• 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
Poland bridles at German minimum wage
Photo: DPA

Poland bridles at German minimum wage

Germany's newly-introduced €8.50 minimum wage is raising hackles at Polish trucking companies, who say they shouldn't have to pay their drivers at that rate for the hours they spend on their western neighbour's roads. READ  

Life sentences meted out in murder-for-hire
A man photographs an appeal for witnesses in the death of Christin R. in 2012. Photo: DPA

Life sentences meted out in murder-for-hire

A Berlin judge on Thursday sentenced four people to life sentences in a sordid conspiracy murder case in which a pizza delivery driver was paid €500 to kill a young woman for her life insurance. READ  

Jobless numbers rise to top 3 million
Men at work. Photo: DPA

Jobless numbers rise to top 3 million

German jobless numbers rose this month, bringing unemployment up to seven percent, the Federal Labour Agency (BA) reported on Thursday. READ  

Frankfurt man loses airport job over Isis links
Security checks at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Frankfurt man loses airport job over Isis links

In a decision announced on Wednesday, a Frankfurt court upheld the dismissal of a man from his job at Frankfurt airport over his close friendship with a foreign citizen with ties to terrorist group Isis. READ  

Cologne Karneval scraps Charlie Hebdo float
Image courtesy Festkomittee Kölner Karneval

Cologne Karneval scraps Charlie Hebdo float

Cologne's planned Charlie Hebdo float in its Rosenmontag parade was a false start, after the organising committee scrapped its construction over security concerns. READ  

Overnight raids bust up smugglers ring
File photo: DPA

Overnight raids bust up smugglers ring

Federal police arrested 12 people on Wednesday night after a national raid by police broke apart a smuggling ring. READ  

Anti-euro AfD split over Pegida ties
Former Pegida spokesperson Kathrin Oertel and Brandenburg head of AfD Alexander Gauland. Photo: DPA

Anti-euro AfD split over Pegida ties

Germany's upstart anti-euro AfD party will seek to mend a rift among members on whether to forge close ties with an emergent "anti-Islamisation" movement at a congress this weekend. READ  

Court grants kids right to know donor fathers
Photo: DPA

Court grants kids right to know donor fathers

The Supreme Court (BGH) decided on Wednesday that the children of sperm donors have a right to know who their biological father is at any time. READ  

Russia may declare 1990 reunification illegal
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: DPA

Russia may declare 1990 reunification illegal

More than 25 years after the Berlin Wall's fall, Russian lawmakers are mulling a proposal to condemn West Germany's 1990 "annexation" of East Germany as Moscow's answer to Western denunciation of its seizure of Crimea. READ  

No room for scooters on the bus: Court
Photo: DPA

No room for scooters on the bus: Court

A court in North-Rhine Westphalia found on Wednesday that there is no obligation for buses or trains to make room for mobility scooters - and that it's actually dangerous to bring them aboard. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
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

3,448
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd