Witches and steam trains
Whilst we love every one of the spectacular days we have on a road trip, sometimes things don't turn out to be quite as we'd hoped/thought/expected. Today was one of those days. Not that it was at all bad. It just wasn't the "wow" experience we imagined.
When we jumped out of the car in Zellerfeld, it was surprisingly chilly. We'd left Goslar half an hour earlier and driven into the Harz mountains. That little change in altitude made all the difference and we quickly put on scarves and did our coats up! Ulrike and Lena in the Tourist Information office had a few suggestions of places to see for us and we spent a while chatting and laughing with them before stepping inside the open door of the UNESCO World Heritage exhibition a few doors down.
It was even colder in this unmanned display space, amongst what seemed like work in progress telling the story of the mining activity in the area. We'd read that the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is set here, and thinking about it, that felt absolutely right. Sure enough, we saw "Schnee Weisschen" cafes, though no sight of Grumpy, Sleepy or any of the others.
Lena had given us directions to the Marktkirche in Clausthal, the adjacent town, explaining that this was one of the largest wooden churches in Europe and well worth seeing. As soon as we reached it, we were glad we'd made the effort.
The elderly gentleman custodian welcomed us in with a smile. Clearly proud of his church, he pointed out a couple of features and answered our questions. Is this really the original church? Had there never been a fire? "Gott Sei Dank" said he.
The exterior of the church had been a similar pale grey to the inside, but investigations in the attic a few years ago had revealed patches of blue paint. As a result, the decision was taken to restore the original colour and paint it blue. It looks good - as does the light grey interior. High above the side aisles is another floor with some enclosed areas. We weren't able to go up there but were happy to admire the decorative detail from a distance.
Ready to move on, our next stop was by the Okertalsperre, where a huge dam provided a focus for visitors and therefore, a car park.
Well, it just didn't do it for me. I found the whole place dull and devoid of any architectural interest.
On a clearer, warmer day, perhaps this view would have lifted my spirits, but today? Nah.
The safety netting on the other side didn't help much. Yes, it was a steep drop and what ought to have been a reassuring measure instead reminded us of the more likely reason it was there. Not exactly a thought to warm the spirit either.
So we continued to drive through the mostly coniferous forest, noticing the first signs of Autumn in a few deciduous trees now and again.
This is very much a holiday area though and the small towns we passed through were full of guest houses, coffee shops, souvenirs and witches!
There was evidence of winter sports here and there, too.
We found ourselves in Schierke, where there was a large holiday development of small wooden chalets - further evidence of the area's popularity. But a little further along the road, we spotted two or three men standing by the roadside with cameras in hand. We thought we recognised the tell tale signs of the train enthusiasts!
There it was, down the line, just about to start on its way. Yes, of course we leapt out of the car and grabbed our cameras!
It's the Harze Schmalspur Bahnen and we happened to turn up at the major junction of Drei Annen Hoehne just as all three trains were setting off. Two came in our direction; one to the Brockenbahn, one to Wernigerode. The last was on its way to Nordhausen and we stood and watched them all go by.
We too were heading for Wernigerode, where the sun came out just in time for us to enjoy the bright colours of the market square. The timber-framed houses here are a delight and we can't get enough of them!
You-know-who was here of course...
The globe artichokes in the market place were glorious, too, but we were feeling weary and ready to return to Goslar. That "day in the Harz Mountains" hadn't turned out quite as we'd anticipated. In fact, we'd not really seen much of the mountains at all and the view of the Brocken I photographed the other day remains my one and only sighting. But it didn't matter. We'd had fun eating lebkuchen and meandering about.
Tonight, we're looking forward to dinner in Truffel again, so good was it last night!