ABOVE PHOTO: Lowenburg Castle, also known as Lion’s Castle in Kassel.
By Renée S. Gordon
Grimms’ Fairy Tales are internationally famous and have delighted children of all ages for nearly 200 years. Recently, there has been a resurgence of these tales and their characters in the movies and on television. It seems that in troubled times we all need a little fantasy in our lives, morality and goodness need to triumph and we need to believe that there just might be a hero out there.
This is the bicentennial of the Brothers Grimm’s first publication of their book of fairytales and in commemoration of the event Germany is focusing on the cities where the brothers lived, worked and wrote and the very real places where the stories were set. The Fairy Tale Route includes not only the towns and villages mentioned but has the added attraction of including Brothers Grimm-themed accommodations, dining establishments, festivals, events, museums and historic sites. To the pleasure of many travelers the itinerary can include nights spent in a castle and more than 330 restaurants serving meals made from recipes that belonged to Wilhelm’s wife Dorothea. The route is 372-miles long, from Hanau to Bremen, and includes more than 45 towns and villages and for those wishing to leave the planning to someone else organized tours can be booked online. www.toeurope.eu
Trendelburg Castle is situated on a crag high above the Diemel Valley overlooking the village of the same name. The earliest records of the town or castle date from 1303 when the site is noted as “Trindirberg.” The castle was built as a knight’s castle, a moated stronghold from which to control his property. The chapel was the first portion of the building that was completed and the remainder of the castle was built around it. The banquet hall on the lower level retains its original appearance.
A tower was constructed in the 1220s and it is believed to have been the model for Rapunzel’s Tower. Tours of the tower are achieved via steep winding stairs. The dungeon was on a lower level and prisoners were lowered into it. At the top of the tower visitors are greeted by Rapunzel and invited into her tiny chamber.
During World War II, US troops occupied the castle. In 1949, the castle was transformed into the first-class Hotel Burg Trendleburg. The service is excellent, breakfast is included, WIFI is free and the view from the restaurant is incredible. Each room has a private bath and upon arrival the coverlet is folded into the shape of a heart and placed on the canopy bed. The facility can be rented for meetings and weddings. www.burg-hotel-trendelburg.com/de
The Grimms said that the nearly 30 years they spent in Kassel were their happiest and most fruitful and they considered it their homeland. After the death of their father, their aunt took them from Steinau to Kassel in 1798 to receive a better education. In the early 1800s the brothers moved back to Kassel after attending school in Marburg. They worked as court librarians in the Fridericianum Museum while they published their academic studies and German folktales and worked on completing a German dictionary.
Nine hundred volumes of the first edition of “Tales of Children and the Home” fairytale book were published in 1812. It was not immediately successful and it took 20-years to sell them. The book was designated a UNESCO Memory of the World document in 2013.
The premier anniversary exhibition is being held in the Documenta Hall from April 27 through September 8, 2013. Expedition Grimm 2013 is located on two levels with the first level exhibits interpreting their personal lives, careers, politics and works through extensive use of artifacts, personal belongings, manuscripts and memorabilia.
On the lower level, visitors encounter nine adventure trails each with its own interactive station. After completing the activities at a station you receive a stamp. An exhibition highlight is a 3-D model of the brother’s apartment. A diagram is outlined on the floor and as you step into a room it appears, fully detailed, on a screen. By moving your hand you can rotate the room to obtain different views. www.expedition-grimm.de/en
The Baroque Bellevue Palace was built in 1714. It was purchased by the city in 1956 for use as an art museum and in 1972 it became home to the Brothers Grimm Museum. The extraordinary item here is Jacob and Wilhelm’s, personal, hand-annotated copies of their first book. www.grimms.de
Europe’s largest mountain park, Berpark Wilhelmshohe, was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in June of 2013. Its induction was based on its being deemed “an outstanding and unique example of monumental water structures.” www.whc.unesco.org/en/list/1413
The Landgrave Carl constructed the Hercules monument and accompanying water structures on a hill that was once a volcano beginning in 1689. Water flows from the octagonal base of the 231-ft. statue down the hillside into a large lake. Visitors can follow the watercourse by walking down a series of 585 steps. The park also includes Lion’s Castle, several spectacular waterfalls, a museum and the Grand Fountain, a 164-ft. geyser. Kaiser Wilhelm often visited the park, and as it is believed, so did the Brothers Grimm. www.kassel-marketing.de/en
Kassel’s four-star Hotel Gude is a perfect stop on the route. The hotel has all the standard amenities and offers fine dining, nonsmoking rooms, free parking and conference spaces. The Hotel has also embraced the Brothers Grimm’s place as iconic figures. Huge portraits of them grace the hotel’s façade, encased in the lobby is a copy of their German language dictionary and words from the dictionary are etched on the floor. Hotel Gude’s greatest homage to the brothers is the Grimm’s Brother dinner presented in the restaurant based on Dorothea Grimm’s recipes. www.hotel-gude.de
We are going to end our southern Fairy Tale Route tour with the first site that visitors connected with the fairytales. People saw the strong architectural resemblance between Dornoröschenschloss Sababurg and the castle of Sleeping Beauty in the tales in the 1890s and began coming to the area to picnic and visit the castle. A National Tokens souvenir coin has been issued that pictures the Brothers Grimm on one side and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle on the reverse side.
The Sleeping Beauty Castle, 13 miles from Kassel, is truly worthy of a fairytale. The castle is situated in an oak forest and the views of it and from it are magnificent. In the early 14th century a miracle occurred in Gottsbüren three miles away. Suddenly, the road was filled with travelers and in 1334 Dornroeschenschloss Sababurg was constructed by the Archbishop of Mainz to protect the religious pilgrims on their way to Gottsbüren. In 1490 a hunting castle was built on the site and abandoned in the 1800s. The structure began to crumble from neglect and soon the turrets and towers were covered with impenetrable foliage. In 1955 a private family restored it and the seeds of the route were sown.
The castle and gardens are available for an 11-stop Sleeping Beauty tour that begins just outside of the tower and inner courtyard. The tower is partially covered by a beautiful, sprawling rosebush, one of the largest in Germany. Sculptured icons indicate the stops and visitors are treated to the sight of the sleeping King, Queen, servants and even the flies on the wall. Showcased in the garden is a unique sculpture of the Brothers Grimm.
Dornroeschenschloss Sababurg is today also a boutique hotel and a visit to the tower can be truly immersive. A spinning wheel greets you as you begin to ascend the winding tower stairs. Guests can lodge in the tower in fairytale rooms with ultra-modern amenities. Rooms retain their original animal names and are designated by pictures because servants were not literate at that time. Suffice it to say that these rooms are romantic in unusual ways that I am not allowed to divulge because the hotel wishes to “surprise” the guests. A stay here is the stay of a lifetime.
There are more than 1,000 pieces of Sleeping Beauty artwork throughout the hotel and a full roster of concerts, dramatic presentations and events is scheduled. The restaurant serves an outstanding gourmet meal of regional cuisine based on Dorothea’s more than 400 recipes. www.sababurg.de/download/pdf/allgemeine_kurzinformation_sommer_2009_english.pdf
Other adventures near the castle are Tierpark Sababurg, established in 1571, Europe’s oldest zoological gardens and the forest of Reinhardwald.
From Philadelphia International travelers can fly nonstop to Frankfurt, an ideal starting point for a journey along the Fairy Tail Route. I strongly suggest that you begin there and that you add a day at the beginning or end of your trip to tour Frankfurt. It is easily accessible because the city has one of the largest airports and train stations. The airport is 10 minute ride away and guided tours are offered directly outside the main doors.
A river runs through it aptly describes Frankfurt as the city is bisected by the River Main. It is the largest and most international and cosmopolitan city in Germany. It has the biggest shopping street in the country and the cutting-edge American and international designers are represented on Goethestrasse, the most exclusive street. There are more than 40 museums, 13 of which are strung out along Museum Row.
Archeologists have uncovered evidence of human habitation around 3,000 BC but the first mention of the city is in 794 AD. The city’s name was derived from the fact that the French (Franks) forded the Main River there. In 1342 it became a free imperial city and 14 years later Frankfurt Cathedral started holding the elections of Germany’s kings. In 1806, the city walls were converted to parks and now the city has a 44-mile greenbelt around it. During WWII Frankfurt suffered great damage, prior to WWII it was the best-preserved city in the world and there are plans to reconstruct Old Town following the original footprint. www.frankfurt-tourismus.de/en
Sightseeing in Frankfurt is a joy because it’s so easy. Many of the sites are within walking distance, there is an excellent public transit system and Hop On-Hop Off Tours are regularly scheduled. Additionally visitors an purchase the Frankfurt Card that offers free travel on public transit and shopping, museum and restaurant reductions from 20-50 percent.
If you elect to stay a wonderful option is the Intercontinental Hotel, a short walk from the Main Station, shopping and many sites. The hotel offers all the standard amenities plus a friendly and professional multi-lingual staff, meeting space, a business office, WIFI, impressive views, a signature restaurant and special promotions. www.frankfurt.intercontinental.com
The Brothers Grimm are credited with creating the phrases, “Once upon a time” and “They lived happily ever after.” They were lawyers, linguists, scholars and most of all, to the world’s children, collectors of folktales. If you follow the Fairytale Route you will see the places that shaped them and the landscapes that influenced them. You can follow the fantasy. Planning tools are available at the websites listed. www.grimm2013.de/en
I wish you smooth and imaginative travels!
The Third Edition of the “Let’s Eat Out! Allergy Free Passport” is an absolute must if you suffer from food allergies or medical conditions that can be controlled with a special diet. This book and smaller cuisine specific guides, American, Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Mexican and Thai, are the most comprehensive books that I have seen. The guides include ingredients, preparation techniques, sample menus, pertinent questions to ask and resources for additional information. Whether you travel or not the books are invaluable. Additional information is available at www.glutenfreepassport.com and www. allergyfreepassport.com
A short trip worth taking is to an area movie theater to see Ryan Coogler’s 2013 independent film, “Fruitvale Station.” Coogler, as writer and director, recounts the final 24-hours of Oscar Grant, a 22-year old black male, who was killed in 2009 in Oakland on the subway platform in the Fruitvale Station by Bay Area Rapid Transit officers. The film has been honored with the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and the Best First Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival. www.oscargrantfoundation.com