With a name evocative of magic and adventure, the Fairy-Tale Road (Märchenstrasse) takes its travelers on a path through the land of the Brothers Grimm and a rolling countryside of farmland and forests that inspired tales of sleeping princesses, hungry wolves, and gingerbread houses. Flowing through the heart of western Germany to its North Sea coast, the Märchenstrasse stops along the way at towns and villages where the brothers spent much of their lives two centuries ago.
It was here among medieval castles and witch towers that the brothers, first as young boys, and then later as students and academics, listened to legends told by local storytellers, and adapted them into the fairy tales that continue to be read around the world today; enchanted and frequently dark tales that include "Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding Hood," and "Hansel and Gretel."
Following the Grimms’ footsteps through a landscape of river valleys and wide-open skies, or down cobblestone streets flanked by half-timber houses and baroque palaces, it’s possible to imagine things haven’t changed that much since the brothers’ time. Traditional taverns serving strong German beers and thick slabs of beef and pork dot the way, and storytelling continues to be a major attraction along the Fairy-Tale Road, though nowadays more commonly in the form of guided tours and interactive museum displays.
The Fairy-Tale Road, of course, is also a modern route, and its wide, smooth roads pass through larger urban areas, such as Kassel and Bremen, full of contemporary hotels, eateries, and stores. Like large parts of the rest of the country, many of these towns and cities were greatly damaged during World War II, and their hurried reconstruction often favored functionality over form, so that many buildings are much more stark than those they replaced. This contrast, however, often only serves to emphasize the beauty of what remained.
Not every town on the road can lay claim to a connection to the Brothers Grimm or the inspiration for a specific tale, but many continue to celebrate the region’s fairy-tale heritage with theme museums, summer festivals, and outdoor plays.
It's this heritage, the natural appeal of the countryside, and the tradition and culture found in its towns and cities that attract travelers along the Märchenstrasse; that, mixed with the promise of adventure and the opportunity to create some tales of their own.