January 18, 2018

Experiencing Fairy Tales in Germany

The image that comes to your mind when you hear the words Germany and fairy tale is probably the oft pictured Neuschwanstein Castle and it’s no wonder. This spectacular castle that sits deep in the countryside of Bavaria is a photographic gem and truly leaves me awestruck every time I see it.  I have often heard that Walt Disney used this castle for his image of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and while I can see the resemblance there is more to Germany and Fairy Tales than you may know!

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle by Valerio Bruscianelli

Many of the fairy tales we grew up with were written by the Grimm Brothers who were born and raised in Germany. The areas where the brothers lived is also where they gathered the inspiration for their famous tales.  Since the Grimm Fairytales have been published in 160 languages you do not need to visit Germany to enjoy them but if you want to experience them a journey on the Fairy Tale Route is necessary.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument Hanau Germany

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument by Renftel courtesy of Deutsche Marchenstrasse

The Fairy Tale Route has been one of Germany’s Scenic Drives since 1975 and stretches 370 miles from Hanau, outside Frankfurt am Main, north to Bremen, a major port city on the Weser River.   It is in the medieval villages along the Fairy Tale Route where you will see these tales come to life through re-enactments, costumed characters, parades and puppet shows.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786 in Hanau Germany. Today Hanau is home to a monument of the famous brother, an annual Fairy tale Festival and the lovely Baroque grounds of Philippsruhe Palace.

Bad Wildungen Panorama Fairy Tale Route Germany

Bad Wildungen Panorama by Asio Otus

Steinau is where the brothers spent much of their childhood. You can visit the Brothers Grimm House which was over 200 years old in 1791 when they arrived in Steinau, wander cobblestoned streets lined with half-timbered houses and visit Steinau Castle.  Originally designed as a medieval fortress and later renovated in the Renaissance style, the castle is home to a Grimm museum full of personal effects of the Grimm family including the family Bible and a copy of the original Grimm dictionary. If you spend time in the woods surrounding Steinau you may find Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel!

Marburg on the Lahn Fairy Tale Route Germany

Marburg on the Lahn by Matthiahess

Rising up from the Lahn River, Marburg is where the brothers went to law school.  You’ll want to wander the old town full of alleys, old buildings and tons of charm.  Other highlights include a spectacular castle on top of the hill and St. Elizabeth’s Church which is the oldest pure gothic church in Germany.

Hercules Monument Fairy Tale Route Germany

Hercules Monument by MalteRuhnke on de.wikipedia

The brothers lived in Kassel for 30 years and worked as librarians at court of Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother.  Main sights to see in Kassel include the Brother Grimm Museum in Palais Bellevue which possesses a personal copy of the fairytales with annotations by the brothers, the Schloss Wilhelmshohe home to the Staatliche Museen housing the 2nd largest collection of Rembrandts in Germany, the stunning Herkules Monument and the collection of medieval armor and weapons during a visit to Lion Castle.

Sababurg Castle Fairy Tale Route Germany

Sababurg Castle courtesy of HA Hessen Agentur GmbH

Above are the main cities associated with the Brothers Grimm.  Continuing along and in between is the medieval Castle of Trendelburg which was the setting for Rapunzel and the 650 year old Castle Sababurg where Sleeping Beauty slept for 100 years. A visit to the Schwalm region allows for a hike through the dark forests where Little Red Riding Hood’s adventure took place.    The legend of the Pied Piper can be relived in picturesque Hamlin and Bremen is home to the Bremen town musicians.

Forest Sababurg Fairytale route Germany

Forest Sababurg by Michael Fiegle

Yes there is an over abundance of sights and events related to fairy tales but there is much more to be found here. The Fairy Tale route crosses medieval villages with preserved city walls, romantic old towns, ruins of a fortress belonging to emperor Barbarosa, 15th century witch towers with dungeons and forests that are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Edersee Fairy Tale Route Germany

Edersee from wikimedia

I think it’s fair to say the Brothers Grimm have made an impact on all of us. Even if you’re not directly familiar with their fairy tales you’ve experienced them through other books, movies, cartoons and cultural icons like Disneyland.   December 20, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Germany will be celebrating the brothers during 2013.

So let’s all give our thanks to the Brothers Grimm and if you’re in Germany, why not stop by!

Would you enjoy a trip on the Fairytale Route??

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  1. Isn’t it amazing how many picturesque routes there are throughout Europe, Debbie? Since 1975 and I hadn’t even heard of this one! That monument is stunning and I’m sure I could find lots to see and do along the way.

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  7. Carmen says:

    Hello! Just found your blog. Two years ago another teacher and I wrote a grant to travel Europe to study the history of fairy tales. We were blessed with a great trip to learn about fairy tales in France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. It was an AMAZING trip! It has been a great tool for teaching. We are able to apply for another grant this next year and are trying to figure out how to do a similar trip. I wish I was able to afford more European travels.

    Here is the blog of our travels if you would like to read it.


    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I bet visiting the places of fairy tales made them come alive for you and your students! Sounds like an amazing trip and I’ll stop by your blog soon.

  8. A post after my own heart. I love fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm and would love to do this route. We’re only going to be in the Munich area and seeing Neuschwanstein Castle. Thanks for adding this item to my travel bucket list.
    Mary @ The World Is A Book recently posted..5 Free Things to do in Seattle with Babies and Toddlers

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Well, I know you’re going to love Munich and Neuschwanstein Castle! Hopefully you’ll have time to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Linderhof Castels too.

  9. Christoph says:

    Another great post!
    Though I live only about 200 – 400 km away from the “Märchenstraße” (Fairy Tale Route) I have not seen all of its fascinating places. I did not even know all the details you wrote about.
    Greetings from Germany,
    Christoph recently posted..Bilderkeisel 37: untere Färbergasse mit zwei ganz unterschiedlichen Baudenkmälern

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Isn’t it strange how our home area is sometimes one we know the least about? I’m sure I could learn tons from tourists to San Francisco! Maybe you’ll have to take a trip on the Fairy Tale Route in celebration of the Brothers Grimm.

  10. Mariella says:

    Myyy, you really DO make it look like fairytale country! 🙂 I tend to forget that about Germany, living in Berlin and the more recent past being so much more present than the gorgeous landscapes and castles. Posts like yours remind me of the fact that I’m lucky to live in such a beautiful place. Thanks!
    Mariella recently posted..Being German and the Issue of Patriotism

  11. Isn’t it amazing how many picturesque routes there are throughout Europe, Debbie? Since 1975 and I hadn’t even heard of this one! That monument is stunning and I’m sure I could find lots to see and do along the way.
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