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Once upon a time, in a land far far away…
Diana Plater brings fairytales to life as she explores the beauty and wonder of the Grimm Brothers’ Germany.

He sure looks the part. Dressed in green tights, yellow pointy shoes and a feathered cap, he amuses us with fascinating stories as we make our way through cobblestoned streets. Being shown around Hamelin by the Pied Piper himself has to be one of the highlights of a visit to Germany, and in particular the Fairytale Route.

The tale is based on a legend about the unexplained disappearance of 130 children about 800 years ago in this Lower Saxony town. The Pied Piper got rid of the rats but when he wasn’t paid he returned and, playing his magical pipe, led almost all the children away.

This is just one of many much-loved fairytales collected by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, known as the Brothers Grimm, and over the next two years, Germany is celebrating the 200th anniversary of their first publication in 1812.

Until 1824, when their children’s edition became a bestseller, the brothers were poverty-stricken, living during a time of great turbulence, death and famine under the rule of Napoleon. Renowned scholars, they collected the stories based on folklore as a way to keep German tradition and language alive.

While admitting some of the original stories were brutal, reflecting those harsh times, tour guide Helga Kasprowicz explains the universal stories, “can be taken different ways and can be used as a way to overcome troubles.” “It’s still important to tell the stories to children today,” she says.

The town of Kassel, with its palace and stunning water feature set in vast gardens, was the Grimms’ home for many years and you can visit museums that tell their story, including the Exhibition Grimm in the Documenta Hall.

It’s where we started the Fairytale Route, which winds its way from Hanau in the south through 600km to Bremen in the north, not far from Hamburg. It takes from three to seven days, depending on which places you visit and how long you linger there as you travel through pretty countryside, forests, villages and small towns. As you trace the life and times of the Grimms you feel the fairytales come to life.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

In Hamelin, the townsfolk have embraced the symbol of the rat, with the furry animal immortalised on pavements and in sculptures, including a gold-plated rat on top of the bridge across the Weser River. Book a tour with the Pied Piper at the Tourist Information Centre. Open-air plays are held on Sundays and there are regular musicals during the summer.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Bad Wildungen

Schloss Friedrichstein was the former home of Margaretha von Waldeck, a count’s daughter who at the age of 16 was forced by her stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld, to move to Brussels. There, she reportedly fell in love with a prince who would later become Phillip of Spain, but was poisoned before she could marry him. Perhaps this was the story Snow White was based on. At nearby Bergfreiheit is a house similar to the dwarves’ home in the story.

The Tower, Trendelburg

The Hotel Burg Trendelburg is such an amazingly atmospheric place it’s easy to see why the Grimm Brothers chose it as the setting for one of their most iconic stories. A chocolate brown stone tower stands as centrepiece in a brilliantly coloured garden, all of which is reached by crossing a stone bridge and entering through an arched gateway. Vines cover the tower and the interior has a fascinating array of medieval pieces such as suits of armour and even old torturing devices, all of which adds to the magically eerie atmosphere - just the place for a fairytale. The property also holds regular festivals, including the chance to climb the tower. As the prince calls: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” her long plait is thrown down.

The Bremen Town Musicians

Bremen is the historic city where the cat, the dog, the rooster and the donkey were heading to in the tale The Bremen Town Musicians. You can see their bronze sculpture by artist Gerhard Marcks on the western side of the 15th century Town Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the Market Square. You can also throw a coin into a nearby grid in the cobbled street to hear the cat’s ‘singing’, with the money going to charity.

Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty Castle, Sababurg

Near the Reinhardswald forest – where you can imagine the wolf tricking Little Red Riding Hood – the locals named the ruins covered in ivy and rose thorns Sleeping Beauty Castle. Although there is no proof that this was the Grimm’s choice, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere led locals to believe it must have been the one where the princess, known as Briar Rose, pricked her finger and slept for 100 years. Now a lovely restored hotel, enjoy rose tea and rose muffins in front of the fire, see a short play in which Prince Charming finds his Sleeping Beauty, then lay down in one of the guest rooms and sleep like you’re under a magic spell.




Sleeping Beauty Castle

Getting there
Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines offer daily flights to Germany, with connections from a variety of destinations in Europe and Asia. Call 1300 655 727 or visit,

Kassel Hotel Gude 
Hamelin Hotel Principessa
Bremen Ringhotel Munte


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