• Germany's news in English
 

Following the Brothers Grimm fairy trail

Published: 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
Scientists aiming to redefine the kilogram
The world's roundest sphere. Photo: DPA

Scientists aiming to redefine the kilogram

The German Nation Metrology Institute (PTB) in Braunschweig has set itself the enormous task of finding a new formula for measuring a kilogram. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Germanwings co-pilot 'hid illness' on crash day
Photo: DPA

Germanwings co-pilot 'hid illness' on crash day

Germanwings said on Friday that it had no knowledge of a doctor-signed sick note found by investigators at flight 4U9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz's flat. READ  

Varoufakis quells rumours of resignation
Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: DPA

Varoufakis quells rumours of resignation

Update: After German tabloid Bild reported that Germany's least-favourite Greek minister Yanis Varoufakis was considering resigning, the minister rejected the story on Twitter. READ  

Germany to expand disability rights
Photo: DPA

Germany to expand disability rights

A representative of the German Labour Ministry went before a UN Committee on Friday to discuss the government's plan for improved rights for disabled people. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Germanwings captain's compassion goes viral
Photo: DPA

Germanwings captain's compassion goes viral

A Facebook post describing how a Germanwings pilot personally reassured his passengers of their safety on a flight on Wednesday has received over quarter of a million likes. READ  

Bundestag passes 'foreigner toll' for roads
Photo: DPA

Bundestag passes 'foreigner toll' for roads

The Bundestag (German parliament) passed a hugely controversial law on Friday which will charge foreigners for the use of German roads. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Airlines agree two-person cockpit rule
Photo: DPA

Airlines agree two-person cockpit rule

The Federation of the German Air Travel Industry (BDL) confirmed on Friday afternoon that from now on two people must be in the cockpit at all times, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the Germanwings disaster. READ  

Germany urgently needs immigrants: study
Spanish immigrants in Germany. Photo: DPA

Germany urgently needs immigrants: study

A study by the Bertelsmann Institute found on Friday that Germany will need around half a million new immigrants every year until 2050 to maintain its work force. READ  

Bundesbank tough, public soft on Greece
Jens Weidmann, head of the Bundesbank. Photo: DPA

Bundesbank tough, public soft on Greece

Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann said on Friday that he is opposed to giving Greece further financial help because he believes the new government has frittered away too much trust, but a new poll showed that support for a "Grexit" had shrunk below 50 percent. READ  

Town flocks to mourn lost schoolchildren
A black ribbon on a sign in Haltern, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Town flocks to mourn lost schoolchildren

President Joachim Gauck arrived in Haltern on Friday to join families and schoolchildren mourning the loss of their classmates and teachers in the Germanwings flight 4U9525 crash. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
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

7,141
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd