Visiting the Harz Mountains the Old-fashioned Way

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I am a big fan of train travel. I like just sitting on the train, staring out of the window, reading a book, listening ot music or just letting my thoughts wander off. To me, it’s the least stressful way of travelling (despite the occasional delays). However, I had never been on a steam train before! But what an exciting experience that is!

Steam Train Rides

In the Harz mountains you can make that experience yourself and not only enjoy the rattling sounds of the train and watch the smoke disappear in the air, you also ride through the beautiful Harz mountain national park with it’s dark and gloomy colours. Harz Mountains narrow gauge train lines is the longest network of narrow gauge train lines in Germany. It runs for more than 140km on three different lines. The first runs from Drei Annen Hohne to the top of the Brocken mountain, the second one leaves from Quedlinburg through the Selke valley to the Eisfelder valley mill in the Harz mountains and the third one takes you from Wernigerode to Nordhausen. We decided to take the train all the way up to the top of the Broken. The trains run every day of the year, however, it is recommended to make a reservation beforehand as it can get crowded – especially on summer weekends.

Exploring the Harz Mountains

The Harz has the highest elevations of northern Germany and the Broken is the highest mountain of the national park. It is very popular by tourists, who either walk, ride their mountain bike or take the steam train up to the top. Numerous hiking and biking paths are winding through the forest. However, be aware that the Broken is famous for always being clouded in mist! If you are looking forward to having a breath-taking view from atop over the surrounding woods and towns, ou should probably stay in the region for a couple of days and wait for a mist free, sunny day to enjoy the views. When we visited, it was foggy – of course – but I didn’t mind at all. The shapes and shadows of the trees are even more eerie and walking through the woods in this type of weather is a little spooky, which can be half the fun! In any case, the walking routes are very well marked and it’s hardly possible to get lost on the way!

Wernigerode

Even though we stayed at Drei Annen Hohne, a very small village in the Harz mountains, we still took the time to explore Wernigerode. Wernigerode was first mentioned in official records in the 12th century. And still today you can wander through the little streets and see beautifully restored old, half-timbered houses, which are typical for the region. About 100 m above town sits the castle of Wernigerode. And if you are interested in history, you can visit the museum inside the castle, which displays craft work, furniture, and other objects from the 16th to 19th century. But even if you are not interested in visiting a museum, it is still worth walking up the hill to the castle to enjoy the view from there. If the weather is good, you can even see the top of the Brocken mountain from there. And of course it is possible to reward yourself with a cup of coffee, cake or a traditional German meal.

Fun fact: Every year on the last night of April, witches are gathering on the meadow on top of Brocken mountain. Legend says that the devil invites them every year to celebrate the witches sabbat. So, past midnight on the last day of April, all creatures of the night are gathering to dance around the fire.

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