THE BROCKEN

"a very German mountain".

The Brocken, at 1142m (3747ft), is the highest part of Northern Germany and lies
at the heart of the High Harz National Park (Hochharz National Park). It has a
place of honour in German folklore and culture, especially through the writings of
Goethe and Heine.Goethe, in the first part of "Faust", describes it as the meeting
place of witches on Walpurgis Night (April 30), although St Walburga was an
English missionary nun whose
name was invoked as protection against evil spirits, the frenzy and the plague! A winter view of Brocken - upper right. Click for larger picture!

Place of pilgrimage. We made our first visit to Brocken one June day in 1990, along with thousands of Germans most of whom were also on their first visit. Streams of people converged from our starting point at Ehrenfriedhof near Oderbrück and others from Torfhaus, Braunlage, Schierke and Ilsenburg. We walked just inside the lower fence on the
Goethe Weg
(picture right) . Except for the post-war years up to 1958,
Brocken had been a Cold War restricted zone even to the citizens of East
Germany-the DDR. It was a virtual fortress used by the Russian and NVA
(Peoples' Army) soldiers and the East German Security Service or Stasi,
housed in barracks behind a mini Berlin wall. High technology equipment,
shielded from severe weather in domes, monitored the border and the West. One dome was dubbed "Stasi Moschee" or mosque by locals! The unreachable peak was a place of yearning for ordinary Germans including the locals. Now their yearning could be fulfilled.

Heinrich Heine in his 1824 "Travels to the Harz" described the Brocken thus: "The mountain somehow appears to be Germanically stoical, so understanding, so tolerant, just because it affords a view so high and wide and clear." Heine's visit must have been on one of the rare fine and clear days! On such days there are magnificent views encompassing countless
towns, villages and far hills. Brocken has many moods. It is often shrouded
in mist or fog.Driving winds, rain or snow can make for very uncomfortable
conditions. The tree line is lower than that of the Alps and theupper slopes
have several granite formations. Amongst them is the Devil's Pulpit
(picture right) , remembered for Goethe's "Faust" but also cherished by
botanists for the arctic-alpine lichens growing around there. At the summit's foot the rivers Ilse, Bode, Oder and Ecker start their lives.

2 million visitors a year reach the Brocken it is claimed, and certainly there are now over 20,00 on some fine days. Many come by the Brockenbahn but others walk by the traditional routes. An atmospheric route is the one followed by Goethe from Torfhaus, now known as Goetheweg. A few others travel in horse drawn carriages or by bicycle!

Natural Brocken again. The Brocken Wall was removed by October 1991 and gradually most of the Cold War buildings and other debris have been cleared in an effort to restore the summit plateau to a more natural condition. Great efforts are being made to care for the trees, wild life and plants which had developed unhindered during the protected years. The Brocken Garden, first begun in 1890 as an experimental garden, was neglected from 1961 to early 1990. Now it is being re-developed with alpine plants from many parts of the world.

The Telekom Tower stands at the summit, the late 20 th century
successor of the first 1930's TV tower. Another older tower houses a new
hotel, also a successor but of the 1800 Brockenhaus Gasthaus which had
12 rooms and stabling. Beside it is a preserved version of Wolkenhäuschen
or "cottage in the clouds", a 12 metre square shelter of 1736. Close by is
a new 30 metre directional Brocken "clock", pointing out places and
distances in Germany and elsewhere for the visitors.
(picture from the tower above.)

Follow Goethe's trail to Brocken on this excellent Nationalpark Harz page, in English.

Visit Brocken yourself–onl ine!

 

 


 

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