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Harz

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Northern Germany : Harz
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The Harz is a low mountain range in the Northern Uplands of Germany, famous for its historic silver mines that brought prosperity to the region and to the Kingdom of Hanover. The Harz forms part of the federal states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

The Christmas market in Goslar

It lies between the river Elbe and Weser in the region of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. It sits in a northwest to southeast positon and is 20 miles in breadth. The sixty miles of terraced plateaus are made from limestone, sandstone and slate and form many narrow deep valleys. The two highest peaks in the area are Brocken (3,747 feet) and Viktorshohe (1909 feet) both of which are granite based. The Northwestern area is known as the Oberharz and the Southeastern extensive area is known as the Unterharz.

The Oberharz plateau at 3300 feet in the west and 1600 feet in the centre suffers from a cold and damp climate even in the summer caused by its susceptibility to northerly winds. The Brocken towers over this area however it is more famous for its inclusion in local folklore and literature. These peaks tend to be bare however the lower slopes are forested and interspersed with moorland and river beds.

The Unterharz has a less harsh climate which is exploited in the agricultural areas. The area supports grain and cattle farming. The area was once abundant with wild game, lynx, bear and wolf, however they have been hunted into extinction. The area is also famous for its animal breeding, especially canaries and deer.

Between the 10th-16th century the area was developed as an area synonymous with mining and metallurgy (lead, silver, iron, zinc and copper). The easy access to water and wood helped the early settlers however dams have been introduced to control the waters to remove the possibility of flooding or shortages in the summer. These dams now create hydroelectric power as wel as drinking water for the area. On an industrial scale quarrying (marble, granite and gypsum) as well as wood processing for paper and cardboard provides sources of income. However the area is also dependant on tourism with water sports and spas being important however it is its forest scenery in the Harz National Park which attracts the majority of the tourists.


Regions

The Harz is generally divided into 2 main regions:

  • The Upper Harz (Oberharz) in the west, mainly in the state of Lower Saxony..
  • The Lower Harz (Unterharz) in the east, mainly in Saxony-Anhalt.
  • In addition the area around the Brocken with the highest peaks in the range is also referred to as the High Harz (Hochharz).

Towns

  • Bad Gandersheim — The town's origins can be traced back to the 9th Century, when it was an important administrative centre.
  • Bad Harzburg — charming spa town, ancient cable car and base for walks in the surrounding hills
  • Blankenburg — quaint former East German town and home to an imposing castle
  • Braunlage — the main ski resort and cable car to Lower Saxony's highest peak, the Wurmberg
  • Clausthal-Zellerfeld — a resort in the Harz Mts. Its manufactures include textiles and wood products. The town was once a center for the mining of copper, zinc, and lead ores.
  • Goslar — gateway to the Harz
  • Halberstadt — playing a piece of music that's scheduled to last for 639 years
  • Osterwieck — historic town is situated on the river Ilse, north of Wernigerode
  • Quedlinburg — UNESCO world heritage site
  • Sankt Andreasberg — former mining town
  • Schierke — historic border village and starting point for walks up the Brocken
  • Stolberg — is a health resort in the state of Saxony-Anhalt
  • Torfhaus — the highest settlement in Lower Saxony and base for numerous walks
  • Thale — old mining town and former summer resort for Berliners; gateway to the Bode Gorge
  • Wernigerode — known for its impressive Romantic-age castle and its trussed (Timber Beamed) houses that are kept in their original styles.

Other destinations

  • The Brocken is the highest mountain in the Harz range and the higest mountain in Northern Germany. The fastest way to get to its 1,141 metre summit is by Harz narrow guage train. The Harzer narrow-gauge railway has a long history: Built at end of the last century, this was done in order to connect the Harzs’mineral resources, forestry and small industry to the rest of the economically rising Germany, as well as to promote the beginning of tourism. Originally there were three companies that laid the railway, opening the Harz:

• 1886 the Gernrode Harzgeroder railway AG (GHE) was formed.

• 1896 the Nordhausen-Wernigeroder-Railway (NWE) followed.

• 1897 followed the Southern-Harz Railway from Walkenried to Braunlage.

Altogether there operated a narrow guage railway net over 130 km long, The Southernharz railway did not survive and the GHE and NEW were eventually taken over by the authorities of the GDR from 1949 up to up to the fall of the Inner German Border. The main route to the Brocken starts at Wernigerode with several minor stops on the way. The two main connection stops are Drei Annen Hohne and Schierke. Be aware though, the trip up and down will take about 1¾ hours.

It is also relatively easy to walking to the top on the many hiking trails. Once on the summit, visit the observation deck of the old TV Tower, which is one of the oldest in the world.

Understand

Prior to 1990, the border between Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt used to be the border between East and West Germany complete with fence and fortified frontier. The Brocken was an East German and Soviet military surveillance post used to spy on any military activity in Western Europe. From the East German side access to many villages was severely restricted. Roads and railway tracks were either closed or demolished, thus later facilitating the establishment of the Harz National Park. The division of the Harz by the Iron Curtain is still noticeable in the marketing of the Harz as a tourist destination with various sites on the old Inner German Border being preserved for historic and tourism reasons.

Tourism is the main source of income for the region. Unemployment is high, especially after the collapse of the industrial complexes in former East Germany. The number of tourists visiting a town is politically important. Goslar and sourounding villages compete against the cluster of Wernigerode, Quedlinburg and Blankenburg and the Southern Harz regions in attracting tourists. This competition is not always friendly!

It is important to note that recommendations on where to go in the region are coloured by a person's (East German or West German) origin. Each of the regions tries to pass itself of as the "ultimate Harz experience". Try to forget about the East/West rivalry as reunification is more and more a thing of the past (and a long term success) in people's minds at least, and just enjoy the wild and natural beauty of the area.

Get in

By train

The access point for the Northern part is Goslar, which can be reached from Hannover and Halle(Saale), while the southern part is reached by train from Göttingen and Erfurt.

By bus

From Berlin, BerlinLinienBus [1] runs daily to the Harz from Berlin ZOB.

By car

The A 38 runs south of the Harz from Halle to Göttingen and the A 395 connects Goslar and Bad Harzburg in the northwest with Braunschweig. The A7 connects Göttingen in the southwest and Hannover in the North as well as Brauschweig. From Hannover one can follow the A7 down to the junction "Seesen/Harz (67)" to follow the range from north to south , or to the junction "Rhüden Harz (66)" to follow to the north B82/B6 to Gosler, Bad harzburg and on to Wernigerode. The B 6 is an important connection along the northern range.

Get around

The best-known mode of transport is the historic narrow-gauge steam railway network operated by the Harz Narrow Gauge Railways (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen) or HSB. There are also other, standard gauge lines run by Deutsche Bahn, mainly around the margins of the Harz. Local buses connect towns which are not on the railway line. Having your own car is recommended if you want to travel extensively in the region. Inside the national park the only permissible ways of getting about are on the steam railway, on foot or by bike.

See

Do

  • Harzer Wandernadel, Servicestelle Harzer Wandernadel, Gesund älter werden im Harz e.V., Schlossberg 2, 38889 Blankenburg (Harz) (follow the maps!), +49 (0)3944-954 7148, [2]. The Harzer Wandernadel is a network of over 200 checkpoints in the Harz mountains - on lofty peaks, by ruined castles, at museums and other places of interest - designed to encourage visitors to get out and explore the area. The idea is to get a passbook and map set - available for €9.50 from tourist information offices and participating pubs - and to collect stamps at the checkpoints. There is a system of badges ranging from bronze for 8 stamps to "Harz Walking Emperor" for all 222 stamps. A cheap, easy and fun way to explore the Harz.


Eat

  • Sonnenberg Hotel, Sonnenberg 8, 37444 St. Andreasberg, [3]. Great food and drink available all year round at the Sonnenberg Hotel located just 5km from St. Andreasberg and Braunlage. The bar and bistro serves a variety of traditional and non-traditional continental cuisine.
  • Bavaria Alm, Torfhaus 38 (on the B4 federal road at Torfhaus), 05320 331034, [4]. 9am-12pm daily. A Bavarian-style restaurant in the middle of the Harz. Great food based on Bavarian specialities, good service, reasonable prices and a handy location on the main road with plenty of parking (pay and display). Ideal place for a hearty meal after a hard day's walking or sightseeing in the Harz. They also do a breakfast buffet on Saturdays from 9am-1pm. Mid-price range.

Drink

Stay safe

Common precautions apply.

Get out

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