An early start from our accommodation: 6 minutes by bus to the main train station to catch the 9 o’clock train to Wernigerode where, just before midday, we were on a steam train up to the Harz mountain and the Brocken peak. The temperature was -2 degrees when we set out and frost was thick on the ground.
The narrow gauge railway (Harzquerbahn) with a gauge of one metre was built between 1896 and1899. Including the Brockenbahn and the Selketalbahn it is the largest steam-powered narrow gauge system in Europe.
Chugging up to an elevation of 1125 metres, the steam locomotives have to master numerous narrow bends and steep climbs, a hard piece of work for the 700 HP steam-powered adhesion locomotives, which have to manage without any rack and pinion drive or similar aids. The journey is fascinating in Winter (as it was for us today) with the Upper Harz area heavily covered with snow. We had a splendid view into the wide countryside below. It was great to stand outside between the carriages even though it was bitingly cold. We were a little disappointed that, when reaching the top, the Restaurant was not open, but at a little cabin a rather grumpy man was selling hot soup and sausage and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had come through a beautiful landscape of snow-covered fir forests and plateaux with banks of drifted snow.
WERNIGERODE – by 16:30 our journey in the Winter wonderland was over and we left the train to walk to the Christmas Market.
“The colourful city by the Harz” is the fitting title once given to Wernigerode from one appreciating the colourful half-timbered houses, the red tiled roofs and the greens of fields and forests.
In its early days, about 900 AD, the settlement consisted of little more than a small castle in the valley with a chapel within its walls and a few outlying farms.
The Market-Place is the heart of the town, a heart which owes its attractiveness in particular to the late Gothic Town Hall and this is where the Christmas Market is staged.
The atmosphere was most enjoyable with appropriate background music. The area was decorated with twinkling lights and people gathered in family groups.
Back at Hotel Elisabetha soon after 21:30, we are both tired, but have had a great day!