Road Tripping Through a Fairy Tale - An Introduction to Germany's Märchen Straße
After spending a month in Europe to research local folklore and authors, I set my sights on the mother lode - Germany's Fairy Tale Road.
That's right, directly through the heart of Germany is a route where many of your favorite fairy tales once lived and thrived. Picture a road that winds you passed Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the land of Seven Hills where the Seven Dwarfs lived, and the path where Little Red Riding Hood fled from the wolf. There were enough tales on this one trail to keep me traveling non-stop for at least a week.
Germany is 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. The Brothers Grimm mapped out a route and made their way through the country's heart in order to discover the origins of the stories they had heard since childhood. I set out to do the same.
The road itself runs from Hanau – birthplace of the Grimms – and ends in the booming town of Bremen. 600km (360 miles) worth of Germany is dedicated to this route, with over 60 stops along the way.
Leaving Holland and arriving by train to Bremen, Germany, my husband and I hopped in a rented Peugeot and decided to begin discovering this fairy trail backwards.
Half-timbered villages were separated by thick groves of gnarly trees, allowing my imagination to run amok with tales of evil sorceresses and talking beasts. With a playlist of Disney and Elven soundtracks to count off the miles, we alighted on each town and headed directly for the tourist information center (there was very little information online about these tiny villages). Each location proved chock-full of reading material that kept us busy when the main attractions closed for the evening.
The locals were neighborly, the food was almost always traditional and comforting, and ice cream shops were literally everywhere - sometimes across the street from one another. Our favorite evening activity was a local favorite as well, so we sampled various local beers in almost every town, kicking off the trail with Bremen's own Becks Brewery.
Sightseeing was the main event of our days, and each town was fiercely proud of their local folkloric traditions. Some erected monuments to commemorate the stories that made the town famous, while others boasted of actual historic landmarks. Castle ruins were prevalent, as were inns and cottages where fairy tale characters were said to have laid their pretty little heads. What every location had in common was an insistence that each fairy story came from more than an old wive’s tale. They proclaimed that truth could be found within the pages of Grimm’s Children's and Household Tales, and anyone interested could simply ask a local.
This fairy tale road helped me to find the hint of reality that lies within lore. Beginning at the end was the perfect way to embark on The Fairy Tale Road. Bremen became the model for what a Märchenstrasse town should aspire to be – full of sights, stories, and mysteries yet to uncover.