Cliffs In The Harz Mountains

The Harz Mountains in the middle of Germany are one of the oldest mountains regions in Europe. Unlike the Alps, these mountains had been their best times a long time ago. Today we see mostly the remnants of the mountains. Constant weathering has taken its toll.

Visitors can see impressing results of weathering and how nature is constantly changing over the years.

In the Harz Mountains, there are steep valleys but no peaks. The highest mountain, the Brocken, is a plateau rather than a typical mountain peak.

The most prominent thing among the endless forests and the alpine valleys like the Bode valley are the rock formations:

In the higher regions of the Harz Mountains, there are cliffs. The cliffs are famous rock formations. Some of them are hidden in the forest. Others are visible landmarks.


In some places, they indeed create an alpine character of the landscape like the cliffs near the Bodetal and the Okertal.

The cliffs are often popular among climbers. They offer challenges and should not be underestimated. Often there is a trail or ladders leading to the top of some of the cliffs.

For safety reasons, there is often a railing. However, its good to be better, not afraid of heights. The view from the top of the cliffs is often fantastic but sometimes it is a surprise if you see look down since the Harz Mountains are often more gentle mountains.

I remember a trip to the “Ottofelsen” which is absolutely great but looking down was suddenly a challenge. The “Ottofelsen” is a prominent cliff not far from Wernigerode on the North-East-Side of the Brocken Mountain.

Spectacular cliffs are both on the west-side and on the east-side of the Harz Mountains.

They inspired romantic painters as writers like Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe who spent a lot of time in the Harz Mountains. He was very interested in science and studied the rock formations.

The rock formations always triggered the imagination a lot. In former times they were also ritual sites and places where the witches met. A popular place above the “Okertal” is the “Hexenküche” (Witches Kitchen).

Stories and old legends made the rock formations famous. Sometimes they are intimidating, sometimes it is awesome or bizarre. The rock formations often look like the work of a giant sculptor.

“The Hexenküche” is not far from the “Kästeklippe”, one of the most prominent view-points where you can find also a restaurant.

Some rock formation can be only reached by foot, where others like the “Rabenklippe” are easily accessible with the bus. The “Rabenklippe” is not far from Bad Harzburg and very frequented during summer time.

I remember the “Scharfenstein Klippe” as an extraordinary and very impressing place. The “Scharfensteinklippe” is not far from the former inner-german border. On top the cliff there is an impressing view. You look down in an endless green forest, see the huge Brocken-Mountain-massive on one side and the “Eckertal-Stausee”, a reservoir, on the other side.

The “Feuersteinklippen” near Schierke is another prominent rock-formation. They rise majestically in the forest and look very mysterious. There are always interesting geological discoveries to be made. Near Schierke there are also the so-called “Schnarcherklippen”. This is a cliff where sometimes the wind makes a special noise, and it sounds like somebody is snoring. Here there is also the “Wollsack-Verwitterung”, a special phenomenon called concentric weathering.

The cliffs in the Harz Mountains are interesting at any time of the year. They are a good opportunity for a rest during hiking trips. It is important to have appropriate shoes since the cliffs can be slippery particularly after rain. They should be avoided during a thunderstorm.

January 16-18: “Friederike” Strongest Winter Storm In Germany Since Kyrill

After a calm but grey weekend and a calm Monday, the wind freshened up on Tuesday, January 16. On Tuesday morning there was a turbulent sky with fast moving clouds in Southern Germany. There was rain in the afternoon. But on the next day with the public in the wake of Winterstorm Friederike, which was announced to arrive on Thursday, weather in many parts of Germany was getting extreme. Already in the night, there had been accidents due to winter-thunderstorms.

In Bavaria, Wednesday morning started still relatively calm but in Southern Bavaria around the lakes and in the South-West it was already day when it looked like the night would fall again at 8.00am in the morning.

Suddenly it became darker and darker. A snowstorm set in and there was lightning and thunder. Within minutes a lot of snow fell and streets became slippery. There was also hail. After ten in the morning the sky cleared up, even the sun was shining shortly but it was a day with many more showers. It was windy all the day.


There was a bit more snow in the night. In the morning it felt warmer. Then, on Thursday, the wind was picking up speed. Storm-warnings were issued before. Weather models did still slightly differ on Thursday morning but the storm hit mostly the middle of Germany as expected. But also in Southern-Germany, there were really strong winds.

Friederike was soon suspected to be the strongest winter storm since Kyrill which was exactly the same day, on an Eighteen January. Indeed, the storm already caused many accidents and did damage even before it crossed over Germany.

In the early afternoon, there were still different forecasts if the storm would increase in the early evening hours or if the weather would calm down. Many schools were closed for the afternoon, Flights from Munich got canceled, trains were delayed. In the late afternoon, Deutsche Bahn shut down its long-distance travel.

At 4.30pm, Januar 18, the sky is mostly clear, but the wind is still very strong. Most of the snow is molten away and a brook is running down the street.

The aftermath: As the weather calmed down in the night, the news showed the colossal damage which Friederike did. Due to its extreme wind speeds, it made it into the top five of monstrous windstorms in Europe over the last 30 years.

By Peter Engelmann

Weather Lookout Points: Solitüde, Flensburg Fjord

Between Germany and Denmark is the Flensburg Fjord (Flensburger Förde). This is a long stretched and curved bay similar to a Scandinavian fjord. It belongs to the Baltic Sea. The Fjord ends in the famous town of Flensburg, which was sometimes a Danish and sometimes a German town. There are also famous tourist spots there as Glücksburg, a small city, and Holnis, a peninsula.

The area is frequented by tourists and sailors a lot and is also a favorite place for painters. A lot of people come from Berlin in the summer. On the other side, in Denmark, there are three little islands, “The Ochseninseln”. Unlike the flat “Nordfriesland” on the west side, the surroundings of the Fjord make a more England-like landscape with its green hills and many woods.

The Fjord is also a great place for weather-watching and photography. There are many viewpoints in Flensburg, on the Danish Coastline or at the top end of the Holnis Peninsula where there is a steep bank (visitors be careful!). It’s also a great place for watching birds or sunsets.

The destinations on the German side along the Flensburg-Fjord are connected by a highway, the “Nordstraße”. There are more fantastic lookout points in Langballig and Habernis.

However it isn’t necessary to do a long car ride, there are also great places within the city-limits of Flensburg: One example is the “Solitüde”, a beach and a quarter of Mürwik on the north-east side of Flensburg. It’s very popular among the inhabitants of Flensburg. Since a long time, there is also a restaurant and a small shipping pear. It’s great for swimming as long as are not so many jellyfish around.

But even more, it’s a great place for photography. It’s worth to visit the place all time of the year. Particularly, if the tourists are gone there is a unique atmosphere.

The shore consists of a beach and some meadows. Since I can remember there is a group of trees standing there. They never grew very big. They remind me always of a certain Tarkovsky-Film.

The place is an example of something which had been mentioned before: If you do weather-photography or video it’s always good to have good lookout points in mind, perhaps do an inventory of interesting places in a notebook, with their specific conditions. The Solitüde-Beach in Flensburg is a good example. It is quickly accessible and its a great backdrop. When I was there I always had been watching “great dramas” in the sky. Mostly if the wind is coming in from the North-West, it can be an interesting place.

There is wind most of the time. Weather is often changing quickly here and you have often completely different conditions within a few hours. However, it’s less extreme as on the west side of Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein with the Northern-Sea.

Contrast and color are also different most of the time as on the west-coast but there are many variations in atmospheres. The color of the Fjord’s water also changes all the time.

Even there is no tide on the Baltic-Seaside, water levels are changing too since if there is the wind coming in from the east-side it presses the water into the Fjord. Sometimes there is even flooding in the harbor of Flensburg.

If you do weather-pictures, it is useful to keep a list of landmarks and significant objects like these trees. It adds to the pictures if it’s not only clouds and some meadow and you could do a series over the years. The images with the trees below are an example.




Approximately 15 minutes after sunset there is sometimes a phenomenon called “Purpur Licht” in German (Purple Light). This is not the same as the “afterglow” where clouds are illuminated by the sun in a red light. Purple light is a physical phenomenon and created by dust particles high up in the atmosphere, for example, Sahara dust.

It needs two different kinds of reflections in the atmosphere to let us see the purple light. The observer sees a red light and a blue light. These two sources are getting mixed by our eyes and in our brain and we see a purple light.

October-November evenings are often a good time for purple light when the sky is clear. There are various conditions responsible for purple light. For example, pressure, wind, or what kind of dust particles are in the air are factors.

Sometimes it’s not exactly clear what the reason for this phenomenon is when the purple light is very intense but the eruption of a volcano or a bushfire could increase the number of particles in the atmosphere. The legendary paintings of romantic painter W. Turner with the memorable red sky are perhaps influenced by real intense purple light and afterglow due to volcanic activity.



Photography of purple light is easy. Mostly you need a place where you have no obstacle like high buildings or trees in the west. Always good to have the camera on a tripod since the eye is a bit tricked: the sky looks brighter as it is. I was going for a jog when I saw too late that this could be a very interesting sunset, thus my equipment wasn’t appropriate for the situation. Sometimes you could rest your camera on a stone or on the edge of a wall but here I was in the middle of some fields. I didn’t want to have a high ISO thus the result has its limits but demonstrates what purple light is. If you use photoshop or another post-pro software careful use of saturation could underline the purple light effect.


For a better effect, it is also worth to check an astronomical calendar and look out for an evening with a clear sky when Venus or Jupiter is visible in the west or even better a planet and the crescent moon having a rendezvous in the sky.

Sometimes also clouds in the stratosphere could create an intense “red sky phenomenon”. This time however it wasn’t stratospheric clouds or volcanic ash it was simply a few warm days with a clear sky during the Indian summer in October.