This post covers one of the true highlights of the Harz region in Germany: the Brocken mountain! Not only the mountain (with its 1141 meters) and its views are fabulous, but the train ride up the mountain is one-of-a-kind. A narrow-gauge railway takes you up in 1.5 hours (starting point the city of Wernigerode).
The track is a stunning piece of history. The construction of this railway started in 1896! In the 1960s the train transport all the way up to the Brocken was interrupted because of the start of the Cold War and the erection of the Berlin Wall (more about the history in an earlier post on this blog). Thirthy years later, in 1991, the first steam train could finally reached the Brocken station again. And now it’s available for everyone to hop on the train for an unforgettable ride. Make sure to spend some time standing between the coaches to get some awesome pictures and really enjoy the trip!
The train crosses the Harz National Park offering stunning panoramas. Benches in the coaches are small and together with the sound of the locomotive and the smell of the smoke it really is like stepping back in time. There are 9 departures every day from the train station of Wernigerode but be warned that it can become quite busy on weekends and holidays.
The Brocken mountain is not only the highest point in the Harz but also an important historic place. I wrote in the earlier post that the mountain was used extensively for surveillance and espionage purposes during the Cold War, being right on the border of East and West Germany. On top you can visit the Brocken Haus displaying some of the surveillance material from those times. But mostly its the panorama that will impress you. There are sufficient hiking tracks on top of the mountain to enjoy the views from all sides!
After coming down from our Brocken trip we continued by visiting the Wernigerode castle. From various parts in the city you can hop on a little train (called Bimmelbahn in German) that will bring you to the castle. Quite convenient as the castle is situated on quite a steep hill…
The oldest part of the castle was built in the 12th century. The castle is a great place to take pictures: the exterior, interior but also the views on the city below are beautiful. The former Lord certainly had his house in order.
Returning from the castle, the little train dropped us in the middle of Wernigerode: the main square or Markt. The most famous building is the Rathaus (Town Hall). It’s current half-timbered architecture dates back to the 15th century. It looks right out of a fairy tale!
The square is actually a great place to relax. We took our time to rethink our Brocken experience from earlier that day. Surrounded again by beautiful half-timbered houses you keep on being remembered how special this Harz region actually is.
Rammelsberg: Mines of Goslar
In the city of Goslar (Western part of the Harz region) you can visit one of the oldest mines in Germany: Rammelsberg. This mine worked continuously for more than 1,000 years and has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can take various guided tours deep down into the mines. Although the tours are in German, it’s still very impressive to descent into the earth and visit the places where many worked to dig for copper, lead and zinc. Make sure to bring good shoes and warm clothes. During our visit it was 31 degrees Celcius outside, but only 10-12 degrees inside the mountain.
The tour starts in the mine worker’s dressing room. Old working clothes are hung from the ceiling, creating a bit of a spooky atmosphere.
Kids will certainly love the tour where you board a little train to ride into the mountain. Unfortunately that train broke down one hour before we arrived…
Back above the ground we enjoyed a nice lunch on the premises. We still had a little bit of time left so we decided to drive around the city of Goslar a bit. These were the streets we drove through….how picturesque can a place be?
This is the last post about our trip to the Harz region. The whole area is impressive and we were pleasantly surprised by the cities, the UNESCO World Heritage sites and the landscapes. Let’s agree to go back someday…
Other posts about our Harz trip:
We were invited by the German National Tourism Board and Marketing Saxony-Anhalt to explore the Harz region. We made use of the convenient Harz Card, providing free entry to all kinds of places for just one fee. On the tour described above the following is included in the Harz Card: the trip with the steam train up the Brocken mountain, entry to the Brocken museum on top of the mountain, entry to the Wernigerode castle, the trip to the castle with the little train, and the entry to the Rammelsberg mines.