UNESCO Global Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen
Germany's biggest Geopark
450 million years of Earth's history have left their traces between the Harz mountains and the heath landscape: sea cover alternated with deserts, tropical swamps and glaciers and valuable mineral resources were created, including ore, salt, coal and crude oil. Significant fossil finds evidence the varied and exciting history of the Earth.
With an area of over 9,600 km², the Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen is the largest of its kind in Germany. The Geopark region is not only an industrial and research location, but also one of the most important travel destinations in Germany.
The UNESCO Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen encompasses the Harz Mountains and the Braunschweiger Land north of them up to the Flechting Hills. Between the Harz bedrock and the Flechting Hills lies a special geological structure of hollows and saddles with salt domes, as well as deposits of iron ore and lignite. The mining and research history connected with these formations and the ore deposits in the Harz Mountains, going back more than 1000 years, is a unique feature of the Geopark. The Rammelsberg mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the old town of Goslar and the Upper Harz Water Regale. Fascinated by the diversity and mysteries of geology, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited the Harz region three times and also climbed the highest mountain in the Harz, the Brocken, at 1,141 m above sea level.
The area between Goslar and Bad Harzburg is internationally known for its unique sedimentary deposits from the Earth's middle age (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods 65 to 250 million years ago). There are also prehistoric graves, excavation finds belonging to Neanderthals and the oldest hunting tools of mankind, the Schöningen spears. The comprehensive facilities include geopark information points, adventure trails, show mines, erratics and museums.
In 2003 the Geopark was recognized as a national geopark for the first time. In 2005, it was inducted into the European Geopark Network (EGN) and the Global Geopark Network, before the title "UNESCO Global Geopark" was finally awarded in 2015. Due to its large spatial expanse, the two associations Regionalverband Harz e. V. headquartered in the World Heritage City of Quedlinburg and the Geopark Trägerverein Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen with headquarters in Königslutter, jointly manage the Geopark.
The Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen is located on both sides of the former German East-West border and thus spans an area that was divided for over forty years. In this manner, the UNESCO Global Geopark inspires reflection on the division of Germany and its consequences.
The cultural history of the region with its famous monuments, including the World Heritage Sites of Goslar, Upper Harz Water Regale, Quedlinburg and the Lutheran sites of Eisleben, is closely linked to the geological features of the landscape. Today, the Harz region is one of the five most famous tourist destinations in Germany. One of the main attractions is the Harz narrow-gauge railroads. Visitors can take in the attractions of the Geopark on their own or under the guidance of trained Geopark guides. In cooperation with museums and schools, guided tours, adventure tours and workshops are offered regularly.
The Geopark as a model region for sustainable development
Sustainable development is a priority in Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen. Members of staff are guided by the annually published UNESCO roadmap. They adapt work processes and content, and develop programs further in order to contribute to the implementation of the World Programme of Action “Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)”. The goal is to buttress ESD in the region and for the Geopark to increasingly act as a forum for sustainable development for partners and the population.
The Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen supports sustainable tourism through visitor guidance, and is a certified extracurricular learning site for ESD. Through a diverse range of events, select SDG’s are taken up, and aspects such as natural resources, water and climate change are addressed.
Cooperation with geoparks from other countries is a basic premise of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network. It is geared towards an exchange of expertise, but also towards connecting regions and the people who live in them.
The Geopark Harz - Braunschweiger Land - Ostfalen has found its first transnational partner in the Danish UNESCO Global Geopark Odsherred. Both areas already receive many tourists from the other country and are well-positioned to help navigate any language barriers. With the large two-way movement of tourists, and the easy geographical accessibility of the two Geoparks, the partnership is poised for expansion.
Shared themes are, for example, the landscape forms of the ice ages, the archaeology of the Bronze Age, an eventful medieval past and the importance of agriculture. In addition, both Geoparks are conscious of and seek to promote nature and cultural tourism.