Embark on an unforgettable journey through the lands of your favourite fairytale characters. “Maerchen Strasse – the Fairy Tale Route –in Germany is sure to cast a spell on you. By Divya Ananth
“A Treasury of Fairy Tales”, written and compiled by the Grimm Brothers is a coveted possession for everyone from six to sixty. The Grimm brothers lived in Germany, travelling extensively collecting folklore and true incidents. Every child in pyjamas who went to sleep listening to these fascinating stories, drifted to surreal lands where he met charming princes, evil witches, fairy godmothers, big bad wolves, dwarfs, kind woodcutters et al.
Imagine walking the land where the seven dwarfs lived, or breathing the air of the village where the frog prince waited to be kissed! How about peering into dense forests looking for two little children who lost their way and ended up at a chocolate house?!
Germany, besides its majestic Rhine and bustling Berlin, boasts of a quaint and lovely “Maerchen Strasse” – The Fairy Tale route. It is roughly a 600 km long trail that takes you on a trip down the ages. Starting at Hanau, the birthplace of Die Brüder Grimm (the brothers Grimm), drive through rustic village landscapes and breathtaking countryside past half timbered houses with flowers nodding and winking at you from balconies.
Step into Sleeping Beauty’s castle- careful, don’t touch the spindle! Stroll down Rapunzel’s tower, shhh… listen carefully for the hooves that brought the prince to the rescue. Drive on to Cinderella Land – Polle, through the thick forests of Reinhard. Listen to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, in Hamelin, and witness the animal choir that drove away robbers in Bremen.
There are close to 70 spots on the fairy tale route. The “not to miss” ones include:
This is the birthplace of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm: a sweet little town, with a market square, where a statue of the brothers seems to make time stand still. You could almost sit down and listen to a tale, while the world goes on with its affairs. There is also a puppet museum that features some endearing characters.
The brothers spent their childhood here. Walk down the cobbled road, past the remains of a castle, across a singing brook, and lo! You come face to face with the frog prince, near a well.
In their own words, the Grimms experienced "a lovely childhood, whose impressions remained unforgettable all our lives" in Steinau; Jacob Grimm writes: "My native land is the abode of my liveliest energies and ideas. That is where I spent the freshest and happiest time of my life."
The barn ladder on which the Grimm children played is kept in the Museum Steinau. In the entertainment park, apart from many other attractions, you can listen to fairytales being narrated in the vaulted cellar.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” The most famous line from the fairytales probably originated here. On a ridge opposite Bad Wildungen's Old Town sits a proud castle, Baroque Schloss Friedrichstein. The happenings in this castle spurred Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm to weave the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Margarethe von Waldeck, a count's daughter lived here. Legend has it that she was poisoned, when still young and beautiful.
Fast-forward to today. The Snow White house stands in the centre of the village. The trees probably bear witness to the case of the poisoned apple, and rustle their own tales. There is also a mine which is now on exhibit. Copper was once mined here. Through the year, pantomimes and plays are put up in the village square.
Mommy told her not to speak to strangers. But that’s just what Little Red Riding Hood did. And what a lot of trouble she got into! The Schwalm region – the birthplace of the story of Little Red Riding Hood lies on the lap of the Schwalm River. On a round tour, you are sure to catch some breathtaking sights of the Schwalm valley against the backdrop of the KnÜll Mountains. You simply cannot miss the Red Riding outfit as well. Feast your eyes on fairytale costumes at the Museum of the Schwalm Region. You could also get yourself one, as a souvenir from “Rottkaepchen” (red hats) land. Beware! The big bad wolf might just be lurking around!
Entwined with ivy, and hidden in the depths of the Reinhard forest, the Sababurg castle and its inmates slept for a 100 years! The chosen one – Prince Charming kissed Sleeping Beauty awake. And they lived happily ever after. The spindle which pricked the princess still lies threateningly still. The roses are in full bloom, and their beauty and fragrance dare the visitors to take their eyes off them. The Sababurg zoological reserve that surrounds the castle is home to about 450 types of animals. You can also take a hike or a bicycle ride in the forest, passing by giant oak and beech trees that are almost 650 years old.
Two different guided tours are available:
1: On the history of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, approx. 45 minutes.
2: On the castle garden and the roses of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, approx. 45 minutes.
In addition, the Sleeping Beauty Castle offers two special welcoming ceremonies:
1. A personal cordial welcome by Sleeping Beauty and the Prince, presenting a version of their tale: approx. 15 minutes.
2. A welcome by the Count of Reinhard.
Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair! As you drive towards Trendelburg on a crisp autumn morning, catch a glimpse of the fortress looming large against a foggy backdrop. As you near the fortress, stroll through the cobbled pathway, lined by apple trees. For a brief moment, you will wonder where you are. You will feel like a part of another time frame.
Look up, and gaze at the tiny window through which Rapunzel let down her hair. Your eyes will conjure up some hazy visions. There she is, with her long tresses, sitting sombre against the window!
The halfway point of the Fairy Tale road. The Grimm brothers spent most of their student and adult life here. Kassel is in fact, the cradle of their literary work. The city boasts of the finest museums and stretches of green paradise, to relax and refresh. The Bergpark, Europe’s largest hillside park, surrounds the magnificent Hercules monument in Kassel.
The clock struck twelve. The pumpkin carriage vanished, the horses turned back into mice. And poor Cinderella rushed out of the ballroom, leaving behind her glass footwear.
The Polle castle in the town of Polle, was Cinderella’s home and Count Everstein’s castle. It overlooks the lovely Weser River. A narrow flight of dark, dingy stairs leads you atop the castle, from where you can step back a little in time and wish for the fairy godmother to make her appearance.
If you are lucky, you can catch a play which is put up every 3rd Sunday at the castle from May till September at 2.15 pm.
All he did was play a tune, and the rats followed him to the Weser River. The Pied Piper may as well have been a live advertisement for the rat menace in our homes! Enter Hamelin, and be prepared to follow rat sign boards and rat directions everywhere! The town square, now lined with pretty shops on either side of a cobbled path, has a chime tower right in the middle. The chimes play, as the pied piper – a mechanized doll, leads the rats with his mesmerizing tune. Onlookers watch with glee every time the chimes play, reliving the story over and over again! Walk on the banks of the Weser River, and read the tale yet another time. Just for the effect!
The donkey, the cat, the dog and the rooster – town musicians – who ousted robbers with their musical skills and presence of minds, are local heroes in Bremen. You are bound to bump into them frequently in Bremen. Besides the folklore of the town musicians, Bremen is a UNESCO world heritage site. History, tradition, architecture and a certain progressive approach to the changing world, make Bremen a distinguished city.
The sun sets on the Weser River. The fantasy is nearing its end. Yet, a fragment of time seems to stand still. As you step out of the Fairy Tale that you have yourself been part of, it is time to say “live happily ever after!”