„You cannot get to this place today – you are not going to make it. And then, there is also the way back to where you started.” During the last three days, we were often faced with such expressions of amazement when asking for the way. To hike 65 km in three days and to collect twelve stamps of the “Harzer Wandernadel” in a row was our initial goal. Impossible? Why? In a stage when the „Wanderkaiser“ is almost accomplished and only a few stamps have still to be collected, the distances between the stamps get longer. In the case of collecting stamps around Ballenstedt however it is worth the effort. There is much to be discovered: the Teufelsmauerstieg, the Ballenstedt castle, the panoramic trail close to Gernrode. On the culinary side fresh asparagus and field-grown potatoes are the attraction.
Day one: From Ballenstedt to Degenershausen
On the first day of our stamp marathon we have the targets “Forstmeister Tannen” (HWN 181), “Alter Kohlenschacht” (HWN 180), Bismarckturm (HWN 199) and the landscape park Degenershausen (HWN 202) on our program. The “Forstmeister Tannen” (forest superintendent) are located behind the palace gardens and thus easy to reach from Ballenstedt. The way from Ballenstedt leading first to the Bismarck-Tower and later to the ancient charcoal shaft is not very long and easy to accomplish. From the ancient charcoal shaft we take a trail through the forest and walk down a winding road to Meisdorf and from there to the landscape park in Degenershausen. Unfortunately, the trail is not well signposted, a map of trails is helpful. Otherwise kind residents are helping us out. The landscape park I must admit is not very interesting.
Overall the round trip Ballenstedt – Opperode – Meisdorf – Degenershausen and back is nice but not particular spectacular. However, we really lucky with the weather, besides the decent chance to have asparagus for dinner abetted us.
Day two: From Weddersleben via Thale to Bad Suderode
Our second day turned out to be a tough and challenging trail packed with highlights along the way. We start our tour at the trailhead parking place “Teufelsmauer” at Weddersleben. Close to the parking lot we collect our first stamp for the day, the HWN 188. Probably the most impressive part of the Teufelsmauer (devils’ wall) is located between Weddersleben and Warnstedt. On a stretch of two kilometres the Königsstein, the Mittelsteine and the Papensteine string together. This part of the 35-kilometres long devil’s wall trail is really something and absolutely worth seeing.
After this fulminant start we continue to follow the devil’s wall trail until we reach Thale. There we take a quick look at the cloister Wendhusen. Unfortunately it is just open from two o’clock pm to five o’clock pm. We cannot wait for such a long time. We continue in direction of the Glockenstein (HWN 73). After a real steep ascent we reach the Glockenstein and enjoy the warmth sun beams for a while.
We take a real nice path to the ruins of Lauenburg. Over there we face another surprise. Even though there are little remains of the castle itself; an exploration of the place is still worthwhile, not least due to the magnificent view from the outer bailey. Unfortunately, we cannot linger for long as there are another three stamps to be reached that day. We start out to the Anhaltinischen Salstein (HWN 186), a rather boring place hidden behind a very steep ascent. Having reached the place we are lucky to meet another rambler in good shape. He shows us the way to the Försterblick in Gernrode (HWN 183). In addition he assures us that the way to the Preussenturm (HWN 195) is not too far away either.
The most beautiful view of Gernrode
Stamp post no. 183 is definitely something special: The best panorama of the area, I promise. We have a short but wonderful rest. We enjoy the evening sun and take a deep breath before we walk through a kind of enchanted forest to collect our last stamp for the day: the Preussenturm. The tower, high above the spa gardens of Bad Suderode, holds a very precise surprise for us. We get to know foresters whose name we have not heard before: the common tinplate fly, the vulgar liar or the cracked thirst quencher. Compared to many really useful insects these kind of “parasites” could not have been wiped out so far.
After a downright stamp-crusade we reach Bad Suderode in the evening. We treat ourselves with a well-deserved “reward café”, which consists of a double espresso and a Bailey’s on ice (Damengedeck). After the enjoyment and with the last sunbeams in the back we leave the place heading back to our starting point. Even though, we are pretty exhausted we cannot help it but return to the devil’s wall to shoot some ingenious-like sunset photos. The rock formations are beaming in the afterglow and so do we! Later on we indulge ourselves again in asparagus and potatoes – this time made in the oven with a dip.
Day three: Bisons, safari and the Gegensteine
Even on the last day of our stamp marathon we did not pass on the opportunity to see some more of the landscape. We still have two stamps to catch, no. 86 and 205. We reach our starting point in the early morning. The Bison compound is located within the 300 hectare widespread wildlife park, which belongs to the riding and sport hotel Nordmann at Stangerode. Reaching the Bisons a kind of lorry stops behind us carrying some tourists on a kind of game drive. We walk on in direction of Clusberg. After half an hour I do not only collect my last stamp on this tour – no, it is stamp no. 200 in my book!!! I can celebrate a real anniversary on a bright and sunshiny day.
In a state of happiness and satisfaction we start our way back and take a spin on the park. We return to Ballenstedt. We like to see the Gegensteine. The rock formation represents the last highlight on our three-days trip. We climb the “Großer Gegenstein” gazing off into the distance, looking happily back on our hiking trip around Ballenstedt. All over an explicit hiking recommendation, as far as I am concerned.