I have just returned from five idyllic days in the ludicrously pretty Harz Mountains - a region just south of Hanover. It is a shame I haven't visited them sooner - one because I would have more time and opportunity to return now that I only have about 6 months left living in Germany, and secondly because it would have made for a great recommendation for a Valentine's Trip in my blog from a few weeks ago (as well as allowed for a wonderful play on words of Harz vs Hearts.).
All that being said, I am so happy that I have been lucky enough to go even once. It's a huge area of land that has so much to offer and, in reality, my time with Miss H and Mrs G was too short to do the mountains and its villages justice. We managed to fit in seeing the towns of Goslar, Bad Harzburg and Quedlinburg, but I could easily have seen ourselves taking a whole month off still to see only the tip of the iceburg.
We arrived in Goslar first and our timing was pretty close to perfect in that it had snowed and dusted the town with a beautiful light covering of white powder, but not so much that our journey there was treacherous on some of the winding roads. We managed to check in straight away to our pre booked hotel Alte Munze. (£50 per person per night, including breakfast). This beautiful hotel was quite the find and was utterly charming. It has been built into a building that dates from the 1500s and tastefully renovated to keep all its period features whilst offering all mod cons that a traveller needs. It was in a perfect location for walking around the town and discovering hidden gems down cobbled streets, plus its staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. They were also very patient of my pidgin German.
Whilst in Goslar, we ambled along the pretty streets and into and out of as many restaurants and bars as we could. I can heartily recommend two restaurants in the main square - the Brauhaus for schnitzel and locally brewed beer, and the restaurant at Schierke's if you need a break from German fare and are craving salads. All our meals and drinks were inexpensive to good value and I don't think I went more than five minutes being hungry as all portion sizes were fabulously large. Our breakfasts at our hotel were also delicious and were a standard breakfast buffet with a great deal of locally sourced cheese and meats on offer. I ate a mountain of pastries a day in the vain hope that I would walk so much that day, that I needed the energy.
The three musketeers and one small dog managed one walk on our trip. We drove to Bad Harzburg on our second, and coldest, day in the mountains and walked up to the top of 'BurgBerg' - a whole 1.8km walk (in the snow though!) and caught the cable car back down the mountain as we hadn't eaten for half an hour and were consequently hungry. We visited Albert's Corner, a traditional German café and restaurant, to discuss our long hike and its views. We did concede that the view from the top was spectacular and afforded us the opportunity to see far and wide. Albert's Corner fed us well and amply and offered us shots on the house at an incredibly early hour of the day for which we found a happy home.
The shots were perhaps a lucky addition to our blood stream as our next intended activity, of frequenting the local German spa, afforded us another opportunity for some quite awe inspiring views. I had completely forgotten that German spa dress is very different from English spa etiquette, and my two friends and I found ourselves face to face with a lot more German sausage than we had anticipated before supper. However, once we managed to get over our giggles (we are all in our thirties and should know better), we managed to relax and make use of the many saunas, steam rooms and baths that the Sole Therme had . It cost about 13 Euros and one could easily spend a lot longer than the couple of hours we spent there enjoying the facilities.
The next day, we got back in our car, fully dressed, and drove about 50 minutes east to Quedlinburg, a UNESCO heritage site. As our room wasn't ready yet as we had arrived before check in time of 1500 at the Wyndham Gardens Stadtschloss, we set off to discover this picture perfect town with its half timbered house and awe inspiring Schloss situated on top of a steep hill within the town itself. At the top of the hill is a restaurant, where one can purchase a delicious slice of apple strudel whilst admiring the view that looks like something directly out of a Tim Burton film set. After such a strenuous morning, we spent the afternoon enjoying our hotel's very own Finnish spa to work up a hunger for supper. We ate at the perefectly formed restaurant Schiller's where we shared some yummy tapas and then pasta for our mains, in case we needed some carbs for any energy slumps.
All in all, my girlfriends and I left the Harz Mountains exceedingly full and exceedingly happy that we had decided to spurn hotter destinations in favour of our trip to this little known region. Everywhere we looked was simply stunning and everyone we met was so friendly. It was a great destination for three city living girls, but it would be brilliant for a romantic trip away with one's other half and equally it would be perfect for a family holiday in the summer. I would highly recommend it to everyone - there are places to stay and places to eat for all budgets. Any questions - please let me know! I'd be more than happy to help!
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