Article and photos by Renée S. Gordon
upon a time.”
That phrase serves as a signal that the listener is about to
enter a magical realm filled with fantastic tales that will,
no matter how harrowing, end with the characters living
“happily ever after.” From 2013-2015 Germany is celebrating
the 200th anniversary of the December 20, 1812
publication of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s fairy tale
collection titled “Children’s and Household Tales.” Though
they were not the first to gather folktales, that
distinction is usually attributed to Charles Perrault who
published eight French stories in 1697, it is their works
that have been published in 140 languages and this year the
first edition was listed n the UNESCO Memory of the World
Germany is focusing on the cities where the brothers lived,
worked and wrote and the very real places where the stories
were set. The Fairy Tale Route includes not only the towns
and villages mentioned but has the added attraction of
including Grimms Brothers themed accommodations, dining
establishments, festivals, events, museums and historic
sites. To the pleasure of many travelers the itinerary can
include nights spent in a castle and more than 330
restaurants serving meals made from recipes that belonged to
Wilhelm’s wife Dorothea. The route is 372-miles long, from
Hanau to Bremen, and includes more than 45 towns and
each town presents specific aspects of their lives and
those wishing to leave the planning to someone else
organized tours can be booked online and
for as little as $80 per night you can enjoy one of the
featured vacations in “Great Holidays on a Small Budget.”
The brochure is available online
Hanau, a mere 17-miles from the Frankfurt Airport, the
beginning of the southern portion of the route, is the
natural starting point because it is the city of their birth
and early childhood. The Grimm family resided in Hanau as
early as the 1500s. A historic marker at Freiheitsplatz,
once 1 Paradeplatz, indicates the location of their birth
home, destroyed in WWII. In 1896 an iconic bronze monument
depicting the two brothers was erected in the Neustadt
The annual Brothers Grimm Fairytales Festival is held here
from May through July in the amphitheater at Philippsruhe
Castle. The town is first documented in 1143 but the baroque
palace and gardens were constructed in 1701 for Philipp
Reinhard von Hanau-Lichtenberg. The festival has been held
Long before the birth of Hanau’s most famous citizens the
city was referred to as “The Gold and Silver City.” At the
beginning of the 1300s gold and silversmiths settled in
Hanau and by the end of the 16th-century Dutch
and Belgian goldsmiths had founded New Town and established
the Gold and Silversmith’s Guild. The German Goldsmith’s
House, a museum interpreting this historic period, is
located inside the former 1537 City Hall. On exhibit are
examples of the jeweler’s art and a century old metal
workshop. Hanau offers visitors nine museums and several
types of guided tours including walks with the Brothers
The Grimm family
-miles to Steinau in 1791. At that time Steinau was on the
most important overland trade route between Frankfurt and
Leipzig. The 43-mile journey from Frankfurt took two days
and traders often stopped over here. The city is a gem and
visitors feel they have stepped into the middle of a
fairytale. The oldest structure was constructed in 1520 and
the winding lanes frame half-timbered houses and stone
Jacob and Wilhelm’s father, Philipp Wilhelm Grimm, a lawyer,
was appointed a district magistrate for the Count of Hanau
and he and his wife Dorothea moved into the local
magistrate’s house. The family lived on the first floor and
court was held on the second floor.
The 1562 Renaissance House of the Brothers Grimm has been a
museum since 1998 dedicated to presenting the family life
and works of the brothers. Inside the 2-story museum there
are 9 galleries but the tour begins in the courtyard with a
portion of the original road complete with wagon ruts on
The kitchen has the original wood, door and sink, the
furnishings are from the era but not original to the house.
Additional exhibits on the first level include family
portraits, the scientific works of the brothers and a room
with the artwork of their brother Ludwig Emil, a noted
artist of the time.
|Brothers Grimm Museum in
Second floor exhibits focus on the fairytales and the first
gallery features rare copies of pre-Grimm fairy tales.
Gallery two highlights the Grimm Brothers as collectors of
existing folktales for purposes of academic study. There is
no copy of their first book on display. It was published for
libraries and scientific study, with 58 pages of commentary.
There is a first edition from 1823 and the two-volume
edition, illustrated by Ludwig Emil, containing 50 stories.
Additional highlights on this level include a gallery of
shoebox-sized dioramas of scenes from the tales, a witches’
costume from Humperdink’s opera “Hansel and Gretel” and a
small theater for plays or weddings. The final room gives
visitors a chance to put on a crown for a photo op.
Philipp died in January of 1796 and Dorothea was forced to
move with her six children to
the local poor house, built in 1616. The house still stands
and is today the Café Restaurant Rosengarten. After getting
enough money Dorothea moved the family to an area in the
Alte Kellerei, a wine cellar. Though the brothers left in
1798 this is the town that receives credit for shaping their
lives. In 2006 it was designated the “Town of the Brothers
Steinau’s main street is Bruder Grimm Strasse and the
historic sites are all within easy walking distance of this
street. Their grandfather preached at St. Catharine’s
Reformed Church for 47-years. His tombstone is in the rear
of the church. The nearby 1690 vicarage was both the home of
their grandparents and their father’s birthplace.
The stellar location on the walking tour is the Market
Plaza. Located here is the circular columned memorial
Fairytale Fountain erected in 1985 for the bicentennial of
Jacob’s birth. The column is adorned with bronze fairytale
figures so detailed that you can see the frog actually
turning into a king.
Two of the most interesting sites are the Witches’ Tower and
a dunking cage. The tower was used to imprison people
suspected of being witches. To obtain a confession they were
placed inside the cage and dunked into the river until they
drowned or confessed.
A great place to stop for a while is the family owned
marionette theater, “Der Holzkoppe,” the “Woodenheads.” The
theater puts on productions daily and many of their plays
are tales from the Grimms. Their gift shop is filled with
unique objects and the walls are adorned with marionettes
from all over the world.
Steinau offers several themed tours including one-of-a-kind
tours led by characters from the tales. What makes these
tours so special is the fact that they take the approach
that some characters are treated unfairly, the 7 dwarves
were not even invited to the wedding, etc. You will love it.
| Steinau Guide
One of the lesser-known but significant towns along the
route is Marburg. Jacob Grimm attended college in Marburg
from 1802-1805 and Wilhelm from 1803-1806. The university
was founded in 1527 as the first Protestant university in
Two indelibly important events occurred there. It is
believed that in Marburg they became committed to the idea
of “wohngemeinschaft,” communal living, and never again
lived apart for any extensive period of time. When Wilhelm
wed in 1825 his wife and children were part of the household
and the children referred to Jacob as “also father”.
Equally significantly it was at the university that they
were inspired by Professor Carl von Savigny to develop their
love of the German language and to gather and codify
folktales and songs. The Marburg years were filled with
scholarly interaction and intellectual discourse that
greatly influenced their lives.
Marburg is a true fairytale town that seems to be arrested
in time, and in some ways it is, having escaped bombing in
WWII. The streets are steep and filled with winding stairs,
medieval architecture, cafés and shops, all set on the
rising mountainside. The Altstadt or Old Town pedestrian
zone is accessible by elevator, the only such elevator in
|Marburg Home of the Grimm
St. Elizabeth's Cathedral, the earliest pure Gothic hall
church in the nation, is now a Protestant parish church. The
church was built in the Lower Town by the Teutonic knights
in honor of Elizabeth of Thuringia who was canonized in 1235
as a result of her good works for the impoverished. During
medieval times the church was painted red to symbolize love.
A triptych inside the church and the Gothic stained glass
windows relate St. Elizabeth’s story.
Highlights of the interior are a crucifix by Ernst Barlach
that a parishioner hid during the war because Hitler
declared it degenerate art, 13th-century wall
paintings and the elaborately decorated Golden Shrine of the
Holy Elizabeth dating from 1240. The pilgrimage route taken
from the church to the Market Square required that the poor
walk on the left, nobility on the right and pilgrims in the
The start of the tour is the former half-timbered home of
the brothers at Barfüßerstraße 35. The house was built circa
1600. In 1946 it served as the hiding place of Nazi war
criminal Klaus Barbie. Adjacent to the apartment is
Wendlegasse, a steep-stepped alley that leads to the
The fortified, Gothic and Renaissance, Landgrave Castle was
erected around 1122 AD in a highly strategic location at the
junction of valleys and 3 rivers. Tours of the castle are
offered. The Museum of Cultural History is located in the
East Wing and currently they are featuring an outstanding
exhibit on the Brothers Grimm, “Authentic Hessian? Land,
Living, Fairy Stories.”
This exhibit explores the characters, themes, motifs, moral
concepts, philosophy and cultural implications in the
stories. The oral tales were written down by the brothers
originally as academicians. This is a wonderful and
thought-provoking exhibition presented in several
Emphasis is placed on the recurrence of the wicked
stepmother, the forest as both shelter and menace and the
lack of upward mobility in medieval society.
Great places to dine are abundant but there are, as always,
several you should not miss.
Two are historic enough to have been frequented by
the Grimms. Zur Sonne, The Sun, is located in the Market
Square and dates from the mid-1500s. It serves traditional
Restaurant Weinladle is situated in the Old Town at the foot
of the path from the castle. The restaurant focuses on
seasonal local dishes and offers more than 60 wines.
Marburg has designed several trails that follow in the
footsteps of the Brothers Grimm but no matter which you
choose be certain to purchase a Marburg Frog King. The frog
is designed to accompany you on your Fairy Tale Route
travels and he loves photo ops! Information on the Frog King
and visiting Marburg is detailed on the website.
|The Frog King-Icon
Trendelburg Castle is situated on a crag high above the
Diemel Valley overlooking the village of the same name. The
earliest records of the town or castle date from 1303 when
the site is noted as “Trindirberg.” The castle was built as
a knight’s castle, a moated stronghold from which to control
his property. The chapel was the first portion of the
building that was completed and the remainder of the castle
was built around it. The banquet hall on the lower level
retains its original appearance.
A tower was constructed in the 1220s and it is believed to
have been the model for Rapunzel’s Tower. Tours of the tower
are achieved via steep winding stairs. The dungeon was on a
lower level and prisoners were lowered into it. At the top
of the tower visitors are greeted by Rapunzel and invited
into her tiny chamber.
During WWII US troops occupied the castle. In 1949 the
castle was transformed into the first-class Hotel Burg
Trendleburg. The service is excellent, breakfast is
included, WIFI is free and the view from the restaurant is
Each room has a private bath and upon arrival the coverlet
is folded into the shape of a heart and placed on the canopy
bed. The facility can be rented for meetings and weddings.
The Grimms stated that the years they spent in Kassel,
totaling almost thirty, were their happiest and most
fruitful and they considered it their homeland. After the
death of their father their aunt took them from Steinau to
Kassel in 1798 to receive a better education. In the early
1800s the brothers moved back to Kassel after attending
school in Marburg. They worked as court librarians in the
Fridericianum Museum while they published their academic
studies and German folktales and worked on completing a
Nine hundred volumes of the first edition of “Tales of
Children and the Home” fairytale book were published in
1812. It was not immediately successful and it took 20-years
to sell them. The book was designated a
UNESCO Memory of the World document in 2013.
The premier anniversary exhibition is being held in the
Documenta Hall from April 27 through September 8, 2013.
Expedition Grimm 2013 is located on two levels with the
first level exhibits interpreting their personal lives,
careers, politics and works through extensive use of
artifacts, personal belongings, manuscripts and memorabilia.
On the lower level visitors encounter nine adventure trails
each with its own interactive station. After completing the
activities at a station you receive a stamp. An exhibition
highlight is a 3-D model of the brother’s apartment. A
diagram is outlined on the floor and as you step into a room
it appears, fully detailed, on a screen. By moving your hand
you can rotate the room to obtain different views.
The Baroque Bellevue Palace was built in 1714. It was
purchased by the city in 1956 for use as an art museum and
in 1972 it became home to the Brothers Grimm Museum. The
extraordinary item here is Jacob and Wilhelm’s, personal,
hand-annotated copies of their first book.
Europe’s largest mountain park, Berpark Wilhelmshohe, was
inscribed as a World Heritage Site in June of 2013. Its
induction was based on its being deemed “an
outstanding and unique example of monumental water
The Landgrave Carl constructed the Hercules monument and
accompanying water structures on a hill that was once a
beginning in 1689. Water flows from the octagonal base of
the 231-ft. statue down the hillside into a large lake.
Visitors can follow the watercourse by walking down a series
of 585 steps.
The park also includes Lion’s Castle, several spectacular
waterfalls, a museum and the Grand Fountain, a 164-ft.
geyser. Kaiser Wilhelm often visited the park, as it is
believed, did the Brothers Grimm.
Kassel’s 4-stat Hotel Gude is a perfect stop on the route.
The hotel has all the standard amenities and offers fine
dining, nonsmoking rooms, free parking and conference spaces
and the hotel has embraced the Brothers Grimm’s place as
iconic figures. Huge portraits of them grace the hotel’s
façade, encased in the lobby is a copy of their German
language dictionary and words from the dictionary are etched
on the floor. Hotel Gude’s greatest homage to the brothers
is the Grimm’s Brother dinner presented in the restaurant
based on Dorothea Grimm’s recipes.
We are going to end our southern Fairy Tale Route tour with
what was the first site visitors connected with the
fairytales. People saw the strong architectural resemblance
Dornoröschenschloss Sababurg and the castle of Sleeping
Beauty in the tales in the 1890s and began coming to the
area to picnic and visit the castle. A
National Tokens souvenir coin has been issued that pictures
the Brothers Grimm on one side and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
on the reverse side.
The Sleeping Beauty Castle, 13-miles from Kassel, is truly
worthy of a fairytale. The castle is situated in an oak
forest and the views of it and from it are magnificent. In
the early 14th-century a miracle occurred in
Gottsbüren 3-miles away. Suddenly the road was filled with
travelers and in 1334
Dornroeschenschloss Sababurg was constructed by the
Archbishop of Mainz
to protect the religious pilgrims on their way to
Gottsbüren. In 1490 a hunting castle was built on the site
and abandoned in the 1800s. The structure began to crumble
from neglect and soon the turrets and towers were covered
with impenetrable foliage.
In 1955 a private
family restored it and the seeds of the route were sown.
|Sleeping Beauty's Castle
The castle and gardens are available for an eleven-stop
Sleeping Beauty tour that begins just outside of the tower
and inner courtyard. The tower is partially covered by a
beautiful, sprawling rosebush, one of the largest in
Germany. Sculptured icons indicate the stops and visitors
are treated to the sight of the sleeping King, Queen,
servants and even the flies on the wall. Showcased in the
garden is a unique sculpture of the Brothers Grimm.
Dornroeschenschloss Sababurg is today also a boutique hotel
and a visit to the tower can be truly immersive. A spinning
wheel greets you as you begin to ascend the winding tower
stairs. Guests can lodge in the tower in fairytale rooms
with ultra-modern amenities. Rooms retain their original
animal names and are designated by pictures because servants
were not literate at that time. Suffice it to say that these
rooms are romantic in unusual ways that I am not allowed to
divulge because the hotel wishes to “surprise” the guests. A
stay here is the stay of a lifetime.
There are more than 1,000 pieces of Sleeping Beauty artwork
throughout the hotel and a full roster of concerts, dramatic
presentations and events is scheduled. The restaurant serves
an outstanding gourmet meal of regional cuisine based on
Dorothea’s more than 400 recipes.
Other adventures near the castle are Tierpark
Sababurg, established in 1571, Europe’s oldest zoological
gardens and the forest of Reinhardwald.
river runs through it aptly describes Frankfurt as the city
is bisected by the River Main. It is the largest and most
international and cosmopolitan city in Germany. It has the
biggest shopping street in the country and the cutting-edge
American and international designers are represented on
Goethestrasse, the most exclusive street. There are more
than 40 museums, 13 of which are strung out along Museum
| Frankfurt View
Archeologists have uncovered evidence of human habitation
around 3,000 BC but the first mention of the city is in 794
AD. The city’s name was derived from the fact that the
French (Franks) forded the Main River there.
In 1342 it became a free imperial city and 14-years
later Frankfurt Cathedral started holding the elections of
Germany’s kings. In 1806 the city walls were converted to
parks and now the city has a 44-mile greenbelt around it.
During WWII Frankfurt suffered great damage, prior to WWII
it was the best-preserved city in the world and there are
plans to reconstruct Old Town following the original
Sightseeing in Frankfurt is a joy because it so easy. Many
of the sites are within walking distance, there is an
excellent public transit system and Hop On-Hop Off Tours are
regularly scheduled. Additionally visitors an purchase the
Frankfurt Card that offers free travel on public transit and
shopping, museum and restaurant reductions from 20-50%.
The Brothers Grimm are credited with creating the phrases,
“Once upon a time” and “They lived happily ever after.” They
were lawyers, linguists, scholars and most of all, to the
world’s children, collectors of folktales. If you follow the
Fairytale Route you will see the places that shaped them and
the landscapes that influenced them. You can follow the
fantasy. Planning tools are available at the websites
If you enjoyed this article take a
Virtual Personal Tour of Heidelberg Germany and its castles.
a copy of Grimms Fairy Tales
They make a great gift for children or a great memory for