• Germany edition
 
Following the Brothers Grimm fairy trail
Photo: DPA

Following the Brothers Grimm fairy trail

Published: 29 Nov 2012 09:01 GMT+01:00
Updated: 29 Nov 2012 09:01 GMT+01:00

Before they became the Brothers Grimm, the Grimm brothers travelled around northern Germany, meeting townsfolk at dusk to hear local storytellers spin tales of demented dwarves, cross-dressing wolves, and cannibalistic witches living in confectionery houses.

And although they would eventually become renowned scholars, it was their chronicling and adaptation of tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel that would both make the Grimms famous and scare countless children around the world sleepless in the process.

Many of the stories to be found in their book “Children’s and Household Tales” - first published in 1812 - were gathered along a tourist route that weaves through the German states of Hesse and Lower Saxony, from Hanau in Frankfurt to Bremerhaven on the North Sea coast.

Known as the Fairytale Road, it travels about 700 km through misty valleys and shadowy woods, past old witch towers and stony silent citadels.

I start more or less right in the middle of the route in Kassel.

Finding Cinderella

The Grimms moved here as teenagers, and worked as librarians and academics. It was here that they became acquainted with the renowned storyteller Dorothea Viehmann, who was born in the city and is believed to have first told the brothers the story of Cinderella.

Despite the widespread destruction suffered by the city in World War II, some architectural gems remain and one of them, the 18th century, baroque-style Palais Bellevue, is home to Kassel’s Brothers Grimm Museum.

“The museum is unique,” says its director Bernhard Lauer. “It is the only museum devoted totally to the Brothers Grimm; a place where you can get a total overview of their lives and their work.”

There are relics such as furniture from the Grimms’ home, as well as original illustrations to their stories – and it all builds up to the jewels in the museum’s crown - first and second editions of the fairy tales.

“You can feel the atmosphere of the 19th century here,” said Lauer, adding that the museum eschewed modern technology such as computers or videos in the exhibits in order to create an “authentic experience” of what life was like in the brothers’ time.

Which is not to say that young visitors will be bored – every three months, the museum has a new interactive children’s exhibition themed on a different fairytale.

“We offer this exhibition not only in German, but also in English, Russian and Turkish, so that children from different traditions in Europe come together and play,” said Lauer.

Letting the imagination flow

And with a head full of images and stories, the ideal place for a stroll is Kassel’s magnificent Schlosspark Wilhelmshöhe. It flows down the side of a hill overlooking the city to a glorious half-crescent palace. There is a giant statute of Hercules at the top, and Löwenburg, a medieval castle, hidden amongst its trees.

Sitting beneath the palace’s towering columns on a sunny afternoon, it’s not difficult to picture horse drawn-carriages ferrying glass-slippered maidens to aristocratic balls.

The following day the journey turns northwards past the town of Sababurg and Dornröschenschloss, the castle that supposedly inspired the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Set amongst rose gardens and ancient oaks, its spiral staircases and domed turrets are now part of an upmarket hotel. But you don’t have to be a guest to visit and for a small fee visitors are permitted to swan about its lovely grounds dreaming of princesses and princes.

The River Weser leads through gentle hills lush with forests and pasture land to the village of Bodenwerder. Now popular with cyclists biking the Weser valley, the town was once home to another famous story teller, Baron von Münchhausen.

There is a fun little museum set up to celebrate his adventures including his claim that he once rode a cannonball fired in the direction of his enemies but after realising the folly of his actions, leapt on to another heading the opposite way.

Everyone has a tale

A wander along the riverbank and through narrow streets flanked by half-timbered shops and cafés lead to a drink in the beer garden of the Goldener Anker hotel while the pleasure boats chug by.

Fittingly, the hotel’s friendly proprietor Karl-Rudolph Schoppe tells a tale about his great-great-great-grandfather who was fishing on the Weser when he found a 100-kilo “golden anchor” – reputedly Russian gold left behind by retreating Napoleonic soldiers. He sold it and used the proceeds to build the eponymous hotel in 1837.

From the Baron’s town, it’s only a half an hour drive up the road back to the Grimms – Hamelin.

Celebrating the rat catcher

Along with Bremen to the north, and its famous musical animals, Hamelin is one of the few actual towns along the Fairytale Road to feature in the Grimms’ tales.

Put on the map by the Pied Piper, the town continues to embrace its association with the Rattenfänger or rat catcher. He can be found on everything from coffee cups to restaurants while costumed tours relive his deeds and a bronze statute of him stands proudly in the main pedestrian area of the town.

The town’s cobblestone streets are rich with colourfully painted and inscribed half-timbered buildings and there are some lovely examples of Weser Renaissance architecture. One of best is Hamelin’s most famous building, the Rattenfängerhaus.

A stunning edifice adorned with intricately decorated stonework, a plaque on the side of the building commemorates the Pied Piper’s exploits and inside its restaurant offers all sorts of rodent themed treats including “rat-tail” flambé and home-made “rat-killer” liquor.

“We have visitors from Japan and China and England, as well as tourists from America, from Denmark, from everywhere actually,” said Rattenfängerhaus owner Christina Hartlieb-Fricke. “Most come from Japan and China, though, and they come for the rat-tail flambé, a dish my husband invented about 45 years ago.”

It’s delicious, although on closer examination, the flambéed rodent tails turn out to be strips of pork cooked in wine. But, like much that lies along the Fairytale Road, the most fun is to be had by indulging in a little fantasy.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

10:13 November 29, 2012 by wood artist
What a great story. I'm definitely adding a couple of these places to my next trip, which was supposed to be this month...except I didn't win the lottery. :-(

wa
23:44 December 5, 2012 by Bumps
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
Today's headlines
Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight
A man walks past an Ebola information mural in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: DPA

Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight

Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised that Germany will send help to Liberia to tackle the Ebola crisis in response to a personal appeal by the country's president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. READ  

Cabinet clamps down on child image possession
Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

Cabinet clamps down on child image possession

People caught in possession of indecent images of children will face tougher prison sentences, the government announced on Wednesday. READ  

The Local List
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again

Ten German words you'll never want to hear again

There are some German words which we'd rather were never invented. From the almost unpronounceable to the sheer pointless, The Local List has identified ten of the worst words in the German language. Do you agree? READ  

Investigators offer $30m reward for MH17 clues
Investigators at the MH17 crash site. Photo: DPA

Investigators offer $30m reward for MH17 clues

Anonymous backers have armed a German private detective with a $30-million war chest to find out who shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. READ  

13,000 police will catch speeders on Thursday
This sight will be familiar to drivers on Thursday. Photo: DPA

13,000 police will catch speeders on Thursday

UPDATE: Drivers across Germany will be on the lookout for police holding radar guns on Thursday, as 13,000 officers take to the streets to crack down on speeding. READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest traditions
Photo: DPA

Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest traditions

The world's biggest beer festival opens in Munich on Saturday. Running until October 5th, Oktoberfest is expected to attract more than six million visitors, drinking seven million litres of beer. Here's the first of The Local's four-part guide to the festival, starting with leathery traditions. READ  

Climber, 77, falls 80 metres to his death
The Alps near Innsbruck. Photo: DPA

Climber, 77, falls 80 metres to his death

A 77-year-old German climber fell 80 metres to his death in an Alpine ravine on Tuesday. READ  

State leader defends 'Russia Day'
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state premier Erwin Sellering is a big fan of Russia. Photo: DPA

State leader defends 'Russia Day'

The leader of a state in eastern Germany is not letting the worst crisis between Russia and Europe since the Cold War get in the way of his plans to celebrate "Russia Day", despite critical voices calling him a "Putin sympathizer". READ  

Champions League
Borussia Dortmund outgun Arsenal in opener
Dortmund players celebrate at the final whistle. Photo: DPA

Borussia Dortmund outgun Arsenal in opener

Italian striker Ciro Immobile scored his first goal for Borussia Dortmund as the German side produced a dominant performance to outclass Arsenal 2-0 in their Champions League opening group game in Dortmund on Tuesday. READ  

German Muslims protest against extremism
Muslim Coordination Council spokesman Ali Kizilkazya speaking in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo:DPA

German Muslims protest against extremism

The biggest Muslim faith organizations in Germany will hold a nationwide demonstration for tolerance and peace and against all types of extremism on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: DPA
Tech
Netflix launches in Germany (in English too)
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Politics
These men want to be the next mayor of Berlin
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Berlin spy station sees tourism boom
Photo: DPA/ESA
Tech
VIDEO: How one German astronaut sees Earth
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Photo: DPA
Politics
Are Germans right to want cooler relations with USA?
Photo: Bayernpartei/DPA
Politics
Why some Bavarians want a Scottish 'Yes'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
12 things to do in Berlin for less than a latte
Photo: Facebook
National
Bavarian waiter breaks beer-carrying record
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,316
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd