You cannot leave Harz mountains in Germany without a trip to Mount Brocken. Not only it is the highest peak in Northern Germany, but it also focuses on bringing back segments of nature to their correct form…thus promoting sustainability in a big way!
The Harz Mountains are one of my favoured places to visit in Germany because it is a terminus that has all the components for the making of a magnificent holiday – a breath-taking panorama, quaint and fascinating towns, ethnicity and antiquity. The icing on the cake for me is the sociableness offered by the HSB and the remarkable railway network and their yearly Autumn and Winter Steam Galas are a flawless reason to go back time and again.
THE HARZ STEAM RAILWAY JOURNEY
The best way to travel to Brocken, would be to take the Harz narrow – gauge railways (HSB) from the picturesque town of Wernigerode, which is also what we take. Why I also recommend this is, because the mainline directly takes one up to the mountains, without changing any line. These railways are quite the visitor attraction and surprisingly operate all year round. After one boarding one such momentous train, I am in awe as it features carriages that glide through the train tracks seamlessly, giving a scenic train route through the foothills up the to the highest summit of the Harz; well accompanied by the astonishing sound of the locomotive and cloaked in the familiar steam engine smell. These trains operate simply on coal and water. Interestingly not all the trains that run on the HSB work on steam, only this particular train network (brockenbahn) to Brocken does, hence making it an exclusive experience.
Brocken is one of the windiest places in Germany, once a situate of the Soviet spying post, it is characterized by the Harz National Park and the Brockhaus museum. The park interestingly jackets two federal states, historically making it the first ever national park to do so. The eastern part blanketing Saxony – Anhalt and the western part covering Lower Saxony. The park landscapes diverse flora and fauna and has been preserved in its original state. In earlier times the area surrounding the park was used to mine silver. Currently it is practically unoccupied, but does have a few settlements about. The main message of the park is to conserve the ecosystem around and educate people visiting.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Green Belt has appealed cyclists and, particularly, hikers. One of the best segments of Germany’s Green Belt is known as the Harz Border Trail. This 97km route divides the Harz Mountains – a district of woodland counting the summit of the Brocken, one of Northern Germany’s most beloved mountains. The area is prevalent midst hikers, with a system of simple wooden shelters and loads of villages for relaxing and resupplying. Thanks to the moderately easy-going terrain, this is a candid long-distance walk appropriate for qualified beginners. The Harz Mountains also have a method of hiking awards known as the Harzer Wandernadel. At 20 checkpoints, you can treasure stamps for your passbook; collect them all, and you can assertion a Harz Border Trail pin.
The museum gives an insight into the surreptitious world of Mount Brocken. Just like me anyone would be enameled by the glimpse of the past; this modern-day exhibition parades reconnaissance and parts of the transmission and tapping stratagems from the former German Democratic Republic as well as the German radio and television history. The new exhibit at the museum is also dedicated to climate change in the Harz, here one can experience what climate change really means to the Harz Forests and discover its trajectory over the years. Furthermore, the Harz forests weren’t always so accessible to the common man, they were once dreaded, because of the incalculable fables of witches, devils and mountain spirits, that were associated with them. A famous example being the Devil’s Pulpit and Witches Altar. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, enthused by his first climb to Brocken (1977), scripted the Walpurgis act for Faust. It is believed that on Walpurgis Night (April 30th), every year the witches gather around the Brocken, near the pulpit and the altar, where they with the help of their broomsticks madly sweep away the final snow. An interesting fact about the Brockenbahn, is also that it is positioned around the previous border that divided east and west Germany. In the year 1961 all passenger rail assistances were put on halt and finally brought back in the year 1991, giving millions of visitors an access to this historical peak. The key aim of this area is to protect and preserve its natural habitats by leaving them untouched. Lichens cover most of the rocks here, a community of algae and fungi that have been well restored and kept at a good distance from mankind. The Brockenbahn carries out all sorts of restitution projects which focus on bringing back segments of nature to their correct form, that have been previously mishandled and exploited by people in the past. Natural dynamic is of the utmost importance.
Akanksha Dean is an independent chef & food & travel writer, content creator and an events specialist, is the first Indian to have trained at Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, rated as the world’s best restaurant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, in 2016 and 2018 and currently in the Best of The Best Category.