The German Fairy Tale Road, or Deutsche Märchenstrasse, is full of tiny villages all boasting some claim to the tales of the Brothers Grimm. But the brothers also stopped at larger towns to gather their stories – bustling cities established long before fairy tales made them infamous. Bremen and Hamelin are two such places that exceed the tourist enthusiasm for folklore. Certainly they have a claim to the Grimm fame, but they also have a culture all their own. For travelers, this can be a welcome change – at least in the way of food, shopping, and a little artistic immersion.
Germany is the home to rolling hills, winding rivers, and forests so densely wooded they’ve been termed black – in all, the perfect setting for fairy tales to be woven into folklore.
To read more about this enchanted route, simply head to FairyTaleMagazine.com, where I’ve written an article highlighting my travels to Grimm country!
This will be the first in a three-part series, so be on the lookout for more tales of cottages and castles to come.
Images of horse-trodden gravel roads and blue skies filled with whistling blue birds filled my mind as I planned our journey through the land of the Brothers Grimm. Among the sights I expected to see where romantic decaying cottages covered in ivy, crumbling castles buried in thorny brambles, and quaint inns that beckoned weary travelers with warm bowls of chowder and mugs of mead. In reality what I received was a bit different.
After leaving the Pied Piper’s famous home of Hamelin, we drove along small roads in a beautiful region of lakes and green hills. We were entering Cinderella’s country and were excited to see where this historic and mythical princess had truly called her home. As we pulled up to the tiny village of Polle, Sunday morning church bells welcomed us. Having spotted the castle walls set high on a hill, we drove up to an inn that stood in front of the entrance. Unfortunately, gates surrounded the stony ruins and we could not enter. In fact, the only time the castle was open was from 2-4pm each day. Only two hours to allow travelers a chance to glimpse into the past. After realizing what the glimpse would include however, I was happy to simply walk around the perimeter and take in the view. Each day, this mound of structural ruins was filled with costumed ladies and gentleman for two hours as they gave reenactments of the fairy tale story and signed autographs for children – more amusement park than historical information. We drove away from the village in disappointment and headed to the close town of Trendelburg, home to Rapunzel. Read more
Day two of our journey through storybook land took us a little further south, and a lot more rural. We began by renting a car, and spent the first hour decoding the foreign symbols for drive and reverse. As one of the only manual-engine vehicles they had to offer, the Peugeot was a very small car that would at times take it upon itself to slow down when the accelerator was pushed. All that aside, I was the driver and my husband the navigator as we set out towards our destination – Hamelin, home of the Pied Piper.
After weaving through tiny roads, shooting down the Autobahn, and attempting to follow German traffic signs, we arrived at our first stop of the day. Nienburg was a very small village that seemed like a good stopping point. We had arrived on a Saturday, which happened to be market day in the town square. Booths were lined down the cobblestone streets and tents had been erected selling everything from sausages and cheese to handmade sweaters and herbal cures. Although trying out local produce and homemade jams was very tempting, especially with the smell of freshly baked bread in the air, we chose not to snack on anything and wait for lunch in Hamelin.
Before leaving we searched and finally found the Little Nienburg Girl, a statue hidden away from the square next to the church. Even though she is a Nymph from a folksong, it was confusing as to why this town was put on the fairy tale route, since this was the only significant landmark. As the days progressed, we noticed this became a recurring question in many of the villages we traveled through.
Reaching Hamelin less than two hours later, we easily navigated the roads with the directions provided to us by our hotel. When we reached this tiny inn, located only two streets over from the city center, we were given directions for parking in the rear of the building and we quickly carried our luggage inside.
Hotel Altstadt-Wiege was what I had pictured when originally desiring to stay in Bed and Breakfast-type lodging throughout Germany. Unlike our stay in Bremen the evening before, we were greeted at the door by the owner and given information on our room, the surrounding area, and breakfast the next morning. After directing us towards the staircase and leaving us with a key, we made our way while taking in the details of the hotel. I noticed that each floor we went up had a different painting of a Pied Piper scene at the landing, and down each hallway were small touches like rocking horses and hand painted furniture. Opening the door to our room for the evening, I was even more impressed.
Pouring over maps and reading through itineraries and other travelers’ experiences, I began planning my journey through the fairy tale road with the enthusiasm of a mother planning her child’s first trip to Disney World. Only I wasn’t taking any kids with me, I was going to be experiencing Germany’s Fairy Tale Road with only husband to share in the enthusiasm.
Plotting our course included a visit to all the major attractions along the way, which consisted mostly of the locations my favorite childhood stories originated from. I must admit, the city of Bremen was not one of the towns that I was very enthusiastic about when it came to planning our route. Most itineraries and guide maps all showed the journey following a certain path, but our travels were forcing us to begin further north, at the road’s end in Bremen. We began at the finish line, and worked our way down through the western section of the country on a six day tour. Our starting point of Bremen turned out to be one of my favorite stops of the entire journey.
Arriving in Bremen by way of train, we left the station and lugged our bags across town in search of our hotel. (As a side note, one thing we learned on this particular trek through Europe was that it is always better to spend a little more money on a hotel that is in the city center.) One high point of walking two miles to the hotel was that we were able to pass directly through the hustle and bustle of the main town area, making notes about what we would be coming back to investigate in further detail later that evening. The town reminded me of Paris in so many ways. Old stone buildings were decorated in gilt and gold at every turn. Statues adorned not only the cobblestone streets, but also guarded the ancient walls that lined the sidewalks as we passed by. Tiny, twisting lanes opened up from every road, leading to secret shops and cozy restaurants tucked into corners.
The Turmhotel Weserblick was our lodging for the evening, and once we arrived I remembered why I had chosen this off the beaten path location. The hotel room was twice the size of our living room at home, and featured all the luxuries that a Victorian house should include – which is exactly what this hotel actually was. We were happy with the room, if not the distance back to town, but we gathered our camera and credit card and marched back out to take in the sights, and see what the area could offer us for dinner, as well. Read more
With a week full of Disney behind me and a head full of fantasy to keep me dreaming while I work, I stumbled upon a new travel destination while doing research on our upcoming trip to Europe in July.
Germany has an actual Fairy Tale Road, complete with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the land of Seven Hills where the Seven Dwarves lived, and the path where little red riding hood fled from the wolf. There are enough tales to keep you traveling non-stop for at least a week!
The road is about 300 miles long and happens to begin at the Grimm brothers birthplace. From here, it follows the path that this pair of writers traveled as they went searching for stories and fables. What they found along the way are the fairy tales we have loved for hundreds of years.
There was really nothing else for me to do but begin planning our very own tour of this countryside ripe with half-timbered cottages and ancient stone castles. I now have the dates set and am hoping airfare drops a bit in the next week! If not, we’ll be booking anyway – this brings a whole new meaning to a land where fairy tales come true!