Bright and early 04.00 on Tuesday 19th March we left One on our journey to the Harz Mountains in Germany.
In Hanover we assessed the success of a sustainable suburb, Kronsberg, where housing, energy supply and transport had been imaginatively planned to reduce environmental impact. A trip to Goslar at the foot of the Harz and welcome rest at our hostel. Many joined us for a trek around Goslar that evening and enjoyed the thrilling night life of the German settlement.
On Wednesday morning, we explored the Harz. St Andreasberg, a former mining town and now tourist resort is the highest town in the area. Students were able to identify inequalities between different areas of the quiet settlement and identify how changes had been made to attract new developments. The Harz National Park was formed only 8 years ago following reunification of Germany. The old “iron curtain” between east and west cut through the Harz from the 1940’s to 1990. Now a “green band” long distance path follows the route.
Understanding Biodiversity management through education, protection and intervention was the theme of field work investigation. Following a visit to the National Parkhaus in St Andreasberg, we travelled to the old border post of Torfhaus. Snow was still around so we had to cancel a trek to Torfhaus Moor and use the modern exhibition centre instead.
Wednesday afternoon and a drive south to Mittelbau Dora a former Nazi Prison Camp where the V2 rockets were built in massive underground tunnels cut into the limestone ridge. Our guides escorted us and explained the horrendous truth of the thousands who died at the camp over just 18 months between 1943 and 1945.
Vitamar pool in Bad Lauterberg refreshed the parts in the evening. A gigantic flume and tsunami wave machine were the highlights of the visit.
Thursday morning and back again to the Harz. This time to the east and the largest reservoir in northern Germany. Geography students are expected to understand how water resources are managed and the Rappbode Tasperre, built during the Soviet era, provides fresh water and power to a large area of Saxony. At Sorge (sorrow in German) we visited the old border post museum and imagined what it would have been like to brave the mines and machine guns which ran along the border only 25 years ago. The station at Sorge is on the Harzquerbahn steam railway and we travelled through the forest on a 1950’s Soviet built engine to reach the junction at Eisfelder (ice fields).
We spent Thursday afternoon at the Wurmberg mountain just outside Braunlage. As the ice rink was closed, we took the Seilbahn (cable car) to the top of the 1000 metre peak and looked out over the former border to the Brocken, the highest point in northern Germany.
On our last day, we said farewell to the Jungendherberge (Youth Hostel) and made our way to the town of Wolfsburg, home of Volkswagen. A slick greeting and typically efficient introduction to the Autostadt exhibition centre followed on arrival. There were different pavilions for Audi, Bugatti, Seat and Skoda alongside an amazing interactive exhibition on environmental issues and sustainability.
We toured the production factory (VW Golf) by minibus after a river trip and enjoyed the brilliantly landscaped site in the sunshine. Our final stop of the trip was Hanover for some last minute shopping. Then off to the airport and farewell to Wilhelm, our driver, and Germany for another year.