Brocken, Harz Mountains, Germany
According to local mythology, said witches and warlocks gather on Walpurgisnacht (which takes its name from Saint Walburga, whose feast day is 1 May) at locations throughout the Harz Mountains before flying off to 1142m Brocken on broomsticks or goats. There they recount the year’s evil deeds and top off the stories with a bacchanalian frenzy, said to represent copulation with the devil. Frightened peasants used to hang crosses and herbs on stable doors to protect their livestock; ringing church bells or cracking whips were other ways to prevent stray witches from dropping by. Today, however, people come to be with the witches not to escape them.
One of the best places to celebrate Walpurgisnacht is the town of Thale, where not-so-pagan hordes of 35,000 or more arrive for
If it wasn’t enough that one mountain should claim to be haunted, there are other such Walpurgisnacht events elsewhere in Europe. In the Czech
Sweden, too, has a few witches in the broom closet. Here, the celebration is known as the Feast of Valborg and is nowadays treated more as a spring welcome than a time of witches, being marked with bonfires and choral singing across the country. The largest celebration is in Stockholm’s Skansen open-air museum, where a festive concert runs from mid-afternoon to around midnight. In Gothenburg, students from the Chalmers University have for the last century conducted the Cortège parade, with floats showing mock scenes from major events over the past year. More than 200,000 people line the streets to view the parade.
4 – climb a mountain to enjoy the witching hour.
In the Harz Mountains, the town of Schierke is the best starting point for Walpurgisnacht treks to the Brocken. The Cortège parade in Gothenburg is
Germany's festivals are well known for being some of the safest in the world. However, don't annoy a witch or she will turn you into a newt!
In Thale, the wooden museum Walpurgishalle has exhibitions and paintings on all matters heathen (the interpretations are in German only), including the Opferstein, a stone once used in Germanic sacrificial rituals. In Gothenburg, head to Liseberg, one of the world’s largest amusement parks, with 35 stomach-churning rides.
Want to know more about Germany? Check out our podcast. We have an insider's guide to the coolest spots in Berlin and find out how to Eurail around Germany.
Find out where, when and how to join in the Oktoberfest festivities in Munich, Germany.
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