Among railway buffs the Harz is famous for having Europe’s largest narrow-gauge railway network: the Harzer Schmalspurbahn (03943 55 80, hsb-wr.de). Its 140km of track is plied largely by steam trains, and seeing the antique technology in action is as much part of the pleasure as the scenic terrain that’s negotiated by steep gradients and tight corners. It all adds up to an interesting and unusual way to see some attractive, out-of-the-way places without doing the legwork yourself. Tickets can be bought for single journeys, or as a pass to the entire network (available at the main stations): €44 for three days and €49 for five days; children travel half-price, while a €68 family card covers two adults and two children for a day. The network divides into three lines: the Brockenbahn climbs steeply from the Schierke up the Brocken to a height of 1125m, scenically at its best in winter when the peaceful heights are blanketed in snow; the Harzquerbahn is a 60km route that twists all the way across the Harz in seventy bends between Wernigerode in the north and Nordhausen in the south. At its highest point, Drei Annen Hohne, you can transfer onto the Brockenbahn; the Skeletbahn, beginning in Quedlinburg, runs to the Eisfelder Tal where you can change onto the Harzquerbahn. The steam trains along this route are real antiques – the oldest is from 1887.

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