berlin. We were able to visit the bridge and combine it with other stops like the villages of Görlitz, Lübbenau (Germany’s version of Venice) and Bad Muskau.
Others take a step further and do a full trip from Berlin to Saxon Switzerland in a single day. However, with my experience, I considered this route way too packed and it will leave you just with enough time to simply take a photo at the bridge, take a photo of the rock formations at Saxon Switzerland and return.
Read more: Europe’s most beautiful natural landscapes
NOTE: A longer and more comfortable trip would be renting a car in Berlin and spending one night in Dresden. You can focus on the first day in visiting the upper part of Saxony and the second day in hiking more than one route at Saxon Switzerland.
What to expect when you visit the bridge
Going on a road trip for the Rakotzbrücke and having the highest expectation about it is not a good idea. I would say visiting the bridge is a wild card anytime you go. Sometimes the Rakotz Lake is completely dry or some areas of the bridge are under renovation. I also want to point out that there is only one exact spot where you can get that perfect reflection of a full circle.
It is also prohibited to cross the bridge due to its fragile structure. Therefore, every time you saw a photo of Instagram of someone jumping on the top of the bridge or posing with an epic look, it is either a photoshop edit or he simply didn’t care about the preservation of the structure.
At the same time, any time of the year is a good time for visiting the bridge. Dry cold winters makes it look like a scenery on a horror movie, Spring and Autumn bring multiple colours to an already surreal view and Summer is perfect when you combine it with a picnic and a very warm day.
Furthermore, the Azalea and Rhododendron Park is gorgeous for a walk and you really feel like being part of a Bohemian fairy tale.
Still, I find way better to visit the Rakotzbrücke as part of a longer road trip discovering Germany’s hidden gems.
Map to the exact location of the Rakotzbrücke
NOTE: Since June 2018, the Rakotzbrücke is under renovation and the lake has been drained. According to local radio station MDR, the basalt columns and the bridge chambers are almost complete. Still, one section of the arch remains. The Rakotzbrücke is said to be completely restored by the end of 2020.
Where else to go?
The Rakotzbrücke is the cherry on top of the ice cream. But there are many other places to visit nearby. I traveled around this region several times and these are my favorite places within one hour from the bridge:
Right between the Rakotzbrücke and Berlin, Spreewald is a biosphere reserve where forest and wetlands are crossed by dozens of canals fed by the Spree River. Some people call it the Venice of Germany and it is really a great stop when the weather is warm, and you want some fresh air.
Travelers with a car can drive to the very tiny village of Lübbenau, where they can rent a boat for a couple of euros and canoe around Spreewald’s canals. It is a wonderful daytrip by itself, as you can step down from your canoe and wander around some colorful alleys.
Spreewald is nationwide famous for their pickles. If you are visiting Lübbenau, try their local pickle vodka (Spreewälder Gurkenlikör). It is definitely something you never tried before and a great memory of a visit to this area.
Located just 5 km from the bridge, the little town of Bad Muskau is a very charming place for a coffee or a break. It is also home of the famous Bad Muskau Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an obligatory stop is you are visiting the Rakotzbrücke.
Even though the entrance to the castle costs around 10 EUR, travelers can walk around the gardens and the park surrounding the castle completely free.
It is also a great place to stay overnight if you decide to visit the Rakotzbrücke at night or very early in the morning.
Further south and right next to the Polish border, the town of Görlitz has one of the most beautiful “Altstadt” in Germany. It is located only 60 km south of the Rakotzbrücke and many travelers combine it on a day trip for a place to have lunch and walk in the afternoon.
Its pretty facades and cobblestone streets are perfect to a romantic walk and lately Görlitz has been gaining popularity for being a movie filming location. “The Grand Hotel Budapest” was mostly filmed in this city, as well other Hollywood movies like “The Book Thief” and “The Reader”.
Read more: Why Germans drink so much sparkling water?
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