The Goethe Trail to Mount Brocken
Germans tend to enjoy a good hike — they even have a word for it: Wanderlust — and in the Harz the ultimate destination for hikers is Mount Brocken. Thanks to Goethe’s Faust the place is also known to be popular with witches on Walpurgis night. Its top (1,141 m) is just above the treeline, which on clear days ensures a marvellous view over the surrounding area — as Heinrich Heine puts it in Die Harzreise, ‘In hohem Grade wunderbar erscheint uns alles beim ersten Hinabschauen vom Brocken’ — but please note that this is the case only during summer, when the mountain is not covered in fog. At the summit, things have changed a bit since Heine was there in 1824: today we see a 123-m-high transmitter tower, and the ‘Stasi Mosque’, a former SIGINT station used during the Cold War as Moscow’s most western outpost, now a visitor centre.
Most people go to the summit by train, from Wernigerode or Drei Annen Hohne. Hikers can reach the Brocken on three main routes, of which the Goethe Trail from Torfhaus is the most popular. Depending on the exact route you choose, it takes some five to six hours to walk the 16 or 18 km up the mountain & back, and thanks to its mild elevation gain of 387 m the trail is also suitable for less experienced hikers. Imaginably but not necessarily the same route that Goethe used on 10 December 1777, it passes the Great Torfhaus Moor and continues its way through the Quitschenberg forest, over the former GDR border patrol road, and alongside the tracks of the narrow-gauge Brocken Railway. Temperatures at the summit do not normally exceed 15 °C, so even despite your warm feelings for all the trains steaming by, it can be chilly up there.nationalpark-harz.de