• 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
Kidnapped German 'rescued' in Nigeria
Photo: DPA

Kidnapped German 'rescued' in Nigeria

UPDATE: A German national who was kidnapped by gunmen last Friday in southwest Nigeria has been released, police said on Thursday. READ  

Fall of the Wall - 25 years
See how Berlin has changed since Wall fell
The East Side gallery in Friedrichshain. Photo: DPA

See how Berlin has changed since Wall fell

Germany is gearing up to celebrate 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th 1989. The city has changed more than any other in Europe in that time, as these 11 photos of scenes from then and now show. READ  

Conservatives agree on foreigner road toll
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt. Photo: DPA

Conservatives agree on foreigner road toll

UPDATE: Germany's conservative alliance has finally agreed to charge foreign motorway users a toll and hopes to raise €500 million a year, but critics say their plan isn't roadworthy. READ  

Court gives Autobahn shooter ten years' jail
The Autobahn shooter faces judges at the beginning of his trial in August. Photo: DPA

Court gives Autobahn shooter ten years' jail

A trucker who fired hundreds of bullets at vehicles and drivers on German motorways over five years was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison on Thursday. READ  

Soldiers get more cash and flexi-time
The Bundeswehr hopes the reforms will make it a more attractive employer. Photo: DPA

Soldiers get more cash and flexi-time

Germany's military hopes to become the most attractive employer in the country with better pay and more part-time work in a series of reforms agreed by ministers on Wednesday. READ  

Strikes cost Lufthansa €170 million
A passenger waits at Düsseldorf Airport which was hit by a Lufthansa strike last Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Strikes cost Lufthansa €170 million

Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline, cut its profit forecast for 2015 on Thursday and said a series of pilot strikes in Germany this year had cost it €170 million. READ  

Fall of the Wall - 25 years
'Little Berlin' remembers fall of its wall
Tractors not tanks at Mödlareuth on the Bavaria-Thuringia border. Photo: DPA

'Little Berlin' remembers fall of its wall

Germany, November 1989: Snow falls as an excited crowd breaks through the Wall and people tearfully embrace loved ones after decades of living apart. But this is Mödlareuth - population 50 - not Berlin. READ  

Police in manslaughter trial over woman's death
The two policemen (pixelated) and their lawyers in court. Photo: DPA

Police in manslaughter trial over woman's death

Two policemen in western Germany are on trial for manslaughter for allegedly standing by as a woman was gunned down by her husband. READ  

German jets scrambled to face Russian planes
A German Eurofighter. Photo: DPA

German jets scrambled to face Russian planes

German Eurofighters were scrambled on Tuesday to intercept seven Russian planes flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace. READ  

States sign Berlin deal to fight tax evasion
Finance ministers from 50 countries pose for a photo in Berlin after signing the agreement. Photo: DPA

States sign Berlin deal to fight tax evasion

More than 80 countries signed an agreement in Berlin on Wednesday that could end banking secrecy in the global battle against tax evasion and fraud, even though critics pointed to shortcomings in the deal. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Society
Germans are wide of the mark on immigration
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
Photo: DPA
Society
Halloween: Where are the spookiest spots?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Who wants to work in Germany? A third of the world
Photo: DPA
Society
'We can't allow a proxy war on German streets'
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Society
QUIZ: How well do you know Germany?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

3,520
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd