Harz

The last tour of this year. We’ll be doing some cross country skiing through the Harz for a few days. A small problem: the closer we get to the departure date, the less chance there is for a snow covered Harz. Is this the area well known for the large amount of rain and low temperatures? At Christmas the last specks of snow disappear, so we leave for Germany without skis.

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The Harz is a highland in Northern Germany with its highest point the Brocken. It is well known: Each year 1.3 million people visit the Brocken. The Harz is a large forest that mainly consists of pine trees and a few birches. There are a few small swamps and the “summits” of the hills have some large boulders on them. A few years ago a lynx has been released here, which is also the symbol for the area.

The Harz has been used for intensive mining since the Middle Ages. The last mine has been closed recently: in 2007. Mining left some traces as there are still large amounts of heavy metals in the ground. During the Cold War the border between East- and West-Germany was right through the Harz. Between 1945 and 1990 this was a forbidden, military area. After the Wende everything that reminded of the split between the countries has been erased. The only memory you’ll encounter a few times in the area are the Kolonnen Wegen, long blocks of concrete used by the soldiers for transport.

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The first night we crawl into our tarp after which it immediately starts to drizzle. During the night the ticking of the raindrops changes to a soft patting: snow. The next morning we wake up in a white world, the ground is covered by a few centimeters of snow.

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Though the wind is getting stronger, it takes a day or two for the thick fog hanging in the forest to disappear. These days there is no view: We walk through a thick forest and at the summits (Klippe) nothing can be seen because of the fog. When the fog finally is away, there are still thick, grey clouds hiding the Brocken. According to the statistics the Brocken is covered by fog for 300 days a year. We believe it’s true.

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As most people have holidays now and the Harz is a beloved area for tourists, there are lots of people on the footpaths to the Brocken. If you leave these paths, you won’t meet a soul anymore!

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This area is well fitted for cross country skiing. It is sloping and the forest paths are good. For hiking we like the meandering mountain paths more, which are not so easy to find here.

Click here to see all photographs.

Bibliography

450, Karte 1, Harz
Wandern, Rad, Kompass
1:50 000

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