Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Harz Mountains

The book Walking in the Harz Mountains arrived the day before I was due to travel to Hahnenklee in the Harz (with my wife on a rail holiday with Treyn) travelling from home virtually all the way from home by rail, which was a first. Excursions during the week included journeys on narrow gauge railways. The first was from Wernigerode, a town full of timber-framed buildings, on the Harzquerbahn (the Trans-Harz Railway) to the top of Brocken Mountain (3,743ft/1,141m), the highest peak in the Harz, a trip of some one and a half hours. Much fun was had before the train left exploring the station area and admiring the various old steam engines.

The weather was very mild in the town but as the train wended its way gradually around the perimeter of the mountain it started to snow until, on reaching the summit, there were near blizzard conditions and it was icy and bitterly cold. The line, first opened in 1898, was used by the military during the Cold war, but re-opened to the public in 1991. Until then, the Brocken was used as a military communications post as this part of Germany was part of the GDR.

The other excursion was from Quedlinburg (a town with UNESCO World Heritage status) on the Seketalbahn passing through dense forests and great scenery.

A free day presented the opportunity of a hike (which is largely what this blog is all about). I caught a bus from Hahnenklee to Goslar, about ten miles away. I was then able to walk back to Hahnenklee. The route climbed out of Goslar and passed by the Rammelsberg Mine, dating back to the tenth century when silver was discovered here. It is now a regional mining museum and attracts many visitors. Unfortunately, time didn't permit a visit here so I pressed on. The path then climbed up the Herzberg where I joined the Herzberger Way, a well waymarked route through coniferous forest. I stopped for lunch at a mountain hut.

 Shortly after, snow started to fall and, in no time at all, I was enveloped by a blizzard and walking through snow. I followed a route known as the Schalkeweg, below the summit of the Schalke, where I stopped in another mountain hut for a while. Here, there was a viewing tower where, according to the book, I could "enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding hills". Quite, but not today. I didn't bother to go up. Descending from here, I called in at the Auerhahn (Capercaillie in English), a welcoming pub on the road where I enjoyed a glass of excellent German beer and was able to warm up and dry out a bit before returning to Hahnenklee.

This is a part of Germany that requires a return visit.

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