If you have never been to the Harz region in the Eastern part of Germany before, now is the time to put it on your bucket list. It’s definitely an impressive part of the country. We visited the Harz this June and discovered an amazing collection of medieval cities, castles, UNESCO World Heritage sites and an overall jaw-dropping natural beauty.
When people inquire tips for a destination of me, they always tend to ask for the highs and the lows. But when you would ask me now about the Harz region, I would just take you on a journey from the highest point to the lowest one (deep down in the earth). Because that’s exactly what we did during our 3-day trip….and we loved it! Three days is actually too short to see everything the Harz has to offer, so I guess we have no choice but to return someday.
1. The highest point: Brocken
Up the mountain we went! With 1141 meter the Brocken is the highest point in the Harz region. When driving through the Harz you can see the Brocken continuously on clear days. It might not look that high, but getting on top of the Brocken is a real adventure on itself…
The Brocken mountain is a special place. Firstly because of the way you can reach the top: by boarding the narrow gauge steam train called the Brocken Railway!
This ‘beast’ produces a substantial amount of smoke, but the trip is unforgettable. You will pass through dense forest, but also ride through valleys where the views are magnificent.
Once up the Brocken you will again be gazing at marvelous views: tens of kilometers of green fields, small villages and cities….the Harz showed us her beauty in full extend!
There is one more reason why the Brocken is a special place. We discovered that this mountain top was the place where the government of Russia and Eastern Germany (the former DDR) spied on the West by tapping radio communication. Situated immediately adjacent to West Germany the whole area was sealed by the DDR government: the complete hill top was surrounded by a huge concrete wall (think the Berlin Wall). It was an important place during the Cold War and it became accessible for the public only after 3 December 1989! The last Russian soldier actually left the Brocken in 1994…
During our train ride up the Brocken I engaged in a conversation with a man who had been to the Brocken as a kid 35 years ago. At that time he could only go up a couple of stations before he encountered the concrete wall and was not allowed to go any further. The trip now for him was the first time he actually went up all the way to the top….
2. The lowest point: Rammelsberg mine
One day after our visit to the Brocken we found ourselves 30 meter below the ground, deep down in an old mine. From the highest point to the lowest.
Rammelsberg is an UNESCO World Heritage and actually the only mine that worked continuously for 1000 years (!) before it finally closed in 1988. Silver, copper, lead and gold, all were found in this mine. We went on a guided tour through small and dark passages, leading us deeper into the mountain. The dark place were all these years people were searching for the treasures of our earth…again impressive!
The beauty of the Harz
Everywhere in between the highest and the lowest point we were encountered with more impressive landscapes. Sometimes you feel yourself left gazing at a natural phenomenon, wondering how something like that could have been created. One of those moments I clearly remembered when we visited the Devil’s Wall (Teufels Mauer) near Thale in the Harz. A massive wall of rock that has been eroded during thousands of years, leaving this impressive sight. It goes on for miles!
Or what about this amazing field of poppies!! We found it next to the highway and just had to stop. We actually visited the field twice, making dozens of pictures…
The history of the Harz is clearly visible in its towns and villages. We were surprised by the beauty of medieval architecture (the half-timbered houses) in cities like Quedlinburg, Goslar and Wernigerode. We walked narrow cobblestone streets in the footsteps of knights, noble women, minstrels, and craftsmen. Surrounded by all those beautiful houses we felt to have stepped into another world.
Luckily all these city centers, villages and streets are safeguarded as UNESCO World Heritage. More about these cities later on this blog.
The Harz region definitely stole our hearts, I can tell you that. The combination of history, fun activities and the beauty of nature is perfect.
As I mentioned earlier, you need more than three days to discover all that Harz has to offer. But our first impression was a good one. In the coming weeks I am going to share with you all our family trip experiences: the romantic city of Quedlinburg, the city of Wernigrode with its castle and the nearby Brocken mountain, the Thale valley with all its witches and goblins (!), and more. First up will be a review of our accommodation in Quedlinburg: a renovated water mill! Stay tuned.
We made use of the convenient Harz Card, providing free entry to all kinds of places for just one fee. It’s certainly worth the money, also because the trip with the steam train up to the Brocken is included.