This was a stupid idea when it started - it still is.
But I was bored.
At some point, while walking around in a forest in the south-east of Berlin, I came upon a marker denoting that this was the highest mountain in Berlin (the "Großer Müggelberg" at 114,8 meters). It hardly qualifies as a mountain and it's in the middle of a forest, so you don't even have a view.
But at that point, ignoring broadcast towers and various other buildings, it's was the highest peak in Berlin.
Then, in 2013, someone decided to pile some more rubble on top of the 'Teufelsberg' (which used to be with 114.7 meters just ten centimeters smaller than the "Großer Müggelberg") and raised it up to 120,1 meters, making it the highest peak in Berlin. (Putting a pile of rubble wasn't specifically done to make it the highest peak - some investment company tried to built some apartments there and got as far as piling up some stuff before works stopped.)
Two years later, a another company that piles up rubble from demolished buildings had put up enough of that in Pankow to create the "Arkenberge" and make them 120.7 meters high - creating a new 'highest peak'.
But then, "Teufelsberg" und "Arkenberge" are artificial (essentially both are landscaped rubble dumps), while the "Großer Müggelberg" is a natural peak. (Which is now reflected by the sign on top of it, which used to say "Highest Peak of Berlin" and is now replaced by one that claims "Highest Natural Peak of Berlin".
The basic point being - the concept of a 'highest summit' in Berlin is an arbitrary one.
Although that is true for many 'highest' superlatives. Does the highest point of a building count? Or just the 'Architectural Top' (which excludes masts and antennas)? 'The highest accessible point? The highest occupied floor? Do towers count? Or just 'buildings' (with at least half of the height being habitable)?
So it's no wonder that even something like the 'highest peak in Berlin' is a somewhat debatable concept.
Not that it matters.
More relevant is that some years ago I didn't have any 'proper' travelling scheduled for a couple of months during summer. So I looked for something to keep me from sitting at home.
I decided to rent a car for the weekend and just drive to - somewhere.
For now special reason except for "Why not?" and "I've never been there", I decided to drive Magdeburg. And as that hardly fills a weekend, I also went to the "Brocken", which is the highest mountain in the "Harz" area. And the highest peak in Sachsen-Anhalt.
And only a few kilometers away, there's the "Wurmberg", which happens to be the highest mountain in Niedersachsen.
So, together with Berlin, I had visited the highest peaks of three German states.
Not that impressive.
But when I had no real travel plans the next summer, I rented a car again and looked for some place to go.
Again, I had no reason to go anywhere specific - just some place I could drive to and where I hadn't been before.
So why not look for some other peak to travel to?
The closest one to Berlin (excluding the ones in Berlin itself) is at "Helpter Berge" in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. So I drove there.
So when a similar situation arose in 2016, I rented a car and set out for the highest point (and peak) in Brandenburg and the highest peak in Sachsen.
I never took the idea seriously, but there were a couple of times in the following years where I had nothing much to do and wanted to go somewhere, but had no real destination in mind. And then I flew somewhere and/or rented a car and went to some of these 'peaks'. Not so much because I wanted to visit them, but because they gave me somewhere to go and, hopefully, find something interesting to do in the vicinity.
The whole thing is a bit silly. But not worse than visiting cities by size or alphabetical order. Or by throwing darts at maps.
That's where it started. At the time I first went there, it still had the simple sign that said 'Highest mountain in Berlin'. In the years since. the simple info sign has been replaced by a ridiculous 'summit cross' and the inscription is now 'Highest natural mountain in Berlin'.
The main reason to go there was to visit Magdeburg. And I visited Magdeburg mostly because there wasn't any specific reason to select it. Places like Dresden, Leipzig or even Dessau and Meißen have some well things that come to mind when you hear the name - the Zwinger, the Frauenkirche, the Gewandhaus, Bauhaus, Junkers and porcelain.
But the only thing I associated with Magdeburg was that, back when the GDR existed, passing the Magdeburg exit on the highway meant that you were nearly back in West Germany and it wouldn't take that long to get to Helmstedt.
So with no idea what Magdeburg would be like, it seemed a good idea to visit Magdeburg and have a look.
It turned out that the most interesting place in Magdeburg was the one I was staying at: the Grüne Zitadelle, a building designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, which has a somewhat unusual look and also houses a small hotel.
There's also a boat tour along the Elbe river and a decent zoo in Magdeburg, but that's pretty much it.
As this didn't fill the weekend, I drove on to visit the Brocken, the highest mountain in Sachsen-Anhalt.
The weather was a bit mediocre when I walked up to the summit, but still mostly dry, but when I was about to head back to the car, it started to pour, so I just took the narrow gauge train back down to the car.
In retrospect, it would have been easier to take the train up the Brocken and then walk down, but at least that was the somewhat drier option.
From the Brocken (see above) the highest mountain in Niedersachsen is just across the valley.
(The ski jump on Wurmberg can be seen in this picture taken at the Brocken observation tower.)
So as I was nearby anyway, I drove to a parking spot at the Wurmberg and started to walk up.
There wasn't much of a view when I got up there, since some fog had rolled in.
The restaurant at the top wasn't crowded - especially in the outdoor area. So I got me a coffee and started to head back to the car.
Again, it started to rain.
While there's no train going down the Wurmberg, there's an aerial tramway, so I took that.
Not a sensible idea - again that meant walking up and taking transport down, which is a bit inconvenient. And the valley station turned out to be lower down the hill than the place where I parked the car, so I essentially paid money to be able to do more uphill walking.
Getting to the highest point in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern doesn't require much uphill walking, but is kind of dull. There is a broadcasting tower nearby and there's a wide fence around it. There's also a road leading up to the broadcasting tower. So I just drove to the parking spot next to the tower and walked along the fence (not really a path there, but at least some sort of trail) until I got around the fenced in area and to the summit marker.
There seems to be a nicer path up to that marker (you can kind of see it behind the 'summit cross'), but that leads to another parking place closer to the foot of the hill. As the car wasn't parked there, I walked back along the trail next to the fence.
The highest point/peak in Brandenburg is one of the badly defined things again.
The 'Heidehöhe' is on the border of Brandenburg and Sachsen. But the summit of this hill is about ten meters or so behind the border on the Sachsen side. So the highest point in Brandenburg is just the highest point on the borderline, which is somewhat unsatisfying.
At least, there's an information display and a stone marker at that point, so it is marked somehow. (The stone stairs in the background lead up to the summit of Heidehöhe, a few meters above.)
A bit further along the way (on the Brandenburg side) there's a nice observation tower that has some good views over treetops.
If you don't like the 'just a point on the borderline' as the highest point, the highest peak in Brandenburg is just a few kilometers away on the Kutschenberg. It's 40 centimeters lower than the highest point, but at least it's a summit.
As I was in the area anyway, I visited that as well.
Getting to the summit of Fichtelberg was the easiest of the trips so far - you can just drive there.
The only physical effort is to get out of the car and walk up to the top of the observation tower for a better view all around.
When I got there, before noon, the weather was still nice.
As the Czech Republic is not far away (literally just down the street and then a step over the border) I went for a bit of a walk in the hills there. (Where I got surprised by a thunderstorm, but happened to be close to a disused ski-lift station that had a bit of an overhanging roof, so I could wait out the worst of it before walking on.)
In the afternoon I went to Oberwiesenthal (the village at the bottom of the Fichtelberg), initially just to go for a snack. Then I noticed that they rent out 'Monsterrollers' there (essentially oversized kick-scooters with large wheels). They are available at some other places (I had seen some on Wurmberg), but I've never been on one.
You rent the 'monster roller' at Oberwiesenthal, then ride the aerial tramway up the mountain and then it's (mostly) just running downhill back to the rental station.
When riding up to the summit, the weather was still quite pleasant and there were even sunny patches.
Unfortunately the grey clouds moved in quickly and by the time I was on the trail, thunder could be heard and lightning could be seen. Followed by heavy rains and, subsequently, a bit of hail as well (in June!). So while it's fun to ride a 'monster roller', there are presumably better conditions to do it in.
I was in Munich for a couple of days and decided to do a day tour to the highest mountain in Bavaria (which also happens to be the highest mountain in Germany).
In the end, it turned out to be little more than a "checkmarking" trip.
Been there, done that.
The main issue was that I had only a limited time slot to go there. It was just a single day where I had enough time for a visit there. And due to some change of plans, I didn't even have the whole day. as planned, but needed to be back in Munich in the early afternoon.
So I drove to Eibsee early in the morning, took the train up the mountain (which is a bit dull, as the last four kilometers or so are in a tunnel, so there's not much of a view) and then the final bit to the summit platform in the aerial tramway.
The final bit is surely a great experience in fine weather, but on that Sunday the view from the Glacier aerial tramway looked like this:
And on the Zugspitz platform, the view wasn't any better.
Additionally, the path to the real summit was closed.
The actual summit is the one with the golden cross (visible in some of the images above) on it. It's just a short distance away, but as there is no secured wide path with railings leading up to it, you can only go there if you wear a climbing harness and hook into the safety cable.
It's not difficult to go there. While it looks on the picture as if you would need to scale a steep rockface, there are fixed steel ladders on the side of the rock. The climbing harness is just for safety, as there are some steep drops nearby. You don't need to do any climbing to get from the platform to the summit.
But the path access was closed, so walking over to the real summit wasn't even an option.
Without anything else to do and nothing to see, I took the Eibsee Cable Car back down to Eibsee and drove back to Munich from there.
The cloud layer almost reached down to the Eibsee - only just before the descent finished there was a bit of a view to be had.
Reaching Bremen's highest natural peak is easy.
Finding it is much harder.
Bremen is essentially flat.
The base altitude of Bremen is at 11 meters; the highest peak is at 32.5 meters. So we're talking about roughly 20 meters height difference over the whole area of Bremen, which gives a good indication on how un-mountainous and even un-hilly the whole place is.
The highest point is somewhere in Friedehorstpark, which, at best, has maybe a total difference between the highest and lowest point of about a meter.
So you're more likely to stumble over the highest point than to have to climb it.
Walking around the park, the 'summit' might as well be this pile of earth.
Although it might as well be this bit near a path.
The GPS altitude is not exact enough to determine which one is higher, so it might be either of them.
Technically, at least according to the topological map, the 'official' summit is on this piece of lawn, next to the brownish bit of grass near the middle. (Although, when standing there, the two points shown previously look slightly higher.)
I went to all places that looked slightly elevated, so I am reasonably sure that I stood at the highest natural point in Bremen, but it is hard to tell which one it actually was.
But for my convenience, someone had very recently put up a sign to mark the highest point.
I checked the hashtag on the sign (#16Gipfel) and it turned out that the sign had just been put up two days previously. Two people were spending their summer vacation by driving through Germany and visiting the 16 summits. And as there is no real marker in Bremen, they made their own.
Given the flimsiness of the marker, it probably won't survive for long, but it served me well for providing a 'proper' summit picture.
It's also next to a small hole in the ground with some exposed rocks on its side, so it also provides a photo opportunity for pretending that you need to scale a nearly insurmountable cliff to be able to reach the peak.
While the peak in Friedehorstpark is the highest natural geological feature in Bremen, there is a higher peak.
It is a garbage mountain in Bremen-Blockland.
Presumably it will be landscaped at some point in the future and accessible to the public, but currently it's still being used as a garbage dump, so it is off-limits for now (and a bit smelly on a warm day as well).
The highest point in the Saarland is, much as the one in Brandenburg, not much of a summit.
The highest point in the Saarland is on the Dollberge, but it's not the summit itself. That is in Rheinland-Pfalz.
When they put in the border between Rheinland-Pfalz and the Saarland, the nearest summit (the Friedrichskopf) ended up on the Rheinland-Pfalz side. So the highest point in the Saarland is just the highest point somewhere along the border crossing the hills.
Originally there was only a border stone to mark the site (and even with that, it wasn't quite clear whether the stone really marked the highest point of the border or whether it was just one of a regular set of border stones, which just happened to be close to the highest point), but they recently put in an official sign denoting the highest place of the Saarland.
So that's where I went to take a picture.
And, as I was there anyway, I took one of the border stone as well.
While the whole 'visiting summits' thing is pointless (and more than a bit silly...), it actually served its intended purpose this time - it helped me to decide where to go.
I had a Friday off and was looking for a way to spend a long weekend.
I could have had a relaxed weekend, sitting at home and doing nothing, but I decided to go somewhere instead.
And I couldn't find anything interesting to visit (it was just a weekend, so long trips were not an option and all strange places to spend a night in Germany were already booked, since this was all on fairly short notice.
So I decided that I might as well visit some more summits, looked for a place that would be (reasonably) convenient (as in 'just about 1100 km to drive') for some summits and booked a flight to Stuttgart. From there I went to see the highest place in the Saarland and then continued to the one in Rheinland-Pfalz and the one in Baden-Württemberg.
Not necessarily the best way to spend a weekend (even though I visited a rather good tech museum in Sinsheim and a car sculpture in Stuttgart as well), but at least a busy one.
From the highest point in the Saarland, it's not far to the highest point in Rheinland-Pfalz, so I went there as well.
I arrived there in the late afternoon (on a Friday) and had the place to myself (at least the public area - there was some guard at the military facility located there).
The summit marker is a metal plate in the shape of Rheinland-Pfalz with a couple of concrete blocks 'pointing' to other summits in different directions.
There's also an explanatory info sign, a wooden sightseeing tower and, nearby, a large wooden sculpture called "Windklang" (Windsound), even though it doesn't produce sounds, which has a small viewing balcony that provides a good view of the scenery beyond.
After a quick walk around the summit, I went right back to the car (you can drive all the way up to the summit) and drove on to Sinsheim.
Probably the most pointless detour of them all.
I had been staying in Sinsheim and needed to fly back from Stuttgart, so why not drive there the long way round - via the Feldberg?
My flight was in the late afternoon, and it's about 300 km from Sinsheim down to Feldberg and then another 200 km back to Stuttgart. And, unlike Erbeskopf, the summit is not a drive-in.
So I got up really early on a Sunday morning, just after the hotel breakfast buffet had opened, drank a lot of coffee and drove down to Feldberg (the village). Once there, I parked my car and walked up to Feldberg (the summit) (The 3 km distance wasn't the issue, but the 250 meters uphill were slowing me down a bit.)
On the way, it felt increasingly pointless.
It was a foggy day, so there wasn't any good view of the landscape around during the walk - and there surely wouldn't be on the summit. So all I was doing was walking to an arbitrary point in bad weather to take a picture that wouldn't show much.
But I was enjoying myself - the way to the summit was mostly deserted (giving the amount of parking facilities at the start of the trail, the place must be quite crowded in summer) and I don't mind rainy weather that much. And the whole point of the exercise was to visit the summit, not to enjoy the view, so I didn't mind much that there wasn't any.
After a while of continuous uphill walking (the trail has mostly a steady slope, so there are no steep sections), I managed to reach the summit.
There were three people there, so I asked one of them to take a 'summit picture'.
And after a quick look at the scenery, I decided it wasn't really worth sticking around (also, the wind had picked up and the drizzle had turned into sleet as well), turned around and went back to the car to drive all the way up to Stuttgart again.
With an altitude of 116,2 m and an ascent of about 50 meters, this one is clearly not a difficult peak to reach. But then again it is a higher peak than the one in Berlin (if only by 1.4 meters) and a giant compared to Bremen, which has less than a third of the height.
Though that still means that it's a relaxed walk from the nearest road to the highest point in Hamburg - but, unlike Erbeskopf in Rheinland-Pfalz, you can't simply drive there. Some minor walking (about 2km) is involved.
And the highest point is on a 'peak'.
While the highest point is directly on the border of Hamburg and Niedersachsen, it's not like in Saarland or Brandenburg where the border between two states is somewhere along a hillside and the highest point is an arbitrary point on the hillside, where one of the states happens to end. But it goes further up right beside it, so there is no 'peak' or any feeling of reaching the top and it all feels a bit silly.
While being on the 'highest point' in Hamburg is a bit silly as well, at least it is a point from where all directions go downhill.
I could have stayed at home and taken care of dozens of things that needed doing. Or I could have checked into some wellness hotel and spend four days doing essentially nothing and relaxing. I could have rented a car and driven more than a thousand kilometers to visit a couple more 'summits' in Germany; places that I didn't particularly care about; places that would probably be boring and, given that it was October, wet, miserable, cold and foggy. I could also have just booked a flight to Cairo and have a look at the Sphinx for a day (given car rental costs and hotel prices in Germany, compared with flight costs and hotel prices in Egypt, probably a cheaper option).
Lots of options.
So, of course, on October 3rd, I found myself in various traffic jams (I wasn't the only one going for a four-day trip, of course), heading towards Thüringen, Hessen and Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Of the 'summits' in Germany, this is probably the one that you are least encouraged to visit.
They prefer to send you to the highest point of Thüringen instead.
As you drive towards the highest mountain, you see various signs telling you about the "Schneekopf Turm", which has been errected on top of the "Schneelopf" (unsurprisingly). The mountain peak itself is only the second tallest mountain in Thüringen (by about five meters), but they put a sightseeing tower on top of it. As Schneekopf is not quite 1000 meters tall (at 978 meters), they built the sightseeing tower tall enough to make the sightseeing platform a bit higher than the 'magical' kilometer mark (at 1001 meters). But buildings don't count (otherwise the highest points of Bremen or Berlin would be TV towers), so I ignored the Schneekopf.
The highest natural point is the peak of "Großer Beerberg", which is located a bit off the "Rennsteig", which is a popular hiking route (all in all about 170 km). The highest peak in Thüringen is in a protected nature reserve and you are strongly discouraged to go there. While it does not seem to be forbidden to go there (and there's a small trail heading there), a sign nearby tells you that you shouldn't enter the nature reserve and, preferably, not even along a trail.
The sign is a bit vague about it - it asks you not to walk along the trails, b but it doesn't really tell you whether it's forbidden to go there or whether you just shouldn't.
But in any case, since they don't want you to go to the 'summit', they don't put up any signage or other information about it. (Although it's obviously not a secret - anyone who can read a topo map will figure out where it is.)
As an 'alternative' they have a sign denoting the highest point of the "Rennsteig" a few hundred meters away.
And there's a scenic viewpoint called Plänkners Aussicht (close to the trailhead), which probably has theoretically a nice view, but given that it was October and it was a bit foggy, there was nothing much to see.
The little trail to the top of Großer Beerberg was pleasant (and I was careful to stay on the trail) and I quickly got to the marker denoting the highest point in Thüringen.
Although it doesn't really mention that. While most other places have some marker explaining that this is the highest place in that state in Germany, they clearly didn't want to draw any attention to the point, so there's just a geodetic marker, without any further explanation of its significance.
Getting to the Wasserkuppe in Hessen is easy.
Just drive up there.
You can't get quite to the top (there's a road, but that's closed to the public), but there's parking nearby.
There are also lots of facilities around. There are a restaurant, various shops, a museum, alpine slides (summer and winter), skiing (in winter), a paragliding school and a few other things.
Often a busy place, but it wasn't that crowded when I got there. The weather wasn't that inviting. It was windy, with low clouds, fog banks coming in every couple of minutes and, even for early October, a bit cold (6°Cm about 42°F).
The main activity on Wasserkuppe is unpowered flight. Traditionally glider planes, of course, but also paragliding, hang gliding and model planes. They also allow some powered flight with model planes, motor gliders and powered paragliders, but mostly it's about gliding.
But, given the weather (and possibly the fact that it was on a Friday and not during the weekend), nobody was doing that. I assume visibility was the main issue.
Walking up to the highest point, visibility changed between "difficult to see a hundred meters ahead" and some moments with good view of the landscape around me.
It stayed windy all the time, though.
The spherical building (barely visible in the first picture) is the Radom, a former radar dome. It has a walkway around the bottom, which is good for sightseeing and (sail-)plane spotting. (At least in better wetter.) The inside of the dome is mostly empty now and used as an event location.
The 'summit marker' is just outside the radar dome.
The inscription is a bit odd, claiming that it's the "Highest point in the district of Fulda".
Yes, it sure is.
But that's a bit like stating that Mount Everest is the highest mountain of the Solukhumbu district in Nepal. While technically correct, it seems an unusual way of putting it.
The top of Wasserkuppe is the highest point in the state of Hessen. So it's obviously also the highest point of the district it is located in.
I didn't find any explanation on why they labelled the marker that way. Most likely (given how bureaucracies work), it had something to do with who was paying for the marker. Probably it came out of the budget of the district Fulda (as opposed to the Hessen state budget) and someone thought "If we're paying for that thing, then there should be our name on it, not theirs!"
After visiting the marker, I walked back to the glider runway.
When I had planned going to Wasserkuppe, I had considered doing a sightseeing flight (they have some two-seater gliders for that), but as nobody was flying that afternoon, that didn't work out, so I visited the glider museum instead.
The Langenberg peak is close to the border of Hessen and Nordrhein-Westfalen.
But, conveniently enough, it's fully in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Sometimes they put borders right through the peak of a mountain, probably because that was a historically a convenient fixpoint for geodesists. But here the border to Hessen is 15 meters away from the peak, making the top of Langenberg undoubtedly the highest natural point in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Similar to the Großer Beerberg in Thüringen, the Langenberg is close to a popular hiking trail, the Rothaarsteig. (And also some other hiking trails, like the Uplandsteig or the E1 European long distance path.)
And while it's not directly on any of these trails, the way to Langenberg is well signposted.
Even on a somewhat dreary Saturday morning there was a regular flow of hikers going by. Not crowded, but still a hiker (or biker) every five minutes or so.
There is a plaque marking the highest point in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
There's also, somewhat annoying, a summit cross.
I don't mind them much if they are historic markers, but this one is less than a decade old, and putting a large religious marker there seems more than a bit zealous and backwards.
But there's also a wooden hammock nearby (unclaimed by any religious sect, as far as I know) where visitors can relax a bit (though it is probably a better experience when it's sunny and the thing isn't wet).
After that short lie-down, it was time to head back to the car to head elsewhere to do something more interesting, with some nice autumn colours along the way.
The whole thing with visiting the highest points in the German states began when I was bored and I was looking for a reason to travel somewhere.
And I have been rarely as bored as when sitting at home, with all the Corona restrictions.
So it seem fitting that, when it was possible again to other German states, I was wondering "Where should I go now?" and decided to goto the highest point in Schleswig-Holstein. And complete the list.
There's not much to tell about the trip. There is a parking place close to it, so it's not difficult to get to the Bungsberg summit. (And at a total height of 168 meters, it wouldn't be much of an ascent, even if there wasn't.)
In fact, it's slightly disappointing. The little hill nearby, where the Elizabethturm is located, looks more impressive then the summit itself (and feels more like a 'climb').
The path that leads to the real summit seems 'flat' in comparision.
While itlooks a bit like there is a red-white radio mast at the summit, that isn't the case. It is actually a fair bit behind it, as this view from the summit shows.
And, since the trees nearby are a lot higher than the altitude difference between the parking lot and the summit, even when standing at the summit, when you look back toward the parking lot and the TV tower, you don't get the impression that you are 'above' everything else.
But still. It's the summit. It's the highest place in Schleswig-Holstein. And I've been there.
It seems that even the tourist office is aware that it's not that much of an attraction.
The marker at the summit doesn't even mention the name of the hill or its significance. It simply bears a 'GM' for Geographical Marker.
And while there is a sign nearby giving the name and the height of the mountain, it's barely legible.
At least there is one other sign that shows the way.
And that's it. There usually are a couple of things to do nearby, but the Elizabethturm was closed (permanently), the viewing platform on the TV tower es well (temporarily), and so was the exhibition nearby. And while the 'summit restaurant' was open, they only accepted guests with reservations (not because they were that busy, but due to local Corona regulations).
Time to drive home.
But this time with the satisfaction of having visited the highest summit in all German states.
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