Something wonderful happened here in the world of Things Helen Loves recently; well, two things actually. The first being that after six long months, Mr THL returned from deployment and the second being, hot on the heels of that, a family trip to the Harz Mountains. Located in Northern Germany the Harz is named after an old German word meaning ‘hill forest’. And as an area of outstanding natural beauty, it lives up to the name. The area is popular with Dutch and German visitors, not so much Brits. We were the subject of friendly curiosity on more than one occasion. A visit to the Harz has long been on the German Bucket List so when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance to go.
The Harz region is famous for its well-preserved and scenic towns, in particular Goslar and Wernigerode . But in the interest of exploring, we based ourselves in the small spa town of Bad Sachsa. Its resort feel, pretty parks, interesting history and proximity to the Harz National Park make it a great destination in its own right or a perfect launch pad for exploring the wider area.
We spent a lot of time strolling round the town admiring some of the beautifully preserved and restored buildings, and day dreaming about relocating here and buying a ‘fixer upper’ ,possibly to run as a guest house. A quick glimpse at the prices of older properties up for sale in the area put paid to that, but dreaming is free.
The old Rathaus, or town hall, sits on a small piece of parkland with a pretty water feature and pond full of fish. A short stroll from the town park lies the Kurpark, or spa park. This really is the jewel in the crown of Bad Sachsa. Flanked by ornate houses and hotels, the park is a mix of manicured lawns and planting and wilder open space. In the centre is a large lake complete with resident ducks and huge fish…I think Koi , but I’m no expert. Not a fan of fish, but that’s another story. It’s a beautiful walk round the lake but if you want to get out on the water, you can hire a pedal boat. Choose from a sedate boat that seats six to a gloriously ridiculous duck pedal boat. Who says the Germans have no sense of humour?
As well as being home to some beautiful open space and leisure facilities including mini golf and an outdoor gym, the Kurpark is also home to the Grenzland Museum. From 1945-1990 this area was the borderland of a nation occupied, divided and eventually, reunited. This small, friendly museum conveys beautifully the absurdity and brutality of the times and the optimism of reunification. It brings something to the experience to learn about history where it happened. Using a combination of dioramas, information and images history is told and stories unfold. I’m an unashamed history geek, but it blows my mind to think that while I was growing up in North East England watching Top of the Pops and splashing out on 10p mix ups, normal people all over Germany were dealing with life in a Germany divided. A must-visit, with lots of information in English.
Leaving the museum, many of the walks through the Kurpark branch off into the woods that surround the town. An easy walk through said woods brings you to one of the oldest and most charming attractions of Bad Sachsa, the Marchengrund, or Fairytale park.
Opened in 1910, the park has stood the test of time and technology. In a pretty woodland setting, mechanical models recreate classic fairy tales including Snow White and Red Riding Hood. These are not the Disney versions though, remaining true to the German originals.
The Red Riding Hood model ends with a scene of Red Riding Hood, Grandma and the Woodcutter enjoying tea over the corpse of the wolf. Not exactly a fairy tale ending. The park is small, quaint and very pretty. It’s also part of the heritage and identity of Bad Sachsa and it wouldn’t have felt right to leave without making the effort to visit.
During our visit to Bad Sachsa we stayed at Landal Bad Saltzal park in a family apartment. The apartments enjoy a hillside setting and despite being within easy strolling distance of the town, the park is incredibly peaceful. It also offers some amazing facilities for a small park including a swimming complex, ice skating and bowling. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and posted about our experience on Tripadvisor, read the review here.