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Brocken, Harz Mountains

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Brockenmuseum radio dome

ABOVE: The Brockenhaus radio dome housed antennas for a Stasi listening post during the Cold War. INSET BELOW: The HSB narrow-gauge railroad offers frequent service to the Brocken from Wernigerode, on the eastern slope of the Harz Mountains.

Visitor information

Background reading: The National Park Harz Web site has English-language information about the park, its flora and fauna, hiking, and the Visitor Center at TorfHaus. Wikipedia's article about the Brocken describes the mountain's history, literary references, and role in popular culture.

Museum: The Brockenhaus museum  open daily year-round. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission costs several euros, with discounts for children, families, handicapped visitors, and pensioners.

Food and accommodation: The Brockenhaus museum's cozy snack bar has soup, sausages, cakes, and other basics. (The pea soup is outstanding.) A few steps down the hill, the Brockenhotel has a cafeteria where you can get drinks, snacks, and full meals.

If you'd like to enjoy the Brocken after other tourists have retreated to lower elevations, book a room for the night. The Brockenhotel's twin-bedded rooms have private facilities, and extra cots are available on request.

Shops: You can buy souvenirs and other items in the HSB station, the Brockenmuseum, and the Brockenhotel.

Getting to the Brocken

HSB train on BrockenTrain: The HSB narrow-gauge railroad, or Harzer Schmalspurbahnen, carries passengers and bicycles to the Brocken from Wernigerode, Drei-Annen-Hohne, and Schierke. Its coal-fired steam trains operate 365 days a year, with multiple trains each day even during the winter months.

The HSB charges a flat fare to the Brocken from all stations, so I'd recommend catching the train in Wernigerode, a lively and pretty town of 34,000 with ample parking and a connection to the Deutsche Bahn. If you're pressed for time, you can take the train from Drei-Annen-Hohne or Schierke, but parking can be difficult on weekends and during the tourist season.

Car: Private vehicles aren't allowed on the Brocken, so--if you're approaching the mountain by car--you'll want to park at Schierke, the final train station below the Brocken, or TorfHaus on the B4 road (where you can stop in the National Park Visitor Center before hiking to the summit).

Bicycle: From the HSB station in Schierke, you can bike to the summit on the Brockenstrasse (a road that's closed to cars). Wikivoyage's Reiseführer Brocken recommends using a full-suspension mountain bike and watching for horses and hikers on the road.

On foot: You can hike up the Brocken from the National Park Visitor Center in TorfHaus (2-3 hours via the historic Goetheweg), from Schierke via the Brockenstrasse, and from several other locations in the vicinity. For details, check with the tourist office in Wernigerode's Rathaus or read Google Translate's English-language version of the Reiseführer Brocken from Wikivoyage. You'll also want to buy a good map before setting out.

Tips:

  • Many hikers ride the HSB train to the summit and walk back down to Schierke. This is less tiring than hiking uphill, but it can be harder on the knees.

  • Weather can be treacherous on the Brocken, so check the forecast before hiking or biking up the mountain, and be prepared for the unexpected. If the weather looks iffy, take the train.

  • For more information about travel in the Harz Mountains, visit the Harz Tourism Association's Web site at www.harzinfo.de.

Next page: More photos of the Brocken




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