In the Harz mountains, a mountain range in northern Germany, steam trains still puff daily over a network of narrow-gauge tracks. A narrow gauge is with a track width of 1 meter considerably narrower than a normal railway track. Today, 25 steam locomotives are still in operation on the network of the ‘Harzer Schmalspurbahnen’, of which the oldest dates back to 1897! There are three possible routes on the network: the Harzquerbahn, Selketalbahn and the Brockenbahn. This last one let you experience a magical train ride to the summit of the Brocken mountain. The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz region and even in northern Germany. According to the legends, it’s a place where witches come together at night. Well, I’m in for a thrilling train trip. All aboard please!
The Brockenbahn runs from Drei Annen Hohne (540 m) through Schierke (685 m) to the top of the Brocken mountain (1141 m). It’s also possible to depart from Wernigerode, like I did. If you stay in the center of Wernigerode, you can walk to the station. I advise to come to the station in time. That way, you can start your day trip in a relaxed way and you have plenty of time to watch the train getting ready for departure. From Wernigerode, you reach the the Brocken summit in about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Shortly after departure, the Brockenbahn enters the majestic forests of the Harz. In Schierke, the train usually stops for about 10 minutes because the locomotive has to take extra water there. This gives you the possibility to get off the train and take some pictures. The steam train then continues through winter wonderland and gets more and more surrounded by fog. And apparently, that’s not an exception. The mysterious Brocken summit is surrounded by fog at least 300 days a year.
As we are coming closer to the top, the the snow carpet gets thicker and thicker. Don’t forget to bring your winter jacket and hat! When I arrive at the Brocken summit, I can’t believe what I see. I wonder if I just have arrived at the North Pole with the Polar Express!? The dense fog and the endless snowfields with crooked pine trees provide a surreal experience. In the Brockenwirt, you can enjoy a hot chocolate (if you can find the entrance without snow, good luck 😉).
As an adult, you pay 49 euros for a return ticket. This price is standard, regardless of which station you depart from. You can find more information about prices and tickets on the HSB website. The Brockenbahn runs both in summer and winter. Of course it’s possible that certain trips are canceled when extreme weather conditions occur.
If you like authenticity, just like me, you might like to travel to the Brocken with a “traditionszug”, which adds that extra touch. Normally, there is no seat reservation which means you sometimes have to search for a seat, especially during the holiday periods. In a traditionszug, you don’t have that problem. You travel in a historic train wagon and have a reserved seat. The traditionszug only runs on predetermined dates. Because there are some extras included in the ticket (seat reservation, access to the Brockenhaus and a welcome drink), it is slightly more expensive than a regular ticket.
It’s a quite expensive day trip, but in my opinion it’s worth every euro. What a unique train ride!