The Harz is a mountain range in northern Germany. It is located on the border between the states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, hence being the northernmost mountain chain of Germany. The name "Harz" is derived from a Middle High German word meaning "forest".
The Harz is 95 km in length (southeast to northwest) and 35 km in width. It occupies an area of about 2000 kmē. The highest peak is the Brocken (1141 m). It is situated in the eastern part of the mountains. The highest mountain in the western part (belonging to Lower Saxony) is the Wurmberg (971 m). 600,000 people live in towns and villages of the Harz mountains.
The western part is called Oberharz. It is characterised by huge fir forests, while the eastern Unterharz is covered with deciduous forests mingled with meadows.
The settlement of the Harz began only 1000 years ago. In ancient times the dense forests made the region inaccessible. It was in the 10th century, when the kings of Saxony took possession of the mountains and used them as royal hunting grounds. In 968 silver deposits were discovered near the town of Goslar. Mines were established in the following centuries throughout the mountains. The wealth of the region declined, after these mines were exhausted in the early 19th century. The towns were abandoned for a short time, but prosperity returned with the tourism. Between 1945 and 1990 the Harz was a divided mountain range, the west belonging to the FRG and the east to the GDR. Today the Harz is a popular tourist resort for summer hikers as well as winter sportsmen.