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Germany - Harz Mountains - Bodetal, a canyon with a legend

A "canyon", carved out by the Bode river stretches between two small villages: Thale and Treseburg. It is a great hike deep down there. Two cliffs on either side hold tales of dancing witches and an unlucky king's daughter.

Wandering old roads and paths through the woods and places with old history is part of traditional culture for young and old in Germany. There is a whole network of routes. People use cards to keep track of the routes that they have done, with chopping stations even in the most remote places. These are often just a rain-protected little table or shelf, with a chop and ink cushion. Going for a hike like this is a favorite family thing in the weekend.

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The small town of Thale is located in the Harzvorland, freely translated the periphery of the Harz. The Bode river comes to there from Treseburg, a village about 10 kilometers upstream. Between Treseburg and Thale is one of the biggest rock formations north of the Alps. And Bode river has carved its own "canyon" of a few hundred meters deep though that formation.

One of Germany's famous Wanderwege (hiking paths) follows the Bode river all along in the bottom of the canyon. Ever since people can remember, this path has had a magic attraction to hikers, also in the DDR years. "Doing" the Bodetal hike from Thale to Treseburg (and/or vice versa) is almost like a pilgrimage for many Germans.

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - DDR postcard by artist Alfred Hoppe nr 8011 see note

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - DDR postcard by artist Alfred Hoppe nr 8011 see note


Courtesy this website. We checked but no mention was made of current copyrights for this card. The card has been designed by artist Alfred Hoppe (1906-1985) from Leipzig, for the then East-German publisher VEB Volkskunstverlag Reichenbach.

On our trip of 2017, we arrived in Thale on an early Saturday morning. There is a hot spring building with German style spa facilities and also there are some attractions for kids. Next to the road we saw a Trabi dating from ancient times in "good old East Germany", which was parked along the walking path to advertise for the local DDR museum.

  • One shouldn't underestimate: the German unification has not been easy for everyone, especially in Eastern Germany. There are plenty of (mostly old) people who think back with nostalgia of those years. People were not rich and not free, but life was predictable people knew what the future would hold. A certain level of safety, security, predictability, basic but free health- and other care, nothing much, but no real poverty either. So it is not too difficult to imagine that there is interest in a DDR museum.

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - Trabi advertizing the DDR museum

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - Trabi advertizing the DDR museum


Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - the entrance in Thale

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - the entrance in Thale

On the Thale end of the canyon, two legendary cliffs are facing each other, on each side of the canyon. One is called the Hexentanzplatz (the witches' dancing place), which can be reached by road, hiking paths or with a cable car. The other cliff is the Roßtrappe. The name means something like the footprint of the horse. Both cliffs are part of the highlands of the huge sandstone massif, through which the Bode has carved out its own canyon. The Roßtrappe can be reached by sort of a skilift.

Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe

Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe


Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe

Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe


Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe

Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe


Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe

Germany - Harz - Bodetal - above the canyon at Roßtrappe


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We decided to go up there because we were told that from there you can see much of the deep canyon. That was no exaggeration: the views are stunning, especially with the leaves starting to color, and you can clearly see the depth, where (somewhere underneath the trees) the river and the hiking path must be. Where we had bought the ticket we got a description and a little map, and from this we also found out the legend about the Roßtrappe.

  • Many, many centuries ago there was a king's daughter, called Brunhilde. She was a very beautiful girl and loved to ride her horse in the forest. There were many small kingdoms in those years, so there were also many kings around. One of them was the rude, uncivilized and rough King Bodo. He had a crunch on Brunhilde, but she had no feelings whatsoever for this much older, disgusting man. One day, when he saw her riding in the forest, high on the cliff, he gave his horse the spurs and started to chase her. In desparate fear for this man, Brunhilde made her horse take a jump, trying to fly all the way over the canyon to Hexentanzplatz cliff on the other side. Her horse put so much power in the jump that a large deep horseshoe imprint in the solid rock can still be seen there in our times. Miraculously she and her horse made it to the other side, but unfortunately she did lose her crown in the jump. King Bodo and his horse did not even closely made the giant leap, and both fell to death into the 250 meters deep canyon. Bodo's fate was that he, in the form of a vicious black dog, will forever have to guard the place where Brunhilde's crown should have fallen into the wild Bode river. Bodo, as a black dog, is still roaming around the bottom of the canyon, even today. The crown has never been found back.

After we came back, it was amusing to see that the Trabi, although advertizing for the Greater Good of Thale, had a parking ticket under its window wipers. "Ordnung muß sein." Law and order, East-German style...

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - now he got a parking ticket!

Germany - Harz - Bodetal canyon - now he got a parking ticket!

The previous time that we were here, in 2014, we did the hike from Thale to Treseburg. It is a very beautiful walk along a path that is well paved on some places, but on other places you really have to pass heaps of rocks and boulders. Meanwhile the path follows the river through mostly dense spruce forest. In the autumn the colors are stunning, especially when the sun comes through. Between Thale and Treseburg there are no café's or restaurants, so one should bring some drinks and something to eat. Walking at an easy pace, one should count with at least three hours, especially if taking short breaks on the way.

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In Treseburg there are a few restaurants with nice terraces outside. They serve elaborate lunches, but also Eintopf, a thick soup that with some bread easily counts as a meal. Or coffee and apple or forest fruit pastry. Or a good glass of beer or wine, obviously.

  • There is a bus connection from Treseburg back to Thale, and it is easy to find, on the crossroad just across the bridge. However, people should keep in mind that the bus goes only a few times per day. You'd better check the schedule before going to eat or drink something at the restaurants. We did not do so, missed the last bus on a Saturday afternoon, and had to wait for many hours, or walk back, or ask the restaurant to call a taxi. We were tired enough to go for the taxi option which cost us something between Euro 20 - 30.

Posted by westwind57 15:23 Archived in Germany Tagged mountains hills road_trip nature hiking history germany forest mystery quedlinburg misery worries wernigerode cold_war witchcraft brocken steam_locomotive harz espionage thale bodetal

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