The Harz mountains stand tall in the epicentre of Germany, rich in forests, rivers and historic half-timbered villages. Sliced in half by the East and West divide, this area attracts many less visitors than it warrants.
At 1000 years old, the world heritage-listed travel wonder of Goslar is a medieval masterpiece of narrow cobblestone streets, small canals, a glorious historic main square, the 1494 Hotel Kaiserworth (still functions as a hotel today) and 11th century royal castle. The active main square features an old animated clock that celebrates Goslar’s rich mining history on certain hours, a traditional town hall (including a vibrantly frescoed meeting hall), a handful of grand houses, a church and a fountain. Near the town hall is an old official textile measure where debtors and textile cheats (selling under-measures of cloth) were ceremoniously stripped to highlight their crimes. Mind you, on medieval standards, this is mild punishment indeed.
Just off the main square is an alms-house that has served as a place for the poor for 750 years. Seemingly unchanged over time, today the small rooms off the main hall are used by artists including glassblowers, potters and leatherworkers.
Less than a kilometre away is the location that gave Goslar is riches. For around 1000 uninterrupted years, silver and copper has been dug from the Rammelsberg Mine yielding an estimated 30 million tons of ore moved primarily by hand. Descending the shafts of this mine via ore train and foot highlights the savage and dangerous conditions of mining in past times. Huge waterwheels helped moved the ore to the surface. The mine only closed in 1988.
While there are a variety of museums and historic houses around Goslar, this is another delightful town where it pays to discard the map and simply wander the small canals and quiet cobblestoned backstreets. It is easy to imagine the local population having done so for many centuries.