The Harz Mountains Location Facts History Germany Europe

The Harz Mountains Location Facts History Germany Europe

For 100km (62 mi) across central Germany, the Harz Mountains divide the northern lowlands from the southern uplands. The region has benefited from 20th-century politics, which left it virtually uninhabited and provided its 27,400 hectares of evergreen and broadleaf woodlands, its marshes, alpine meadows, cliff-faces, waterfalls and gorges with the ideal opportunity for regeneration. The entire mountain range is now a protected nature reserve, but its centrepiece is the Upper Harz plateau, the 65 sq km (25 sq mi) circling the rounded granite peak of the Brocken, the highest at 1,142 m (3,746 ft) in the Harz.

Shrouded in mists 300 days a year, the Brocken’s harsh appearance inspired Goethe to recreate its wild atmosphere in the nightmares of Faust; and a rock shelf in Thale, a small town overlooking the dramatic Bode Valley nearby, is called the Hexentenplatz, the place where witches dance every Walpurgisnacht (1st May), before flying off to meet the devil on Brocken.

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If the high moors are austere, the surrounding forests of brown, maple and beech frame more than 100 lakes that are often linked in systems of torrent streams and thin strands of waterfalls. Their splashing echo traces the course of the Bode River out of the mystery and magic of the Upper Harz to a landscape of fairy-gothic romanticism. The force of the water has cut whole cave systems in its scramble round jagged outcrops of granite, imperturbable in the yielding limestone.

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The most spectacular of the dripstone caves found everywhere in the Harz are here, in Rubeland, near Wernigerode. The Baumannshohle plays host to music festivals in its colossal 60 * 40 m(197 *181 ft) ‘Goethe Hall’ cavern; and the nearly equally huge Baumannshohle features a dazzling arrangement of stalactites, rich with the sparkle of mineral crystals.

The Harz and the Bodetal are stunning in every season. However crowded it may seem near attractions like the charming narrow gauge railway system, you only need to step a few metres away to enjoy the sylvan solitude that truly belongs to the lynx, marten, red and fallow deer, and the myriad birds for which it is home.

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