Harz National Park Karst Wanderweg
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Bike Circuit Tour around the Harz Mountain 1997

During August in the year 1997 I once had a "free" Saturday which means to stay at home alone, cut the grass or use the garden shredder. On my way to work I think it over, what else I could do on such a day. And suddenly there is the flash: The circuit tour around the Harz. (The Harz is the highest mountain of northern Germany, the highest hill the Brocken 1142 m, distance: 45 car-minutes from my home). Some time later I have bought the guide "Harzrundweg, BVA". The trail is 400 km long - some work to do for several tour days. The railway connections in those regions are good, so it usually will be possible to go back to the start point by train.

And the very first start point shall be the bench near the town Seesen, where Heidi and I rested last year cycling the R1 (R1 is the European Bike-Path which once will lead from Calais to Petersburg). We had been on our tour to Pyritz/Poland and had realized, that this path is not suited for long distance rides with baggage and moreover not for cyclists who do not like hills.

Hahausen (Seesen) - Appenrode (Ellrich), 9.8., 100 km

Dawn near the Harz
Now the situation has changed, when I go out alone I like hills. And for one day rides no luggage is necessary. So I am extremely motivated and awake at 3 am in the middle of the night. I cannot fall asleep again, so I decide to start and around 5 am I leave my car at Neuekrug near Seesen. It is rather dark yet and I start with a buzzling dynamo. Soundless a large bird slides along, may be it is an owl, as it shoud be at this time. I ride along in a dark forest, and as I reach a meadow it is possible to have a look at the map. And of course I am completely wrong and soon would reach my start point again.

The cycling Witch

So I must go back some distance and then find the sidepath which really easily can be overseen. The sign of the path is a cycling witch with a broom. I miss this sign once again, may be I am not completely awake yet. So I find myself in the village Bornhausen but can go back on a traffic free road due to a construction site. Unvoluntarily I have performed the first circle around a former brown coal surface mining. Near some fishponds I find my witch again, the morning haze is very dense here. Then there is the underpass of the B248 and we have to climb up a slope to the outer roads of Seesen. Down again and it is hard to keep the 30 km/h as the traffic signs instruct.

Along a creek named Schildau on the road to Lauthental. It is remarkable that in the last year they have found two bears on this road. No one could tell where they had come from and so they ended in a zoo. Then I find the way up to the forest again. When the uphill ends I have the "Encounter of the Third Kind". I must tell another weird story before. During the last years there have happened some murders at the southern part of the Harz. The victims were wanderers or walkers. The last occurrence was near the cave Himmelreichhöhle at Walkenried where a visitor of the cave was shot at the parking place. The murderer must be a madman who only looks for an occasional victim. I did not tell anything about that matter at home.

And now I see a curious person ahead. We have 6.30 am and before sunrise yet. I get goose bumps. Mechanically I increase the speed. If I would go back now, I would loose my face. May be it is a mushroom seeker or forest worker. But nothing of it, it is a vagabond with big beard and some plastic bags around him. As I come near he waves with his wrist to ask the time. "Half past six" I shout and rush along. "And where to go to ...?" I do not understand, shrug and shoot off. As I am out of sight and range of a gun I calm down and withdraw my goose bumps. Some time later two other persons come along. But these are really mushroomers and I say "Good Morning".

Garden Sites and Church at Gittelde
Then I run down to the end of the forest and over a wooden footbridge and a meadow reach the village Münchehof - in the sunshine now. Then there is a small road signed to be in a bad state. This is true and may be the cause why it is part of the Harz-cycle-path. Moreover one has to take care of the numerous edible snails (Weinbergschnecke) which have their trail here too (I once put three or so of those snails in my garden, meanwhile I had to put back to the fields more than a hundred of them). At the village Gittelde we hit on the church. And I loose the witch sign once again, find my way to a spot, which is recognizable on the map and finally find the witch. We cross the river Söse, up above Osterode there is the Söse-Talsperre, a dam.

Meanwhile the sun gets warm, there is no wind and shade in the fields. So to be seen at the wind mills around, which do not produce any electricity today. I myself produce some sweat up from the village Förste to a ridge where once was the Celtic Pippinsburg at this strategically important place. The remains are some walls only. Now a long downhill follows to Ührde within a scenic landscape. A last hill and then we reach Schwiegershausen along a creek which comes from anywhere and ends at nowhere. This is caused by the fact that we have reached the famous Gypsum Karst Area of Beierstein and Hainholz. Many years ago we had our first and best cave explorations at this site. The names of the caves sound like music: Jettenhöhle, Klinkerbrunnen, Marthahöhle, Polenloch...



Now I consume a cheese sandwich vis a vis of the Beierstein. The Karst community has had a struggle over years to preserve this area from the gypsum industry. Finally they had succeeded and the region has become a nature reservate. But another fellow did not respect the human laws and this was a thunderstorm some weeks ago. This has destroyed the Hainholz with its beautiful beech trees, special ferns and flowers in the spring. Now this all looks like garbage. (The future of this matter is a phenomenon: The Karst community could convince the official and local institutes not to change anything. This was the beginning of a natural revival and a djungle like state of the wood. When I was there some years later it was impossible to walk a single step into this wilderness.)

I take a photo and continue, cross the B243 and the railway. Here are destructions from the thunderstorm as well. Here they have tried to arrange things and pull the broken trunks out of the forest but there will be much work yet.

Half Timbered Castle of Herzberg

Juessee at Herzberg

I reach the town of Herzberg. Up above there is the famous half timbered castle. The pedestrian area however looks like everywhere, sterile shops like those of the Schlecker drugstores. It is better to go around the Juessee, the greatest water filled Karst sink of northern Germany. The water lilies cover the surface. And there is a bath which is still closed. I realize that we have 10 am yet though I was on the tour for 5 hours already.

From Herzberg to Lauterberg we have to use the road. At Scharzfeld beneath the Steinkirche they have destroyed parts of the landscape as they built the four lane Autobahn on the southern slope with cliffs and the typical sparse karst vegetation. So this section of the Harz trail past the town of Lauterberg is no jewel.

Wiesenbeker Teich


We now approach the Wiesenbeker Teich, a picturesque pond or little lake in the woods. I overtake some mountainbikers who have difficulties to switch to one of their numorous gears. Now I must climb like Pantani with the hot breath of the bikers in my neck. I succeed and reach the hotel at the top of the dam alone. Up above the pond there is a camping area, of course this is a fine location for the people but a pity for the landscape. The wheels of the travel trailers are demounted, the sites are surrounded by fences and have front gardens.

I continue to zigzag uphill until we reach a signed boulder at the summit. This is the Weser-Elbe-Waterdivide. So when I run down now I may reach the Elbe - but this is far away.

Bad Sachsa
I get to Steina along a cool and shaded valley with meadows. Steina is a nice village, you can see the Römersteine (some coral cliffs) nearby. I take a photo and then sweating master the hill to Bad Sachsa. We have noon now and the shops will close within minutes. So I am happy to buy a last 1.5 L bottle of lemonade. I go on to Walkenried and admire the ruins of the former monastery. In front of a fountain with a rotating replication of a gypsum crystal I consume a boiled egg and a sandwich. I must think about the rest of the day now. The wind gets somewhat stronger and I will have a tail wind on the way back. And because the weather is so fine I will not go back by train. And the total Kilometers will sum up to "the limit", this is the maximal distance I can master within a long day.

Ruins of the Monastery Walkenried

And because no one disagrees I decide to end for today at the natural monument Kelle. Between Walkenried and Ellrich I pass the crooked stripe of the former frontier to the DDR.


A Ford

At Ellrich they try to offer industrial sites. On the other hand our emergency contribution (Solidaritätszuschlag) was used for the local pavement. This looks sterile in contrary to some houses in decay which urgently must be restaurated. A stone-bordered creek runs along, this is the Zorge. Then I find a nice hike path again, traffic free and within a beautiful landscape. At the right there is a steep white cliff of gypsum. This is generated by a creek at the foot of the wall. This can dissolve the boulders and rocks that fall from the wall and so this will remain to be a vertical truncation. Those facts are to be read from the signs of the Karstwanderweg which is documented very thoroughly.

The last but one attraction of today is a real ford across a creek named Sülze. Some wet feet are a pleasure today. And now the last attraction, this is the ruin of a former huge cave named Kelle. I was here with a Karst excursion in the year 1990. Meanwhile they have installed stairs and fences to avoid that everyone tramples around. At a hot day like today it is impressive to climb down to the pool of the rest of the cave. The cool and heavy air is preserved down there and it feels like in a cellar. If you come up again it is like a sauna.

The Rest of the Cave Kelle

Ernst-August Stollen

My speedometer now shows 110 km including all detours and lost sections. The way back will be 75 km. We have a good eastern wind, but so there is no cool breeze from ahead. I now use asphalt roads via Woffleben, Branderode to Neuhof. At 2 to 3 pm the heat gets more and more unbearable, but then near Bartolfelde and Barbis we have a sudden rain shower. So it is proved once again, that you ever should have some rain gear with you, even if the sun is shining. Behind Scharzfeld everything is dry again and the sky is clear.

At Gittelde I now pass the adit mouth of the Ernst-August-Stollen. This is 32 km long and shall be the longest adit of Europe. A cold breeze comes out of the mouth. What's the matter in winter times? Is there a warm breeze or will cold air go inside? So back on the bike I can argue about it. And I can tell another story: some years ago at a cold winter day we once have been at Braunlage and visited the Oderstollen. This is some 100 m long and ends blind. For security we had some candles with us. As we had entered the adit for a proper distance the candle ran out. And it was unpossible to light a match. "Up up and away" was the motto and we rushed back to the entrance mouth. At last in sight of the outer light the match was to be lighted again.

We argued about this experience and supposed, that the warm and light air is trapped in the slightly rising channel. And the oxygen is soon exhausted by some breathing persons. We could be happy that we came out alive. Meanwhile this adit is closed and no one is able to repeat such nonsense.

So meanwhile I stray around in the town of Osterode. I am looking for a road parallel to the B243. Eventually I reach Seesen and the last kms to my car seem to be extremely long. I have spent 4 hours to return and I am very satisfied about my power. On the other hand this was enough cycling for a while.

Chapter 2
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