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.