As the highest mountain range in northern Germany, the Harz occupies an exposed position in every sense. Today, large parts of the High Harz Mountains belong to the Harz National Park, which delights nature lovers with its forests and moors. The highest point is the legendary Brocken, a tree-free granite peak that was a restricted area for decades.

The national park region Harz is a driving destination nature.

Thanks to the comfortable train journey and the free mobility on site with the guest card HATIX you can enjoy your vacation environmentally friendly.

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Its name reveals the landscape characterizing: The word Harz comes from "Hart", which means "forest". Like an island, this mountain range, which was raised millions of years ago, rises out of the lowlands, although it was also cut up for decades by the German-German division. The Harz mountains are still home to a large number of hikers, cyclists and summer visitors in the summer and skiers and tobogganers in the winter. The mountain range is surrounded by ancient settlements like a string of pearls. The largest of these is Goslar, the old Hanseatic and imperial city.

The Brocken

The Brocken is cult ...

... and not first, since the poet prince Goethe climbed it. To this day, the highest mountain in northern Germany is not accessible by car. Nevertheless, thousands flock to the top year after year. The Brocken is 1141.2 meters above sea level. That doesn't sound particularly impressive, but because the granite massif rises abruptly from the North German Plain, its treeless hump, visible from afar, appears so imposing. Once at the top, you can enjoy a magnificent view in good weather. Because there is no other peak blocking the view, in the best case the view extends more than 100 kilometers into the country. Ideal conditions, therefore, for broadcasting. In GDR times, the most powerful transmitter in the country was located here, broadcasting the messages of the workers' and farmers' state across West Germany to Scandinavia. Today, the white and red mast still transmits radio and television programs. The mountain is also famous for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. But Brocken fans had to do without this spectacle for decades.

Many visitors rely on hobbling to reach the Brocken summit © picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv | Ralf Freyer

A sealed off mountain

The division of Germany rigorously deprived the Brocken of its admirers. Located on GDR territory, it was a restricted military area for 40 years. Initially still accessible with a pass, the mountain finally disappeared behind the Iron Curtain on August 13, 1961. Even GDR citizens were no longer allowed up there. This was the end of Brock tourism. Even when the reunified people in Berlin had long since embraced each other, the border was still far from being opened on the mountain. It was not until December 3, 1989, when a procession of peaceful but unwavering hikers made their way to the summit that this last bastion of the Cold War also fell. Since then, nature has been reclaiming the "death strip". Where once guards patrolled and shot at "Republic fugitives," today a border hiking trail, the "Green Belt," runs.

Thale: From the Rosstrappe, the view extends far into the Bodeland © picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv | Ralf Freyer

Always towards the summit

Numerous paths lead up to the Brocken. The Heinrich Heine Trail from Ilsenburg through the romantic Ilse Valley is considered the most beautiful. The widest is the New Goethe Trail, which starts in Torfhaus. The most comfortable trail, on the other hand, starts in Schierke at the train station. From there, the Brockenbahn has been steaming toward the summit since 1899. Its whistle sounds for miles through the Harz Mountains, and the plume of smoke announces the current location everywhere. Outside, onlookers line the track, whip out their smart phones and take pictures or film the nostalgic locomotive.

Some people can hardly wait: taking the Brockenbahn up to the legendary summit © picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv | Ralf Freyer

The beautiful Ilse

To legends, fairy tales and legends there is no shortage in the Harz Mountains. Mountains, caves, rock pinnacles, hidden waterfalls and impenetrable forests are the best breeding ground for their emergence. Where miners penetrate deep into the bones of the earth and charcoal burners dwell alone in the forest for weeks on end, dwarves and white women, enchanted deer, water spirits, robbers and enchanted souls have an easy time of it. Tales also unwind around striking natural beauties. On the Ilsestein, for example, once stood a mighty castle, the residence of a giant with a beautiful daughter. She had lost her heart to the knight who lived nearby on the Westerberg, much to her father's displeasure. To separate the lovers, the giant cut the rocks in two, creating the Ilse Valley. Ilse, beside herself with pain, threw herself into the floods. Her restless soul sometimes appears on the shore in the form of a White Woman, and when a lad pleases her, she takes him to her crystal castle in the mountain. "In my white arms, at my white breast, there you shall lie and dream," Heinrich Heine put into her mouth. He rapturously transfigures the river in his "Harzreise". Of course, Heine also climbed the Ilsestein.

Mobile on site - even without a car: Holiday ticket HATIX 

No more parking hassles in the Harz: If you want to get to the starting point of hikes or to historical monuments in the region, you can use the HATIX - the Harz vacation ticket - to travel on all public streetcars and buses in the district of Harz as well as selected routes in the district of Mansfeld-Südharz. New with this offer: the district of Goslar and the Altkreis Osterode. More info: click here
By the way, you can find tips on how to travel comfortably and inexpensively on long-distance and local trains with Deutsche Bahn here.

Reading sample from Dumont Bildatlas: The green center

This article is from the book The green center from DuMont Reiseverlag. On 220 pages, you will find ideas for your vacation in one of the most beautiful natural and cultural landscapes in Europe, with rich traditions, colorful culture and a variety of sights. The editors introduce you to the individual regions with their cultural, hiking and excursion destinations.

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Reading sample from the DuMont illustrated atlas "Germany - the green center

Cover photo: The commemorative photo motif "Brockenuhr" can be found in front of the Brockenhaus, 48 bronze signposts in a ring around six granite blocks © picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv | Ralf Freyer

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