|Originally, we planned to spend the
weekend of May 15th around Hamburg so that Russ could recover from two
busy weeks of work, overseas travel, and jetlag. By Thursday, he
decided he was feeling much better, so we started talking about possible
weekend destinations. Three possibilities came to mind:
Berlin, the Harz Mountains, or taking day trips from Hamburg.
Since day trips would involve driving anyway, Russ voted for Berlin or
the Harz. Since the weather forecast for Berlin was rainy and the
forecast for the Harz was partly sunny, we headed south towards the Harz.
It rained most of the weekend (turns out Berlin was beautiful), but we
had fun exploring anyway.
The Harz are the northernmost mountains in
Germany, and only a couple hours' drive south of Hamburg. There
are two parks covering the area - the Harz National Park (western) and
the Hochharz National Park (eastern), founded in the early 1990's after
the reunification of Germany. The mountains themselves are not very high
- the tallest, Brocken, stands 1142 meters high, but are quite scenic.
The area was settled before 500 BC, when the Celts were driven out by
the Germanic tribes. In more 'recent' times, the area was known
for its many mines and the Kaiserpfaltz, the seat of the Saxon kings.
The last of the mines closed in 1988; these days it's popular
destination for hikers, skiiers, and tourists.
Friday we drove to Goslar, and after an hour or so, we found out our
hotel was in the mountains themselves, at a winter ski resort.
After settling in, we spent Friday evening and Saturday morning in
Goslar, then spent Saturday exploring Wernigerode and Thale, and on
Sunday returned to Hamburg by way of Quedlinburg.