Easter walk all the way up to the Brocken

Goethe, Germany’s “bard” and “national poet” forever, has his most famous character Faust make an Easter walk. Upon leaving Magdeburg, I felt I should follow suit. Some of the action in Faust is set in the Harz mountain range, and since it happens to be right in the middle of a bee’s line from Magdeburg to Göttingen, my home of over six years now, I went there and walked all the way up tp the summit of the Brocken, at 1141m northern Germany’s highest peak.

The weather was just great, sunny and warm. Yet the further up I climbed, the more Faust’s introductory lines from the “Osterspaziergang” (see below) turned out to be true: winter had not ceased to exist, winter had moved upwards. As I got near the summit, I realized that there was snow, and that my short was rather light. The Brocken as an average temperature of a chilling 2.5°C, and in the almost stormy winds the temperature must have been not far from that.

First there was a hurricane, then an extremely hot and dry summer 2018 in Germany, and many trees fell victim to bark beetles that eventually kill the trees.Some say this is a great opportunity to stop single-species (spruce) planting and allow for more resilient mixed forests. It’s an old story, die „Große Wurmtrocknis“ (the great beetle dryness), such as between 1770 and 1800 (more here and here in German).

The Harz is home to a lot of witchcraft!

The true German flag

Osterspaziergang (English below)

Vom Eise befreit sind Strom und Bäche
durch des Frühlings holden, belebenden Blick.
Im Tale grünet Hoffnungsglück.
Der alte Winter in seiner Schwäche
zog sich in rauhe Berge zurück.
Von dorther sendet er, fliehend, nur
ohnmächtige Schauer körnigen Eises
in Streifen über die grünende Flur.
Aber die Sonne duldet kein Weisses.
Überall regt sich Bildung und Streben,
alles will sie mit Farbe beleben.
Doch an Blumen fehlts im Revier.
Sie nimmt geputzte Menschen dafür.

Kehre dich um, von diesen Höhen
nach der Stadt zurückzusehen!
Aus dem hohlen, finstern Tor
dringt ein buntes Gewimmel hervor.
Jeder sonnt sich heute so gern.
Sie feiern die Auferstehung des Herrn,
denn sie sind selber auferstanden.
Aus niedriger Häuser dumpfen Gemächern,
aus Handwerks- und Gewerbesbanden,
aus dem Druck von Giebeln und Dächern,
aus der Strassen quetschender Enge,
aus der Kirchen ehrwürdiger Nacht
sind sie alle ans Licht gebracht.

Sieh nur, sieh, wie behend sich die Menge
durch die Gärten und Felder zerschlägt,
wie der Fluss in Breit und Länge
so manchen lustigen Nachen bewegt,
und, bis zum Sinken überladen,
entfernt sich dieser letzte Kahn.
Selbst von des Berges ferner Pfaden
blinken uns farbige Kleider an.
Ich höre schon des Dorfs Getümmel.
Hier ist des Volkes wahrer Himmel.
Zufrieden jauchzet gross und klein:
Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ichs sein!

trans. George Madison Priest

From the ice they are freed, the stream and brook,
By the Spring’s enlivening, lovely look;
The valley’s green with joys of hope;
The Winter old and weak ascends
Back to the rugged mountain slope.
From there, as he flees, he downward sends
An impotent shower of icy hail
Streaking over the verdant vale.
Ah! but the Sun will suffer no white,
Growth and formation stir everywhere,
‘Twould fain with colours make all things bright,
Though in the landscape are no blossoms fair.
Instead it takes gay-decked humanity.
Now turn around and from this height,
Looking backward, townward see.
Forth from the cave-like, gloomy gate
Crowds a motley and swarming array.
Everyone suns himself gladly today.
The Risen Lord they celebrate,
For they themselves have now arisen
From lowly houses’ mustiness,
From handicraft’s and factory’s prison,
From the roof and gables that oppress,
From the bystreets’ crushing narrowness,
From the churches’ venerable night,
They are all brought out into light.
See, only see, how quickly the masses
Scatter through gardens and fields remote;
How down and across the river passes
So many a merry pleasure-boat.
And over-laden, almost sinking,
The last full wherry moves away.
From yonder hill’s far pathways blinking,
Flash to us colours of garments gay.
Hark! Sounds of village joy arise;
Here is the people’s paradise,
Contented, great and small shout joyfully:
“Here I am Man, here dare it to be!”

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