Good morning to You from a wonderfully sunny Wittenberg. The spring colors are amazing. The many variations of green are something to behold. And then you find those red poppies in full bloom, wherever the weedicides didn´t reach. Gorgeous. For a native from a semi-desert this is what the promised land must look like – or at least it´s something very close to paradise. The deep blue skies are spectacular and that day-in-day-out – and yes, we Africans know about those bright, shiny days. It doesn´t get much better than these days in spring, when the scorching heat of summer is still far off. Even the birds go overboard. There´s just no stopping their jubilant tones in this marvelous springtime.
Well, that was the setting for our outing to the “Brocken” – out in the far west of our state Saxony-Anhalt – right there in the national park and forest in the “Harz”. Angelika had preparations to do for today´s school beginnings and Friederike was busy with online German classes herself. So, Christoph and I did this on our own. Travelling through the delightful countryside – from one side of the state to the other listening to the live interview with the artist Cornela Schleime – we got into Schierke about noon, left the car in a modern parking garage “Am Winterbergtor” and started the hike up the “Eckerlochstieg”, which is pretty much the direct route up to the highest point in N.Germany. I didn´t need my GPS as there were literally hundreds of hikers making their way up this mountain path. Singles, couples and even big families and groups. Only one Russian couple was seriously quarreling, but the rest of this mixed crowd seemed jovial enough even though some of them pushed prams or pulled carts with kids, sweaters and coolers up the hill, whilst others obviously had enough with themselves to cope with. The many bikers, who weaved their way through the crowds didn´t look too friendly either, but perhaps that was just sporty determination – and not animosity really. Going up was tough going as you can expect and coming down their bikes were just too eager to speed away – and so you heard screeching brakes every now and again, but only very few muffled grumblings and no loud protests at all.
Up on the summit we had a glorious view – right into Thuringia and up to the blue mountain ranges there. A friendly park ranger pointed out some of the remarkable sights visible in the distance. He had his work cut out, because so many visitors disregarded the low wooden fences and climbed into the wilds despite the many signs: Don´t trespass – consider nature! (Der Natur zuliebe). They wanted to sit down in the heather and have their picknicks. Others tried to nap. Lots of pictures were taken around the various landmarks up there – commemorating the turbulent history of this place. Goethe, Heine, Gauss, but also devils, witches and other dark spirits of the night. On a bright afternoon not much is visible of this scarry stuff. Groups of “Wandervögel” strumming guitars and flaunting “Lederhosen” make such spooky myths seem far away. The restrooms were in good condition despite the huge demand and the various tearooms obviously make a quick buck after the extended shutdown. It all seemed quite far removed from the witches circling the “Blocksberg” and getting up to no good. However, they still show up in numbers for their mischief, but that´s another story.
Coming down was quite a bit faster than going up and that was not only because there were considerably less people at this stage. Some had obviously taken the “Brockenbahn” – while others had the choice of taking the pony-express or another route like the “Goetheweg”. We shared one rucksack and were sufficiently equipped with our running shoes. Sticks, umbrellas, coats and jackets were not required this time around. Still, I look forward to going up again – perhaps in autumn to see some mist or in winter to hear the foxes barking or even some lonely lynx.
All in all – this is a perfect day tour – and with plenty of further options, alternatives and variations to make this a regular highlight in the calendar – somewhat like the old man called “Brocken-Benno”, who in the last years climbed this hill daily – more than 8, 000 times already. This year this stopped and not only due to Corona, but because he had a cancerous tumor. However, he´s through that for now and has taken up a shorter hiking schedule in the meantime. He will be thankful, although he had planned the 8, 888th climb on his 88th birthday. Talk about a unique bucket list!
Yes, we´ve all got some mountain to climb – even if we live out in the flatlands and even if the present spring season is one of pure joy and bliss. The time for our last ascent is due – sooner or later. We´ll get there. No doubt! Until then, keep at it, stay up and connected to the good Lord our God. He´s the only real mountain guide to get you up that very mountain and all the way to the top. He stipulates: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He stresses this: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) That´s why we keep singing – even in this joyful time of Pentecost celebrating the “Lord and Giver of Live”:
1 Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow calm and fearless.
Guide us by Thy hand
To our fatherland.
2 If the way be drear,
If the foe be near,
Let not faithless fears o’ertake us;
Let not faith and hope forsake us;
For through many a woe
To our home we go.
3 When we seek relief
From a long-felt grief,
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring.
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.
4 Jesus, lead Thou onNicholaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1700-60
Till our rest is won.
Heav’nly leader, still direct us,
Still support, console, protect us,
Till we safely stand
In our fatherland.