#Travel: Living the fairytale life in Germany
Along the 600-km trail from Marburg to Bremen, the Brothers Grimm classics come alive.Updated: Jun 22, 2019 17:18 IST
Even if you’ve never landed in Germany, somewhere in your imagination, you’ve been there, thanks to the Brothers Grimm fairytales — Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Rapunzel. The curators of folk lore, brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, collected, edited and published the stories two centuries ago. And in 1975, Germany created in their honour a Fairytale Route.
It runs across 600 km, from the Main River to the North Sea, through the places that gave the Grimm brothers their inspiration. Expect the places along the route to sound and even look familiar — Hamlin, Bremen, Kassel, peppered with castles on hilltops and half-timbered houses, regal town halls and serpentine rivers.
You start the trail in Marburg, where the brothers studied law and first began collecting “the poetry of the people” — mainly folk songs and old (and often scary) bedtime stories for children.
Along the streets here, you encounter (a statue of) the Frog Prince holding a book, and the heads of several goats behind which looms a lone wolf. In the central square, giant flies creep up a building façade (remember ‘Seven at One Blow?’). And at the Marburg Castle, a larger-than-life Cinderella slipper waits indefinitely to be found.
An hour’s drive away is Kassel, where the Brothers lived and worked and wrote a majority of their tales. Don’t miss the video displays, art installations, handwritten manuscripts and personal memorabilia at the Grimmwelt (or Grimmworld) Kassel, a state-of-the-art museum dedicated to their work. In one intriguing section, you can also see what their story books ended up looking like in other countries.
In Hamelin, the next major stop, there are ‘rats’ everywhere. This was the setting for the tale of the Pied Piper, a man with a magic flute who rid the town of its mice and then, when he wasn’t paid, led all its children away too.
In the bakeries, the croissants are rat-shaped in his honour. There’s a Pied Piper fountain in the town square; a mechanical performance of the tale at the museum. The Rattenfangerhaus restaurant even has a ‘rat-tail flambé’ on the menu (pork cut into tail-like strips). The Pied Piper himself can be seen dancing down the streets, flute in hand, telling his side of the story while showing interested travellers around the quaint town.
If you have time for just one more stop, let it be the city of Bremen. Although the donkey, dog, cat and hen from the ‘Town musicians of Bremen’ never quite made it here, there are references to these famous fictional characters everywhere. A bronze statue by Gerhard Marcks, now an Instagram star in its own right, sits a few pixie steps from the city hall.