8 I the Brocken The Brocken I 9 4 Devil’s Pulpit and Witches Altar 5 Dwarf shrub heath Inspired by the impressions of his first ascent of Brocken in winter 1777, Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote the Walpurgis scene for „Faust“. On Walpurgis Night, the night of April 30th, according to tradition witches meet on „Blocksberg“ (the Brocken) at the Devil‘s Pulpit and the Witches Altar, where they wildly sweep away the last snow of the Brocken with their brooms. In the late 19th century this event became a kind of festival. In 1896 the Bad Harzburg Walpurgisnacht society celebrated on the Brocken for the first time. Since 1901 there have been special Walpurgis trains of the Brocken railway. In the following years, Count Christian Ernst of Stolberg-Wernigerode banned the Walpurgis celebrations because of the „hellish noise and rough horseplay“. Today, Walpurgis Night is celebrated in communities in the National Park, such as Ilsenburg, Bad Harzburg, Schierke, Sankt Andreasberg, Braunlage and Elend. The granite cliffs facing you remain unmolested by dancing witches and over the decades have become covered with the sensitive map lichen. On a clear day you have the good view shown in board 4. Above the natural tree line on the Brocken there are the remnants of the once large-scale dwarf shrub heath. The formation of a closed forest after the last ice age was prevented here by thin, nutrient-poor soils, a harsh climate, and especially by the wind – conditions for the natural occurrence of these heathland communities. Typical species which grow on the Brocken are Brocken anemone, Brocken hawkweed and Alpine hawkweed. The presence of these light-demanding species is an indication of the lack of forest cover on the Brocken plateau since the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. The existing heathlands were strongly influenced over time by human use on the plateau. Over the centuries, grazing and tourism have encouraged the spread of dwarf shrubs such as heather, bilberry and cranberry and changed the character of the Brocken. Although as a result of large-scale restoration the number of potential locations for Brocken anemone and Brocken hawkweed have increased again (both occur only here in Germany), they are highly endangered. Previously picked for „Brocken bouquets“, the natural heathland vegetation is being threatened today because the nutrients contained in precipitation (e.g. 60 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year on Brocken summit) favour the spread of highly competitive grasses such as Tufted Hairgrass and Hairy Reed Grass.