The Harz Attractions
The Harz, covering an area some 95km/59mi long and up to 30km/20mi across, is the range of hills which extends farthest into the Northwest German lowlands.
The higher regions are still largely forest-covered, though in recent years there has been great concern over the dying of the trees. Until 1990 the Harz was cut in two by the boundary between West and East Germany, which approximately coincided with the topographical division between the Oberharz and Unterharz.The landscape of the Oberharz (Upper Harz) to the west, a hilly region much indented by valleys, is markedly different from the rolling plateau of the Unterharz (Lower Harz) to the east. On the boundary between the two rises the Brocken, a bare round-topped eminence which in German legend was the meeting-place of the witches on Walpurgis Night. Rising to 1142 m/3747ft, it is the highest point of North Germany.The Oberharz is largely covered by forest, with an economy based on forestry, mining and stock-farming. Narrow rocky valleys like the Okertal and Bodetal, particularly on the north side, cut deep into the hills, to which a series of old-world little towns give a particular charm. The heavy snowfall has promoted the development of important winter sports centers.In contrast to the Oberharz, which drops steeply down to the lowlands, the Unterharz falls more gradually away. Its tracts of level ground are covered with beech forests or have been brought into cultivation. The eastern Harz foreland, particularly the Magdeburger Börde, is especially fertile thanks to its covering of loess.The mining of silver, copper, lead, zinc and iron ore was formerly of predominant economic importance, particularly in the Oberharz. A rich vein of silver was discovered near Goslar in the 10th century, and by the 16th century mining had spread to more than thirty towns and villages. This period saw the development of the seven free mining towns of Grund, Wildemann, Lautenthal, Clausthal, Zellerfeld, St Andreasberg and Altenau and of other mining towns. After a period of decline during the Thirty Years War the mining industry revived in the early 18th century; then in 1775 a Mining Academy was founded in Clausthal - still in existence as a faculty of Clausthal University of Technology. In the 19th century the mines began to be worked out.
The starting point of a round trip tour through the Western Harz is at Goslar, on the northern fringes of the Harz.Leave Goslar on the road that runs southwest up the Gose valley, passing the Bocksberg (726 m/2,382ft).
Clausthal - Zellerfeld
Clausthal-Zellerfeld, with a University of Technology which incorporates its 18th C Mining Academy, lies on the Oberharz plateau. In Zellerfeld, which was rebuilt on a regular grid after a great fire in 1672, stands the church of St Salvator (1674-83). Adjoining the church is the Calvörsche Bibliothek (Library; manuscripts of the Reformation period, etc.). On the north side of the square is the Oberharz Mining and Heimatmuseum.Clausthal has the largest timber-built church in Germany, the Marktkirche (Market Church; 1639-42). Opposite it is the main building of the Mining Academy (Bergakademie; founded 1775), now housing the collections of the Institute of Mineralogy. In Hindenburgstrasse is the birthplace of the great bacteriologist Robert Koch (1843-1910).
6km/4mi west of Clausthal-Zellerfeld in the Harz a road branches off on the right to the holiday resort of Wildemann. Ten km/6mi farther north is the Innerste-Stausee (reservoir).
Bad Grund is the oldest of the seven mining towns of the Oberharz. It has also been frequented for over a century as a spa. The road from Clausthal-Zellerfeld passes the spa installations. The Markt is surrounded by attractive 17th century half-timbered houses; parish church of 1640.From here the route continues to the junction with the road from Bad Gandersheim, which is followed to Osterode.
The medieval town of Osterode lies at the point where the river Söse emerges from the Harz. A little to the west the river is dammed to form a reservoir. On the Kornmarkt, the town's main square, is the Englischer Hof, a Renaissance building of 1610. To the east of this is the parish church of St Ägidii (St Giles; rebuilt 1545). Behind the church is the Town Hall (1552), and near this is the richly decorated Ratswaage (Municipal Weigh-House; 1553). The historic old Ritterhaus houses the Heimatmuseum.
Herzberg, in the Harz, is a little town with attractive half-timbered buildings. Above the town stands the Schloss (1510), birthplace in 1629 of Ernest Augustus, first Elector of Hannover and ancestor of the Hanoverian kings of Britain.
At the point where the Oder leaves the artificial lake created by the Oder Dam and enters the Harz foreland is Bad Lauterberg, originally a copper-mining town founded in the 15th C. and now a popular spa (Kneipp cure). In the northern part of this long straggling town is the Kurpark (Wissmann Park).
A few kilometers southeast of Bad Lauterberg is Bad Sachsa, a summer resort and winter sports center. Four km/2.5mi north is the Ravensberg, from which there are extensive views.
From Bad Lauterberg there is a road that turns northeast, following the Oder and running past the Oder Dam. Turning left at the Oderhaus forester's house, the visitor will see St Andreasberg, one of the seven mining towns of the Oberharz. In the upper town is the parish church (1798). To the north of the town extends the beautiful Kurpark, on the west side of which is the Samson silver mine (843 m/2,766ft deep; conducted visits).
Near the beautiful Rádau Falls is Bad Harburg, on the northern fringes of the Harz. The spa installations are in Herzog-Wilhelm-Strasse, which runs through the whole length of the town. Farther south is the beautiful Kurpark.Above the town rises the Grosser Burgberg (483 m/1,585ft; cableway), from the top of which there are magnificent views.
From the Oderhaus forester's house near St Andreasberg the main road goes on to Braunlage, in the high valley of the Warme Bode. On the south side of the town lies the attractive Kurgarten, and near this is the Heimatmuseum.To the north of the town is the Wurmberg (971 m/3,186ft; cableway; outlook tower).
Northwest of Braunlage is a dam over the Oder that comes to Altenau, one of the seven old mining towns in the Harz. In the Markt is a 17th C. wooden church with an altar of 1719.
The Harz-Hochstrasse (B 242) traverses the western Harz between Bad Grund and Braunlage.
The old roads ran past the Harz on the north and south. On the fringes of the hills there grew up many small and medium-sized towns whose inhabitants earned their subsistence from mining, industry and trade: places such as Ilsenburg, Wernigerode, Blankenburg, Thale and Ballenstedt, Nordhausen and Sangerhausen, Mansfeld and Eisleben, which now attract many visitors with their picturesque old buildings and beautiful setting or as centers for walks and climbs in the surrounding hills.
Only one old road crossed the Harz from north to south, between Wernigerode and Nordhausen, and this is now followed by the Harzquerbahn, a narrow-gauge railroad opened in 1899.The narrow-gauge Harzquerbahn between Wernigerode and Nordhausen (c. 60km/37mi) runs through a romantic landscape of hills and forests. There is a connection with the Selketalbahn in the Selke valley; at the Eisfelder Talmühle junction a branch line goes off to Gernrode via Hasselfelde or Stiege.
The Brocken (1,142 m/3,747ft) rises above the tree line into an expanse of stunted scrub and alpine meadows. It is the highest point in the granite mass which has thrust its way through the local slates and graywackes. After the upthrust of the Harz in the Tertiary era the granite summit of the Brocken, like that of the Ramsberg (582 m/1,910ft) was exposed by erosion. The best approach to the Brocken is from Wernigerode or the altitude and winter sports resort of Schierke. There is also a nostalgic old steam railroad.Hochharz National ParkThe area around the Brocken was declared a National Park in 1990.
The main tourist attractions in the northern Harz foreland are the old town of Quedlinburg, with its historic buildings and associations with German history, and the episcopal city of Halberstadt with its rich cathedral treasury.