From Ilmenau the path starts steeply and does not level out until we have reached the summit. We walk through dense woods and then open space, a path lined with flowers and berry bushes and a view back across the rooftops of the town to the lake, the hardware stores and the GDR-era housing blocks at the outskirts. We keep walking – up, ever up – along stone-strewn paths and through more gloomy pine trees and then we are there. The top. A Byzantine-inspired brick tower and a view across the Thuringian forest that could inspire even the most mediocre poet…
...and of course, the greatest.
We walk along from the summit to a small wooden house with a similar view across the peaks and the valleys of the forest. In such a house, on this very spot, did Johann Wolfgang von Goethe spend the evening on the 6th September 1780 and was inspired to scrawl a poem into the wall. The hunters’ lodge burned down not long after, but the poem lived on… a Wanderer’s Nightsong for every walker of the woods:
Über allen Gipfeln
In allen Wipfeln
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.
Above all summits
it is calm.
In all the tree-tops
scarcely a breath;
The birds in the forest are silent,
just wait, soon
you will rest as well!
We stand at the top and look out across the peaks and the tree-tops. The wind blows. The buzzards soar. The sun breaks through the clouds. Just wait. Warte nur… Just wait.