written by Hannah
The biggest challenge the Harz offers is the Brocken. At an altitude of 1,142 meters above sea level, via various hiking trails or the Brocken Railway, hundreds of hikers make their way to the climb each day. For mountain bikers the area is a paradise. For us with our fully packed wheels, it is especially exhausting.
The first few kilometers we cycle on the B4, pressed close to the guardrail in the hope that the 80km / h passing motorists notice us in time. It stresses me and it really is no fun, so at the first opportunity we hit the forest and continue on an unpaved forestry path. This is bumpy, but really nice: nobody meets us in the first few kilometers, even the birds do not show themselves, we can only hear them chirping in the treetops. Sometimes it rustles left and right of the path in the bushes, but our companions remain invisible. The path runs in constant bends and is alternately immersed in sunlight or runs between the trees in shadow bordering on darkness.
When driving uphill, I quickly get hot, I start to sweat and take off layer by layer of the clothes I put on in the cold morning. But as soon as we take a break, I feel the cold creeping into my bones and so we go on fast. At one point the trail becomes a beaten track, tree roots and stones prevent us from cycling on and we have to push our bicycles. It’s not a problem at the beginning, but it gets steeper and my bike gets a kilo heavier every few feet. I push my entire body weight against the handlebars, but can barely make any progress. So Marius helps me, he pushes from behind and I control the handlebar, so we finally get both bikes up, where we get back on a footpath.
“Do you want to emigrate?”
The closer we get to the top of the mountain, the busier hiking trails become, we draw some attention on us. “Do you want to emigrate?” an elderly gentleman asks when he sees our heavily packed bikes. Before we can answer, he already passed by.
At the next intersection, we do not know where to go. Three roads lead upwards, the signage does not help us. While we stand there and discuss, a racing cyclist comes over, greets and turns left. Shortly thereafter, as we turn the period of our helplessness into a short drink and meal break, a couple with e-mountain bikes comes up the slope and also disappears to the left in the forest. When the fourth cyclist turns left, we decide that this can´t be so wrong and follow.
The further we get to the top, the more hikers we meet. “Na, denn man tau!” a woman says to me (That´s a low german dialect and not really translatable: It means kind of “Good luck” in a funny way), and her Northern German idiom motivates me. The majority of hikers are tourists. Suddenly I hear an unexpected noise and the Brocken train passes by, an ancient black locomotive that emits clouds of dark smoke. I feel reminded of the Hogwarts Express. The spectacle, admired by all present with numerous Ahs and Ohs, is quickly over, as the train disappears in the forest.
Meanwhile, we´ve been on the road for three hours (including breaks), I can see the weather station on the summit between the trees for some time again and again, but it feels like I just can not get ahead. “Almost done!!”, a woman who comes towards me says. Alright. So I gather all my strength and pedal. I have to push the last few meters. But we did it: We are on the top! “1142 m” the brass-colored sign on the summit proudly announces.
While I cycle downhill the landscape flies past me. The track is paved and there is no car, so I just let my bike roll. The luggage gives additional thrust. The road has only a few bends, so the track is well visible, you rarely have to brake. Marius films with the action cam, I cycle ahead and barely notice how I’m getting faster and faster. But when I glance at the speedometer and I see the 55 km/h, I slow down a bit. Marius rolls past me, with 60km /h, as I’ll learn later. The speed induces a euphoric state of mind. The hard-earned kilometers slide under my tires in minutes. Way too fast we arrive, four hours uphill for a few minutes downhill.
We reach the village of Schierke and see a colorful sign. Here is a summer toboggan run! And as we do not have enough of the speed, we stop and get in. The place where we pitch our tent this evening is, according to the condition of my musculature, “Elend”, which means “misery”.