We were researching the most interesting place to stop on our way north to Denmark and came across the Harz Mountains National Park which are northern Germany’s only serious uplands. Not actually mountains but they provide some good hiking opportunities which is what we wanted. The only problem was that we had our only 2 days of really hot weather so far on the trip – 34 degrees plus in the shade. All our plans for a hike around the lake the first day came to nothing as even R agreed it was too bl..y hot to do anything. So after seeing the local town in the morning we retreated back to the shade under the awning – it is interesting what a large bottle of cider in the heat does to your motivation. We finally went walking at 8.45 pm after dinner in town, when it had dropped to a mere 28-29 degrees.
The next day was hot again but we left early to go to Brocken the highest point in the Harz Mountains as severe thunderstorms were forecast in the afternoon (they seem to be following us) and we wanted to hike down. We had to catch an old steam train to get up there – a part of the old GDR communist days. They have kept a series of narrow gauge train tracks running in this area with the old trains. Beautiful clear day but when we reached the top there were swarms of wasps everywhere. Literally millions of them. We were told that they had only appeared that day and that they only come out when heavy rain is forecast. Luckily they didn’t sting but we were constantly swatting them away. We were interested to find out more about the history of Brocken as it had apparently functioned as an important listening post in Cold War days as it was very close to the old border between East and West Germany. The listening post had been turned into a somewhat strange looking hotel. The cafe/restaurant could have come straight out of communist Germany – more like a mess hall in the army. True to form the Tourist Information office there had no information in anything but German and this time the staff couldn’t speak English. Luckily we met a young German couple as we were trying to work out which trail to take down the mountain who were able to fill us in a bit. The walk down was great and we were so glad we had chosen to walk down rather than up as we met people slogging up in the heat.
Later we drove to Quedlinburg, further than we thought, which has one of the largest numbers of centuries old half timbered houses and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are gradually being restored. Soooo hot we just had to stop for a beer.
After another challenging drive back in thunderstorms (plus the GPS getting us stuck in this old town which had road works up the main road- after 20 minutes of no exit and one way roads, narrow cobbled lanes too steep for poor Twiggy to get up, we were starting to panic and returning to the same point each time, it was like being stuck in a maze) we decided to have an easy dinner at the campground – basic German fare of schnitzel and curry worst. . The outdoor restaurant was like the locals’ watering hole each night. They certainly can drink. We luckily had the company of a German woman who had moved back to town after 22 years in the US and was able to translate. Something different from your usual restaurant.
That day we realised poor Twiggy had a cough- may be that is why she couldn’t get up those hills in first gear. Her cough (dirty spark plug) has since been fixed on warranty with wonderful service from a Renault dealer in Denmark in the town we are in.