German Fairy Tale Route
Bremen to Hesse, Germany
Distance: 370 miles (595 km)
Time: 4-6 weeks
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Surface: Forest and Mountain Trails, Town Roads
“There was once a poor man who lived with his wife and three daughters. He was happy with his lot but for one thing: he was afraid that his daughters, who were no longer as young as they once were, had lost their belief in fairytales …”-the Grimm brothers. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm are among the most famous Germans in history. Not only were they accomplished storytellers, with their collection of folk- and fairy tales translated into more than 160 languages, but they also made contributions to the fields of linguistics history, and the development of the German legal system. Now they have a German Fairy Tale Route in their honor.
The German Fairy Tale Route, begins at the brothers’ birthplace at Hanau, outside Frankfurt, and runs north to Bremen past many of the locations made famous in stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Rapunzel published in 1812. Some of the links the castles, towns, and buildings have to the tales, however, are tenuous. Bremen, for example, was never actually reached on the journey the animals in The Bremen Town Musicians (1812) set out on, while the only link to Snow White in the Snow White House is a plaque in an upstairs bedroom telling of a local girl forced to live abroad by her horrible stepmother in 1554.
Mythology, by its nature, isn’t easy to pin down, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. It is the forests on the German Fairy Tale Route that are the real highlight: undisturbed swathes of European beech and towering 1,000-year-old oak trees in an environment so complex and complete it was given World Heritage status, a forest so thick you can imagine someone leaving behind them a trail of bread crumbs, so they could find their way home.