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Take a fairytale trip to Germany

Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Bremen Town Musicians... which is your favourite? Get ready to be bewitched - parents as well as children - as you stroll through the streets where these mythical stories are set and discover the scenes that inspired those great story-tellers, the Brothers Grimm.

March 18, 2010
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From Hanau to Bremen, there stretches a trail of magic where childhood dreams come true. The Fairy Tale Trail, a journey of 600 kilometres on the map, but farther than that into the depths of imagination, leads back to the early nineteenth century to the palace where Sleeping beauty lay for a hundred years and through the forest where Little Red Riding Hood met the wolf. You can listen to the melodies of the Musicians of Bremen and perhaps Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will come out to greet you on your way.

It's ideal for a family trip, a journey full of magic, linking some 70 cities and towns from the marvellous stories of Jacob Ludwig Karl and Wilhelm Karl Grimm. The brothers were students of philology and folklore and their studies prompted them to travel around the country talking to the people. They talked to farmers, and wood cutters and women in the market, and they asked them to dig into their memories for the stories their grandparents had told them when they were young. First they collected the stories together in the book Tales of Children and the Home and then later expanded the collection in Grimms' Fairy Tales: the tales that are still so familiar to us today.

Passing through picturesque villages and beautiful scenery, you will find houses made of gingerbread, glass slippers, cats in boots and bands of animals aspiring to be town musicians. Here, fantasy and reality mix and meld: in many of the places you pass through you will be welcomed by the characters straight out of the stories and will find the stories played out in the very places that gave birth to the ideas.

The journey starts in Hanau, a town near Frankfurt and birthplace of the Grimm brothers. Their births in 1785 and 1786 are honoured by a sculpture in the market square. In the charming village of Steinau, just 30 kilometres away, the house where they spent their childhood is now a museum where some of the tales are re-enacted.

On the banks of the River Leine, in the state of Lower Saxony, we find the medieval village of Alfeld, gateway to the world of Little Red Riding Hood, whose story spreads to the Schwalm forest, home of the big bad wolf. After leaving Marburg, where the brothers studied at the university, our route continues to Sababurg, in whose castle the Prince kisses the Sleeping Beauty awake. In Trendelburg Rapunzel's tower offers a view over the vast Reinhardswald forest and the ruins of Cinderella's castle home lie at Polle.

Travelling along the banks of the Weser, your imagination will be piqued by the charming sights, fairytale castles and romantic squares such as are found in Homberg, and medieval towns such as Hann. Münden with its traditional wooden houses, reckoned one of the most beautiful places in Germany.

Another stop on the trip is at Kassel, where the Grimm brothers lived and worked. The museum dedicated to the brothers, located in the Bellevue Palace, reminds us that it was here that they collected together most of the tales. Göttingem is another city that played a part in the story, as the brothers taught at the university there. Here, too, they met Dorothea, the woman who provided them with many of the stories, whose parents had an inn where travellers came and went and told the most incredible folktales.

The echo of the flute draws us on to Hamelin, and conjures the memory of the city's most famous son, the Pied Piper. The town streets are wrapped in a magical medieval atmosphere that will bewitch the visitor, as will the re-enactment of the tale by townspeople of all ages.

The last page of the trail of fairy tales brings us to a veritable outdoor museum: the city of Bremen. The famous stars of the story - the donkey, the dog, the cat and the rooster who set off to seek their fortunes as town musicians - are to be found all around you, not least in the souvenir shops. They watch and accompany you on your walk around the streets to discover the Rathaus, the superb Town Hall, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of the ancient statue of Roland, the city's protector, which faces the cathedral in the historical Marktplatz, the marketplace. They'll be there in Schnoor, the oldest district, and while you admire the unusual expressionist architecture of the Böttcherstrass, just some of the milestones that add their own magic to this unforgettable journey.

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