When Paul Scraton set out on a hike from Göttingen on a clear autumn day, he did not know what to expect. With Heinrich Heine in his luggage, he wanted to reflect on his own experiences of Germany, hike along the Leine to Northeim, over low hills and light forests to Osterode. In the Harz Mountains, he followed the old trade routes and witches' paths, went underground in the mines near Goslar and crossed the old inner-German border in the middle of a dam. He climbed the Brocken, not only in the footsteps of Heine, but also of Goethe and Coleridge, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Anselm Kiefer and all the dreamers and schemers who were attracted to these slopes, where the witches danced, the students sang and the Cold War spies listened. Paul Scraton has found signs of the past, but also hikers, drinkers, football fans, workers and ex-miners in a forest threatened by the climate crisis, whose salvation has recently been appropriated by right-wing movements alongside nature activists, thus raising anew the question of the forest's place in German cultural identity then and now (and at all times in between).
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Paul Scraton, born in Lancashire in 1979, studied International Studies at the University of Leeds before moving to Berlin in 2001. He is the editor of Elsewhere magazine and the author of several books about different parts of Germany.