Say hello to Harztor, a fine and dandy new town in Thuringia, pretty close to Saxony-Anhalt; established on January 1st, 2012 when the towns of Ilfeld (from 1157) and Niedersachswerfen (16th century?) were merged together.
Back in the Middle Ages, the town of Harztor (excuse me, it was Ilfeld way back) was once famous for its monastery, but these days you’ll find more than just the pious. Sounds perfect, now where do we start?
How about at said Kloster? Well, we could sort of start at the 12th century Kloster Ilfeld. Today some of the monastery’s original buildings are used for other things — but don’t let that stop your imagination from seeing what it might’ve been like back in medieval times.
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Ilfeld itself, by the way, is charming enough. You’re located along the Poppberg, a mountain jutting up to 601 meters above sea level; and you’ll find a Local History Museum housed in the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). It is, however, the Lange Wand, or Long Wall, that folks come to see. The information panels along the Long Wall are a wealth of information of the region’s geological and mining history.
For me it’s the Gänseschnabel, a rock formation steeped in legend. The story says a witch turned a monk into stone for waving to a local girl across the valley. It’s also been said the Gänseschnabel looks like a goose’s beak, but I don’t see it no matter how long I stare at it.
Never mind, I’ll turn my attention to the surrounding Behre Valley, which is just great for mountain biking.
Ooh, wait, maybe I should be paying attention to one of Harztor’s many festivals. The Klosterfest is a good one held at the end of May, while the Autumn Market is a 2-day event in the crisp days of the Fall, and let’s not forget the Ilfelder Christmas Market, or its Garlic Festival in August. Vampires, it’s best you stay home for this one. ;-)
Or, you could visit the ruins of what was once a 12th century castle. So what if nothing more than some of its walls and keep are visible — it’s still a castle.
All right, if you want something that’s intact, you should see the St. Jacobi Church in the village of Wiegersdorf. While the modern day church is a Baroque creation of the 17th century, the original church dates back to four centuries earlier.
I told you Harztor was a fine and dandy place — just don’t go falling in love with a local girl. ;-)