When our son was born one of the first presents he got was a compilation with all the famous brother Grimm fairy tales- Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood & co. The brother Grimm’s are probably the most famous storytellers of all time, their stories have been translated into more than 100 languages. Both my hubby and I albeit being born on different continents, grew up listening to our mom’s reading the stories to us.
When I met my hubby, he wanted me to show him my home country. He wanted to see the real Germany; the country away from the big cities. I think what he meant was, I want to eat loads of Schnitzel, drink beer, cruise down the Autobahn at top speed, and see loads of the quaint little gingerbread houses and castles that foreigners like to associate with traditional Germany. While I thought about which places I wanted to show him and tried to piece together a road trip I stumbled across a 700km/345miles road trip route called “The German Fairy Tale Route”. It runs through the heart of Germany from Hanau (close to Frankfurt airport) to Bremen, via Kassel. The roadtrip allowed us to see the real-life locations of our favourite childhood fairy tales, doing all the stuff my hubby had on his mind and introducing our little one to these world famous tales and his German roots.
There were so many highlights on the road, so instead of writing about each stop on the way, let me share with you the 5 things we liked most about our roadtrip:
- Castles – There is an enormous amount of castle hotels in Germany! Every little city seems to have a castle or fortress that has been turned into a hotel or restaurant. We stayed at the luxurious Castle Hotel Münchhausen close to the Pied Piper town of Hameln, Hotel Schloss Waldeck and Hotel Trendelburg, the latter is the castle in which Rapuntzel has let her long hair down. We wanted to sleep at Schloss Berlepsch, were its possible to sleep in a tree hut but decided against it, as our little one was simply to small.
- Old fashioned entertainment– In many towns, the fairy tales do come true, as visitors are greeted by genuine fairy tale figures…but don’t expect Disneyworld style entertainment. The marketing budgets of the little towns and attractions are just not very big, which is reflected in how they make the fairytales come to live. We really enjoyed this and sometimes got a good laugh out of it. In Kassel we visited a very child friendly museum dedicated to the brothers Grimm, Grimm World; They offer a special World Tour museum pack for kids.
- Driving on backroads– The route leads you along some beautiful river valleys, through some charming mountain regions and plenty of countryside. My hubby enjoyed seeing the more rural areas of Germany, which is a far cry from the large cities that you normally tend to explore when visiting a country. Having said that we stopped in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Hanover, Kassel & Bremen, which are all major cities with plenty to see and do. Don’t miss out on the UNESCO world heritage site in Kassel. Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, it has a mock-medieval castle, and plenty to explore for kids.
- Traditional German food – Everyone who ever visited Germany will know that wherever you go, you will find plenty of meat and potato dishes, the two staples of our cuisine. I managed to introduce my hubby to all my childhood favourites from Spaghetti Ice cream to Schweineohren and Leberkäse.
- Learning about the real (gruesome) historic stories behind the fairytales – Did you know that Rapunzels Tower is a Hexenturm (Witch tower)? The name is derived from the period of witch trials, where old towers were used to incarcerate women suspected or found guilty of witchcraft. At a guided tour with the Pied Piper, we learned that in 1284 all children disappeared in Hameln. This is a historic fact, there is many theories about what happened to them, noone knows but the Brother Grimm based their famous story on this historic event. In an old copper mine in Bad Wildungen-Bergfreiheit, the forests of the 7 dwarfs and snow white, we learned that back in the old days children were working in the local mines. Due to the hard work underground, lack of sunlight and malnutrition, the children often stayed small in height, lost their hair or became grey early. The children wore long felt hats to protect themselves from falling rocks. I like the happy Disney version of the dwarfs more than the real story.
One thing I should mention, is that it helped that I am a native German speaker, as many of the places only had limited tour offers for English speakers!
What you can expect is a roadtrip linking historical and medieval towns of half-timbred houses, castles, fortresses and landscapes associated with the life of the brothers and their fairy tales.
For more details on the German Fairy Tale Road visit the official website.
What was your favourite fairy tale as a kid? Tell us in the comments below!