During a flying visit to Germany by Tom and Irene from the Netherlands, we ate lots of cake, toured Göttingen and then went walking in the Harz Mountains (close to Gö).
I have visited the Harz many times but after a year’s gap it was shocking to see large swathes of dead trees.
It is a time of momentous change for the Harz landscape and in many areas, you will see 1000s of dead grey trees. The cause is an over intensive commercial exploitation of the forest and climate stress.
100,000s of Spruce trees have been planted since the 1930s to supply building material and for the now redundant Harz mining industry. The trees were known as “Brotbaum” or bread trees. But after successive dry winters and low snow fall in recent times the rows of Spruce have become too weak to fight off Bark Beetles which are devastating the forests.
It is at the emblematic Brocken Mountain in the Upper Harz where the forest decline is worst (90% of Spruce trees are dead). Compounding the tragedy is that in recent days hundreds of fire crews and many water bombers have been fighting a huge fire there. On our visit we could not see smoke or smell burning, nor were there planes making low level attack runs and the fire I believe is now under control. At one point the fire was burning underground and threatening to spread in what would have been a further apocalyptic disaster across the greater Harz.
The modern policy is to not replace the Spruce trees rather to allow a mix of species to grow in a more natural way. New growth of Oak, Ash, and Beech etc., can be seen everywhere but it will take decades to green the forest again. As the Earth continues to heat up Climate Change will challenge even these trees.
As it is as the Spruce trees fall, we are given a greater view across the landscape.
Attitudes are changing in the Harz. For instance, the once dominant winter sports scene is in major decline and the more enlightened people of the Harz welcome cyclists and more summer activities.
On our trip we stopped off in Sankt Andreasberg and walked its steep streets and we were passed by groups of mountain bikers on their way to the bike park located there. A highlight of our tour was a visit to the Radau Wasserfall where we of course ate apple kuchen with ice cream.
You can find 1970s dodgy décor in most buildings, and this might be symbolic of a resistance to change.
Despite the dead trees the Harz remains a magical place to visit.
More about the Harz – Spit out of Central Germany.
Göttingen (it rained so we went to the museum and old town hall, plus we ate cake)
Harz (be careful in the forest)