Anybody who needs an adrenalin rush should forget about the Brocken, the Harzer Hexenstieg, Pullmann City and all of this hullabaloo. I say, go, where the Harz is really, really wild: the karst landscape – right you are! It is the place where you are either attacked by livestock guardian dogs or middle-aged guys. It is the place, where you have to walk through knee-high grass knowing that only trousers can protect you from ticks (even at 30 degrees). It is the place, where the signposting can sometimes be confusing. And it is also the place, where Grandpas make a mess in their pants. In short: Today I tell you about the probably wildest adventure that the Harz Mountains have to offer right now: The karst hiking trail from Osterode to Herzberg.
The karst hiking trail in the South of the Harz Mountains is about 239 km long and crosses three federal states. The leg from Osterode to Herzberg lends itself as it can be reached with the “Nidersachsenticket” (Lower Saxony round-trip ticket). I make a courageous move and start close to the ALOHA water park in Osterode. On enquiry I learn that I did not choose the direct path to Herzberg. The friendly lady however tells me that that I can walk via Düna and Hörden to Herzberg and can thus stay on the chosen track. Unflinchingly I continue on my path. Soon I realise that this hiking trail might not be walked-on that often. Apart from the fact that I meet hardly anybody I walk through knee-high grass and I am glad that I wear my trousers instead of shorts today to keep away annoying ticks.
A completely stupid livestock guardian dog
I just barely braved the jeopardy when the next enemy comes around the corner. I get aware of a sign pinned to a stake. It is only that I realize the sign because a signpost of the karst hiking trail is fixed next to it. The plate tells me that sheeps are kept nearby and are guarded by dogs. Hikers are asked to forgo the herd. Well that should not be a problem , I think to myself. No way! Because of a missing marker at the next crossing I take a wrong turn. Unfortunately that is exactly the way where the sheeps are grazing. Just when I am about to make a U-turn it is already too late, the stupid dog has already scented me. And of course I am neither interested in the sheeps (I am a vegetarian by the way) nor am I a wolf (according to a press release the guardian dogs are there to protect the sheeps from wolves) but still the dog runs up to me, bares his teeth and chases me. I consider briefly and come to the conclusion the dog might be heavier than I am, so in case he pounces at me I might stumble and fall. As nobody is around to assist me I paint myself into a corner. And no matter what I do or where I go the dog follows me instantly, barking like crazy. After a while my fear yields to anger. I suddenly realise that the dog backs off as soon as I take a step towards him. Well, I still do not know whether this dog is about to attack me. However, I get up the nerve to yell at the dog: “Fuck off” I shout at him. Silence. The dog is obviously irritated. He did not expect that. I send him to Coventry and continue to follow the signposted trail. After a while he gives up and returns to his herd. For a moment I seriously consider to announce the shepherd. Agitated I move on. After some time I am once again caught up by the beautiful landscape and enjoy the regained calm.
“Where are you going? Where are you coming from?
After a while I reach my next leg: Düna, a neighbourhood of Osterode. I bump into some nice fellows on a parking site for hikers and ask them for directions. I walk along a natural trail direction of Hörden. I take a look at some information boards. I am surprise how diversified the hiking path is.
The road is supposed to lead me to Hörden and then to Herzberg. The signposting is still good and I consider me to be on the right track. Well it is just until I reach another crossing without any signs. I was lucky though as a car comes my way. I talk to the driver asking him for directions. The middle-aged guy with a mustache eyeballs me and points to the left. Instantly I can read his mind: “So blondy, got lost he? Instead of just telling me the way he starts to catechize me: “Where are you going?” Well, are WE on first-name terms already? Besides, that is none of his business anyway. “To Herzberg” I answer. “Ah ha. An where are you coming from?” What is all this good for? “To Herzberg? Well that means you have to climb a hill” (knees- slapper). Are you coming from Berlin? You do not know your stuff.” I answer brusquely “That does not regard you” and turn my back on him.
I reach Hörden. This time the signposting is easy to find. However after a while I realise that I am going in circles. That’s why I decide to leave the hiking trail and follow the cycle path which goes partly parallel to the walking trail anyway. About 30 Minutes later I reach my final destination: Herzberg.
“What on earth are you walking like, grandpa?”
Reaching Herzberg I take a look at the Guelphes’ palace, which is close to the railway station. I take some pictures – unfortunately the coffee shop is closed. I still have time to spare until the trains comes, that’s why I take a look at the city centre. Suddenly I hear a kid screaming: “Grandpa, why the hell are you walking that way. Looks like you made a mess in your pants.” I am irritated at first than I burst out into laughter. Wow, a sentence definitely unimaginable in my childhood.
I enjoy a cup of coffee reflecting the day and the wonderful hiking experience.