Great walking country. We greatly enjoy holidays in the Harz Mountains region of Northern Germany, as it has the type of walking country we prefer. It is sometimes known in German as "Die Rentnergebirge", the pensioners' mountains. If this refers to the relatively gentle slopes, that has suited us! There are countless well sign-posted and marked trails, mostly in the forests and criss- crossing the hills and valleys. Underfoot they are mostly springy, although rooted and stony in parts. Excellent and readily available walking maps reinforce the clear signs.

Are the Harz Mountains real mountains? The Harz is Germany's
Northernmost mountain range and part of the so-called Mittelgebirge
Central Mountains. The north-western part of the range is called the
Harz and has an average elevation of 640m/2,100 ft above sea
level. The
Southeastern part is the Lower Harz, with an average
altitude. So it is actually only of a modest height, more
hills than mountains,
but the range does appear to rise steeply above
the North German lowland.
Some 100 km long and 30 km wide, it is an
ancient highland system geologically formed of old hard granite
cut by deep glacial valleys. The Bode Valley/Bodetal twists for 169km
through the Harz, with much dramatic scenery.
The scene above right is in the Upper Oder valley, between Braunlage and Sankt Andreasberg. Click on it for fuller size!

What is it that so much appeals to us? It is the magnificent
varying landscape with its wonderful scenery and clean air. This
landscape is an abundant mix of dark forests of tall firs, pines and
types of spruce as far as the eye can see, with beech trees on
lower ground. Rugged slopes and long, narrow, winding, deep
valleys are all part of the visual appeal. Many waterfalls, becks,
streams and rivers varied by man made and natural ponds,
reservoirs and lakes add to the picture. This photo is of the 1,630m long, man-made reservoir Oderteich, situated 800m from the B4 along the B242. Built between 1714-1721 it served the silver mines at Sankt Andreasberg and was Germany's largest reservoir until the beginning of the 20th Century. There are some extensive fertile plateaus with meadows. Dotted across the region are picturesque medieval towns with their half-timbered houses and castles. These features add together in attracting us in the past 12 years and German visitors since the mid 19th Century, when it became popular with holidaymakers from North Germany and Berlin in particular.

Strongly commended. We have been to the Harz 12 times now and strongly commend the region, although the Harz is a secret almost unknown to fellow British holidaymakers. We rarely see any Brits except occasionally in cars and on one occasion a coach group. We did have a two year gap because of a neurological disorder affecting my feet and legs. This is described on another website, "Paraproteinaemic Demyelinating Neuropathy" . My first visit there was in May 1987 but our first visit together was on a four-day coach tour in November 1988. The barbed wire frontier reality of the post War political division of Germany, between the West German Federal Republic (BRD) and the Eastern German Democratic Republic (DDR) was very evident to us. The
whole re-united Harz has been enjoyed since 1990. The east
Harz has some of the best scenery, including the legendary
Brocken, several beautiful unspoiled old towns and villages and
an extensive steam train network of narrow-gauge railways. To
illustrate some of the East Harz's scenery this photo is of the
Ilsefälle (Ilse Falls) in the beautiful Ilestal. The Ilse runs from
just east of Brocken in a northerly dirtection through Ilsenburg.
Some wonderful walks in this area.

Wintertime too can also bring great numbers of visitors. For us the frosty
and snowy forests were sheer magic during 2 February holidays. Downhill
skiing is possible on some of the moderately steep slopes of higher areas,
served by networks of ski tows, chairlifts and cable cars. Cross-country
skiers (langlaufers) can choose from hundreds of kilometers of well-
prepared trails. Alongside the skiers may be many walkers on cleared paths,
but they must take care not to trespass on the ski tracks!
To the right is
a winter scene near Oderbrück. Click on it!

How do we get there?
Some may choose to fly to Hamburg or Hanover. We have preferred taking our car and travelling by ferry, formerly to Hamburg or then to Cuxhaven. Sadly this service has been withdrawn. DFDS Seaways  has a daily service on excellent ferries from the Tyne to Amsterdam/Ijmuiden. A 340-mile drive may then be made to the Harz, mainly on motorways. Another North of England connection is by the daily overnight crossing by
P and O Ferries
from Hull to Rotterdam-Europort. The driving distance to the Harz is just a little further than from Ijmuiden.

Where can we stay?

There are plenty of hotels, pensions, bed and breakfast houses and holiday apartments everywhere. Obtain a local brochure or watch out for "room available" – "Zimmer frei" signs. Prices are very reasonable. We have stayed in Braunlage for all our holidays. Our now friends had an excellent Pension but have now retired. However they still own very good holiday apartments. They are English speaking.

General and local tourist information is available from the Harz Nationalpark and
Harz Tourist Information .