Want to make a fairytale come to life? Then take a trip and experience tales from the Grimm brothers in this fairytale tour.
Kassel, with its palace and renowned water feature set in vast gardens, was the home of the brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm for many years. Although it wasn’t until 1824 that the brothers found success when they put out a bestselling children’s edition of 25 of their fairy tales. Now Kassel and the rest of Germany are devoting two years to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of their collection in 1812.
This charming city, rebuilt since World War II bombings, is a perfect place to start the fairytale route, which winds its way from Hanau in the south through 600km to Bremen in the north, not far from Hamburg. As you drive a mix of autobahns and back roads through pretty countryside, villages and small towns you can trace the life and times of the Grimms and feel the fairy tales come to life. The tower outside the Hotel Burg Trendelburg has become Rapunzel’s. Children and adults dressed in medieval gear wait to climb it, while the eyes of others widen listening to a storyteller and wandering minstrels.
The apparently poverty-stricken Grimms lived in a time of great turbulence, death and famine, where coins and money had to be changed at borders every few miles, and the originally brutal tales reflect this. As tour guide Helga explains, the universal stories, such as Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, that also reflect the brothers’ knowledge of the law, were told to them by people such as Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild who became Wilhelm’s wife and Dorothea Viehmann from Kassel.
“They can be taken different ways and can be used as a way to overcome troubles,” Helga says of the often moral tales. On a wet afternoon we drive to Sleeping Beauty Castle in Sababurg, which gained this name because the locals believed the ruin, covered in ivy and rose thorns, must have been the one where the princess, known here as Briar Rose, pricked her finger and slept for 100 years, until the prince came.
The Koseck family bought the 14th-century castle in the 1950s and turned it into a hotel and now you can stay in rooms reached by winding staircases in the towers of the former ruin. But for us it was rose tea and rose muffins in front of the fire and then, when the sun came out, watching a short rendition by young actors playing Prince Charming finding Sleeping Beauty. Owner Gunther Koseck explains that this is the largest area of forest in Germany, and wolves and lynx that had not been seen for many years are now being spotted again. It’s easy to imagine Little Red Riding Hood here.
On we go to historic Hamelin (known as Hameln) where they’ve taken the symbol of the rat to town, with the furry animal immortalised on footpaths and in sculptures, including a gold-plated one on top of the bridge across the Weser River. For a different take on the story, do the Pied Piper tour. Bremen is our last stop, the city where the cat, the dog, the rooster and the donkey were heading to in the tale, The Bremen Town Musicians. They never made it there but you can still see their sculpture near the 15th-century Town Hall. You can throw a coin in a grid in the cobbled street with the money going to charity.
Visit www.german-fairytaleroute.com. Singapore Airlines flies to Bremen and Frankfurt from Brisbane. Call 131 011 or www.singaporeair.com.