The Fairy Tale Route: unique attraction in Germany

The six hundred kilometer long Deutsche Märchenstraße Fairy Tale Route is based on the fairy tale book by the Brothers Grimm. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm published the well-known fairy tale book Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1812. The book was a collection of existing fairy tales and legends, such as the story of Cinderella and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The fairy tale book is the world’s best known and most widespread book from Germany. Based on all the stories, a route has been mapped out in which more than seventy German places portray a fairy tale in the form of art and theater, monuments and museums. The more than six hundred kilometer long route offers beautiful nature and views, leads past castles and castles and tells the history of various fairy tales.

What is the Deutsche Märchenstraße and what does the route have to offer?

The Deutsche Märchenstraße (also known as Fairytale Route or Fairytale Street) is a route in Germany that connects several places dedicated to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. The initiative for the fairy tale route came from State Minister Herbert Günther, who wanted to make the region more attractive to tourists. The route, which passed through forty villages and towns including the city of Bremen, was opened on April 11, 1975.
Since its opening, the route has been expanded from forty to seventy places and has a length of more than six hundred kilometers. The fairytale route starts in Hanau and runs north to Bremen. The long route passes through no fewer than five federal states, namely: Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Hesse and Bremen. In addition, the route runs through various landscapes and eight nature parks, such as the Hoge Vogelsberg nature park and the Vrouw Holle geo- and nature park. Visitors traveling the route will encounter old half-timbered houses, castles, fortresses, museums and galleries. From May to September (the festival period) the fairy tales are depicted in the form of theater in all participating places.

History of the Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm (both linguists) were born in Hanau in 1758 (Jacob) and 1786 (Wilhelm). In 1812 they published their first and best-known book Children’s and Housemärchen together. The book was a compilation of 201 fairy tales and 10 children’s legends written by others. There are seven editions of the book, the stories of which have been adapted in each edition. The seventh edition from 1857 has been translated into Dutch, among other things.
For example, the well-known fairy tales Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood were written by the Frenchman Charles Perrault. The Brothers Grimm created their own version of the fairy tales. Mainly Little Red Riding Hood was adapted. Originally the story did not end with the wolf getting stones in his stomach. This ending actually belonged to The Wolf and the Seven Goats and the brothers added it to Little Red Riding Hood.
In 2005, the book was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for Documents. In 1961 Jacob published a German dictionary which he had been writing with his brother since 1852. He died two years later. His younger brother Wilhelm never saw the result of their work as he died in 1859.

Places dedicated to the most famous fairy tales

The long route offers a number of highlights and sights that many will not want to miss. Of the seventy places on the Fairytale Route, a number of them are very significant.

Important towns and villages on the Fairytale Route

A . Hanau
B . Schwalmstadt
C . Kassel
D . Oberweser
E . Trendelburg
F . Polle
G . Hamelin
H . Bremen
Source: Arne Hückelheim / Haffitt, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Hanau: the place where it all started

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in the house at Freiheitsplatz 3 in Hanau. Ninety percent of the twelfth-century city was wiped off the map during the Second World War. The brothers’ birthplace was also destroyed. In 2007, the Hanau Historical Society installed two information panels at the site. Nowadays the city offers plenty of attractions for tourists, such as a large city park, numerous museums, a weekly market and (just like the other places on the Fairy Tale Route) the annual festival where several fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm are staged.
Source: Dirk Schmidt, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Schwalmstadt: the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood

The story of Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood is a girl with a red hood and cloak. She is sent by her mother to deliver a basket of treats to her sick grandmother, without making any detours or talking to strangers. During her journey through the forest, Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf with whom she talks. As soon as the wolf knows where Little Red Riding Hood is going, he takes a shortcut to get to grandmother’s house faster. Once at the house, he eats grandmother, puts on her clothes and crawls into her bed. When Little Red Riding Hood arrives at Grandmother’s, she eventually notices that the wolf is in the bed instead of her grandmother. The wolf also swallows Little Red Riding Hood and that is the end of the story.
The story was a life lesson that children should listen carefully to their parents, but the Brothers Grimm added a hunter. The hunter from the forest walks to the house. He cuts open the wolf’s belly and frees Grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf’s belly is filled with rocks and sewn shut, and the wolf is pushed into the water where it drowns.

The city with typical German half-timbered houses

Schwalmstadt is where the Brothers Grimm adapted the classic story of the red-dressed girl. The red cloaks and caps appear several times during the festival period when some of the population and theater groups walk through the city dressed up. The city is characterized by eleventh-century half-timbered houses and the ruins of the thirteenth-century church Totenkirche.
Löwenburg Castle / Source: Fornax, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Kassel: the capital of the Deutsche Märchenstraße

Kassel is the city where the Brothers Grimm moved in 1798. It is not without reason that the city where the brothers collected material for their fairy tale book has been named the capital of the Fairy Tale Route. One of the two buildings where they lived and worked, like their birthplace, was lost in the Second World War. The city is not all about a fairy tale, but more about the work of the brothers. Guided tours are given, including their former home and monuments created in their name. There is a museum in the city that houses the first copy of their storybook. Furthermore, the city has much more to offer, such as the ruins of the 18th-century Löwenburg castle, a mountain park with waterfalls and the 18th-century Wilhelmsthal castle.
Der Mühlenplatz / Source: Hommel, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Oberweser: the story of Puss in Boots

The cat that doesn’t catch mice

Puss in Boots is a talking cat that the poor miller’s son received as a legacy from his father. The miller’s son doesn’t really know what to do with the cat. After all, his brothers had received the mill and the donkey. However, the cat turns out to be very smart and is more of a human than an animal. One day the talking cat asks for a pair of boots and a bag. After receiving it from his owner, he catches all kinds of animals such as rabbits and partridges. He does not return the animals to their owner, but gives them to the king in the name of the miller’s son, whom he calls the Marquis of Carabas. The poor miller’s son soon becomes known in the area and at the court as a generous, wealthy man. Thanks to Puss in Boots, the poor miller’s son marries the king’s daughter. The Marquis of Carabas and the princess live long and prosperous lives.

The city of mills

In Oberweser it’s all about the open-air museum Der Mühlenplatz (named after the story about Puss in Boots) where you will be welcomed by a person dressed as Puss in Boots. The museum focuses on traditional crafts and historical agricultural professions, such as millers and old tools. The various workshops and homes have been recreated in miniature.
Trendelburg Castle / Source: Presse03, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Trendelburg: Rapunzel’s fairy tale

The girl with the long hair

The story Rapunzel (Rapunzel) begins with a woman who is pregnant with a daughter. She names the child after the lamb’s lettuce (rapunzel) that her husband steals from the neighbor’s garden. The man is caught by the neighbor who turns out to be a witch and promises her his unborn daughter. When Rapunzel is twelve years old, the witch locks her in a high tower. Rapunzel can only be reached if people climb up her long hair when she hangs it out the window. One day, Rapunzel’s singing is noticed by a prince who climbs up her hair. The witch quickly follows the prince, scares him and pushes him out of the tower, leaving him blind. Rapunzel’s hair is cut off and she is banished to a wasteland that becomes her new prison. By chance, Rapunzel and the prince met again. They show the tears running down Rapunzel’s cheeks to the prince again and together they return to his kingdom.

The medieval town of Trendelburg

Nowadays, Rapunzel can be found in Trendelburg Castle, where the play about the fairy tale is performed in the tower. Over time, the castle has become the symbol of the thirteenth-century city. Trendelburg contains more buildings from the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries, such as a farm, the Gothic Gottsbüren church, the Lippoldsberg monastery and Stammen castle.
Source: Tine, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Polle: Cinderella’s village

The fairy tale of the hard worker Cinderella

Cinderella is a girl who is forced to do dirty jobs. Every day she turns black from the ash from the hearth (from which the name Aschenputtel is derived) and her stepmother and sisters mock her. One day the prince holds a ball for all the girls in the country, which Cinderella secretly attends. She receives a beautiful dress, glass shoes and a carriage from a good fairy. The spell is broken at midnight and Cinderella barely manages to leave the ball in time. In her haste, she loses a glass shoe that is tried on by all the girls in the country on behalf of the prince. When it turns out that the shoe belongs to Cinderella, the prince marries her and they live happily ever after.

The village of Polle and its castle

Cinderella Castle, Polle Castle, is located in the thirteenth-century village of Polle. The castle is located on a twenty-five meter high hill and was built around 1285. In 1641 (during the Thirty Years’ War) the castle was partly destroyed and then rebuilt in the 1980s. Nowadays, rooms in the castle are used to stage plays from the fairy tale Cinderella. The girl’s small bedroom can also be viewed and even the shoe has a place in the city, waiting for someone to try it on.
Source: Axel Hindemith, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Hamelin: where the Pied Piper comes from

The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a man who lures all the rats out of the city by playing his flute. He lures them to the River Weser where all the rats drown. The residents praise him with gifts because he has solved a major problem. This happens several times, until the inhabitants of Hamelin refuse to give the Pied Piper any gifts or payments. The Pied Piper is so angry that one day he lures all one hundred and thirty children instead of the rats. He leads them to a cave where he locks them up and no one ever sees their children again. In modern stories, the children are released when the residents pay the Pied Piper.

The ancient city of Hamelin

The former Hanseatic city of Hamelin offers, among other things, a boat trip on the river in which the Pied Piper drowned the rats. During the festive months, the Pied Piper walks through town, followed by a large group of children who are lured by the sound of his flute. The complete fairy tale is depicted on the square at Osterstraße 2 and in the so-called Pied Piper House. If you are in Hamelin, also visit the Minster Church of St. Boniface from the ninth century. This church was the reason for the expansion of the city of Hamelin.
Source: Magnus Manske, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-1.0)

Bremen: the Bremen Town Musicians mark the end

The town musicians who went to Bremen

The Bremen City Musicians are also known in the Netherlands as the Bremen Street Musicians. The story is about four singing animals: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. The animals are no longer useful to their owners and escape or they will be killed. The donkey proposes to build a life as city musicians in Bremen. During their journey they pass through a forest where they are spotted by hunters. The animals stand on top of each other and each make their own animal sound. The hunters think it is haunted and leave their house in the woods. The donkey, dog, cat and rooster decide to live in a house in the forest and not to go to Bremen anymore.
In more modern fairy tales the musical qualities of the animals have been expanded. For example, the donkey plays the lute, the dog plays the timpani, the cat meows and the rooster crows.

Bremen and its famous animal statue

Bremen is the city on the Fairy Tale Route where, ironically, the town musicians never arrived. Yet, in keeping with the fairy tale, there is a statue of the musicians on the market square next to the town hall. As in the other places, plays about the fairy tale are performed during the festival period. Bremen itself is a beautiful old eighth-century city where you can visit the eleventh-century Cathedral, the fifteenth-century Roland statue and the modern nature museum Übersee-Museum.