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tæt på Ilsenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt (Deutschland)
The trail is named after the German poet Heinrich Heine, who is said to have traveled here. At several way points, Heinrich Heine and his poetry are remembered.
Because of its length, the trail is less frequently used than other, shorter, trails. On a Friday in July, we met very few people - except on the Brocken itself and the first few hundred meters down from the summit where several shorter trails join. On the following Saturday, we saw considerably more people at the trail head of the Heinrich Heine trail, but not so many that one wouldn't be essentially alone during the hike.
We started at the Kurpark Hotel Ilsenburg, which is a few meters further into the trail than the designated parking lot in Ilsenburg. The trail follows the road into the Ilse-valley, and crosses the Ilse stream for the first time at the Ilse-Quelle (Ilse-spring). A little further on is the Wald Hotel. One can either follow the road for a while or turn left on a footpath to follow the stream. Note, at way point 04, the Badestein. Next is the Zanthierplatz, which remembers Mr. Hans Dietrich von Zanthier who began scientific research and forest management.
From here, the Ilse-valley trail can be rocky, narrow, and - according to the guidebook -even romantic.
Pay attention at way point 07, where the trail takes some turns and crosses the forest road. Soon after you will be at the Ilse falls - a series of cascades. Once you leave the dark valley, you arrive at the Bremer Hütte. You will come back to the hut on the return.
From now on, the trail is generally wider and well maintained. A good view may be had at the Hermannsklippe (way point 12). A little further on you arrive at a concrete enforced path that will take you to the Brocken summit. The path was built by the military (in the that-time German Democratic Republic). As you ascend, turn around from time to time to enjoy the unfolding views, especially at the 'lesser Brocken'.
The Brocken summit is likely to be busy - on most days. Just before you reach the summit plateau, you cross the tracks of the nostalgic steam train. We learned that on fine days, the trains carry up to 15,000 people to the Brocken summit! Given its average population density, the Brocken summit is clearly no hiker's summit - but we were pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the summit restaurants, and the good value for money of their meals and refreshments.
There is no real alternative to following the main road for a few hundred meters, together with the tourists and the occasional horse cart. But soon the masses take their shortcuts to the shorter trails, and you will likely be to yourself again.
We recommend a short detour into the 'enchanted forest' - a boardwalk with epigrams etched into stone tablets.
A little further on you leave the main forest road for the yellow brink, which takes you straight back to the Bremer Hut. Much of the forest along this part of the trail has been devastated several years ago by the Borkenkäfer (bark beetle), but the area seems to recover.
From the Bremer Hut, the route follows the trail through the Ilse-valley that you took in the morning. There is no déjà vu, as the valley is beautiful and the trail interesting and varied. For those getting tired there is the forest road that runs parallel to the stream.