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Follow the Trail of the Brothers Grimm

Bruders Grimm photoThe German Fairy Tale Road (Deutsche Marchenstrasse) is the tourism route which traces the journey of brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm from their hometown of Hanau in Hesse to Bremen, following the Wesar River through thick forests reminiscent of "Little Red Riding Hood" on the way to grandma’s house and through quaint and curious towns of half-wood gingerbread construction like Hameln (Hamelin), from where the Pied Piper led away first the rats, then the children. The Grimm brothers for the most part didn’t invent the stories of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, they listened to the local legends of fairies and dwarfs, princesses and witches and wrote them down in the stories we know today, set in the real villages along their travels. This region of German is probably much less traveled by those from outside the country than more familiar touring destinations. Eight nature parks and reserves line the route separating the old world villages and towns, lost in the forests and fields, and touring the fairy tale road is a bit like following the bread crumbs of Hansel and Gretel.


Gold Hosue Hanau  photoHanau is where the brothers were born, just a short distance from Frankfurt. It is the beginning of the Brothers Grimm Trail. starting at the statue monument to the brothers in the town market square in front of the new town hall. Grimm Brothers history and local attractions to visit are the Goldschmiedehaus (Gold Smiths House) a beautiful old building in the old town square exhibiting national and international gold and silversmith design (see Goldschmiede Renaissance), the Puppet Museum at Williamsbad, the Marienkirche (St Marys Church), the Phillipsruhe Palace, where every year from May to July the Brothers Grimm Fairy-Tale Festival performs (in German) a selection of the stories in the outdoor theater in the castle park (see Brothers Grimm Festival in Hanau). And for real Grimm Brothers enthusiasts, the city's library which holds a collection of Grimm's books and materials, though most all of it in German.

Steinau is where the brothers spent younger days. Kids can enjoy a puppet play at the Renaissance palace at Amtshaus. Alsfeld is a well-known preserved medieval town rivaling Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber (see Where Castle and Romantic Roads Meet) for its timbered stately town houses from the early 16th Century.

Marburg to Kassel

Marburg is the nearby university town known as the “Cradle of German Romanticism”. This is where the Grimms began their research in to the local tales and myths which inspired their books. Around the city’s historic old town you’ll find the Landgrave Palace, market square and the House of the Teutonic Order of Knights.

From Marburg the trail wanders northward through the forests and hills, through the medieval town of Homberg (Efze), an ancient administrative center for the surrounding countryside with its historic inn dating from the 1400s, the Krone (see Homberg on the Efze), then to Kassel where the Brothers Grimm Museum can be found in the Palais Bellevue in center of town operated by the tourist bureau. Aside from long standing offerings of letters and documents of the Grimms', work, (labeled in German, English and Japanese ) the refurbished museum has new exhibits for kids like a Fairy Tale Forest interactive area. You can also get a guide here for the Brothers Grimm historic sites in Kassel and a map to the Fairy Tale Road. Baunatal just outside of Kassel is where the real “mother” of fairy tales was born. Dorothea Viehmann the “Märchenfrau” told the Grimms many of the old folk tales she knew which inspired their writings. Her birthplace is today a brewery and inn, the Knallhüt.

For Americans, especially of German descent interested in genealogy and German-American past ancestors, of just revolutionary history, it is from this region from Hanau and Kassel that the “Hessians” of the American Revolution came, called “greencoats” the soldiers sent to support the British were conscripted by the local Landgraves (prince rulers). Many of the Hessians stayed in America and raised families and settled the western lands (see Schloss Ludwigseck Family Castle B&B).

Kassel to Hamlen

Pied Piper show in Hamlin photoFrom Kassel the route splits, one part leading to the old university town of Gottingen, while the other follows the winding Weser River along the natural parklands, past the Krukenburg Castle near Bad Karlshafen, on up to Hameln of Pied Piper fame, near Hannover. The Pied Piper was an actual person who led 130 children of Hamlin away through the streets of this mostly Renaissance era town in earlier medieval times, on June 26 of 1284. You can follow the piper’s reputed footsteps and on Sundays a live open air Pied Piper performance is held at the town's Wedding House. But keep an eye on your kids, the magic flute seems to have a special effect on them. Around a bend of the river is Bad Oeynhausen where you can visit the Fairy Tale Museum. Or take a bath in one of Germany oldest mineral springs the Federal Spa.

From here the Weser River flows from Hesse to the Hanseatic land of northern Germany past Nienburg, a beautiful little medieval city fortified by a moat with a well preserved old town center filled with merchants on market days like centuries past. The Little Nienburg Girl is a nymph from a folk song who is a symbol of the town, The Fairy Tale Road ends in the “free city” of Bremen. It is here the “town musicians” played and still do at the city’s old Rathaus with its well known Ratskeller Restaurant in the old market place with 800 years of history. © Bargain Travel Europe

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